Embrace the Bot: Designing Writing Assignments in the Face of AI

Just as pocket calculators, private computer systems, and smartphones have posed threats to college students studying math expertise, AI (synthetic intelligence) appears to be the new instrument poised to undermine the use of writing assignments to evaluate pupil studying.

In November 2022, a instrument referred to as ChatGPT made headlines for its skill to “write” any content material. As an educational designer, I instantly heard from nervous college that the sky could also be falling, questioning what likelihood that they had in the face of robots that would write pupil papers. 

After some reflection, I’ve come to consider that, in the long term, worrying about how college students would possibly use AI to cheat shouldn’t be the most efficient query to give attention to. The higher query is, even in the period of AI, how can we finest train our college students? Below are three strategies of designing writing assignments in the face of an AI incursion.

Method 1: Ignorance is bliss

On the excessive responses, now we have “ignorance is bliss” and “resistance is futile” approaches. These attitudes are lumped collectively as a result of each favor avoiding the core problem. In the former, an teacher could merely be unaware that college students can now kind a writing immediate into a web site and duplicate the reply it generates right into a doc to submit. In the latter, an teacher could also be conscious of AI’s skill to put in writing, however could metaphorically throw up their arms at the overwhelming notion that they will now not know whether or not a pupil has written a submitted paper.

At worst, instructors with this mindset may resign themselves to grading work written by AI and hope most college students are nonetheless writing their very own papers and studying from suggestions. For instructors who consider to assist college students develop their writing expertise, it could be a waste of time to answer something their college students didn’t write – and these college students would have little invested in reviewing the suggestions.

For instructors who’re conscious of AI’s skill to put in writing a paper however who don’t really feel able to deal with the robotic head-on, the key technique is one already used to thwart college students from passing off one other’s work as their very own.

Employ plagiarism checkers. Just as now we have by no means recognized for positive {that a} college students’ classmate or sibling didn’t write their paper, we now concern we won’t be able to discern if a pc has executed their work. Many instructors already depend on plagiarism checkers. But whereas a plagiarism detector can’t inform us who wrote a paper if it isn’t in a database of papers to be checked towards, there’s now not less than one plagiarism detector devoted to sniffing out AI-generated content material. If an epidemic of AI work is submitted in faculty, or even when instructors are satisfied of the chance, there’ll most likely be a proliferation of instruments to detect AI writing. As promising as this may increasingly sound, I wish to add a caveat: In over ten years of instructing freshman English, I realized that the extra I policed pupil work, the much less power I needed to be a great trainer. Be prudent in how a lot effort you commit to this technique.

Method 2: Know the enemy

Second is the “know thy enemy” strategy. AI isn’t going away. It’s going to broaden and enhance and change into extra nuanced. Instead of focusing solely on detection, instructors can work to bypass the submission of AI textual content in the first place. The methods of this technique depend on designing work that AI can’t carry out. Here is a consultant pattern, in order of rising promise.

In-class writing. Use in-class writing prompts. The well-liked conception is that for those who watch your college students write, they will’t cheat. But in-class writing doesn’t produce each kind of writing or have interaction each ability we wish to assess. It would possibly preclude the writing course of in favor of a product and it would effectively assess how somebody writes underneath strain. Although in-class writing can efficiently be adopted to measure comprehension and material information, it doesn’t seem like the finest technique of assessing varied types of writing.

Writing alternate options. Assign visible organizers or different assignments as a substitute of papers. In time, AI will most likely generate any kind of task we will devise. For now, although, instructors may measure how effectively a pupil’s thesis is supported by concepts, proof, and arguments, and whether or not optimum group is used. This may result in displays in place of written papers, and even collaborative writing classes throughout class, if acceptable for the course outcomes.

Topics that keep away from AI’s wheelhouse. Assign extremely particular prompts. AI is much less more likely to convincingly tackle prompts written with granular specificity. This is much more true if the immediate pertains to a dialogue that occurred in class or another content material that college students encountered (visitor audio system, peer displays, discipline journeys, in-class debates, and so forth.), of which the AI shouldn’t be conscious. If you require college students to incorporate distinctive and particular information in their writing, AI has little likelihood of together with the content material you require.

Writing based mostly on human expertise. Assign writing that depends on pupil perspective, expertise, and cultural capital. This strategy aligns with a variety, fairness, and inclusion mannequin of designing writing assignments that would outcome in the most significant evaluation and synthesis of data. The teacher is simply as more likely to study from their college students’ work as the college students are. One underlying premise right here is that AI won’t produce texts with resonant private perspective; however even when AI can replicate this kind of writing, a second premise is {that a} writing task that invitations college students to share the methods in which their lives intersect with academia will encourage college students to put in writing their very own papers.

Perhaps the closing suggestion in this record harkens again to the “ignorance is bliss” strategy, in which instructors hope college students write their very own papers. I see a distinction, although, and suspect college students will, too, in that the motivation behind the two strategies is completely different, with the latter searching for methods to evolve and enhance the pupil expertise of the task.

Method 3: If you’ll be able to’t beat them, be part of them

Finally, now we have the “for those who can’t beat them, be part of them” strategy, in which instructors embrace the actuality of AI-written content material and work with their college students to demystify and deconstruct the textual artifacts AI produces. This strategy is finest suited to lessons which have ample time to carry out a rhetorical evaluation of AI writing and the expectations and assessments of writing assignments.

Rhetorical evaluation. Deconstruct the very act of AI writing. Discuss how AI “learns” to put in writing. What assumptions about good writing are revealed when AI writing is analyzed? What is AI incapable of doing in its writing? Are there writing conditions the place AI must be kind of trusted? What is the position of the human in producing and proofreading AI textual content?

Peer overview. Conduct a peer overview and/or class dialogue of AI writing. Analyze what it writes. What content material does AI embrace? What does it not embrace? How does AI manage its writing? What sentence buildings does AI favor? Analyze the fashion in phrases of voice, tone, diction, and syntax. Is there rhythm in AI language? Can the full rhetorical state of affairs be deduced by analyzing an AI textual content? How may the textual content higher tackle the rhetorical state of affairs?

Revision. Revise an AI generated textual content. Aside from correcting factual errors, have college students experiment with re-arranging the contents of an AI written piece. Have college students broaden the paragraphs, mix the sentences, add help, and rewrite conclusions. Use the AI textual content as a place to begin, as a chance. Students could discover it troublesome to enhance upon “perfection,” but additionally could discover it simpler to revise the writing of a soulless program than that of their friends.

Class displays. Present a comparability/distinction of AI versus human writing. Without realizing the writer, can college students inform which textual content is written by a human and which by AI? Who writes higher? Which writing “sounds” higher? Compare line-by-line, thesis statements, voice, group, proof and help, arguments and logic, general influence, and persuasiveness of the items.

Refinement. Try to make AI refine its writing with a give attention to the rhetorical state of affairs. Have college students compose a number of variations of the similar immediate to tremendous tune the outcome that AI produces. Are there limits to how a lot we will refine the writing? Are there trade-offs of one factor being sacrificed when one other is included or enhanced? Have college students attempt to dial in the rhetorical state of affairs by adjusting for viewers, goal, voice, tone, and so forth. Ultimately, is it simpler to have AI write the completely acceptable textual content for a selected state of affairs or to put in writing it on our personal?

There is not any incorrect or proper technique of addressing the introduction of AI in a writing class. Any teacher would possibly make use of a range of these methods. The concepts introduced right here usually are not exhaustive, however are provided to advertise thought and add perspective. There is a lot extra to writing than the act of composing sentences that I don’t assume we have to concern AI can be the loss of life knell of composition in schooling.

In truth, AI could encourage a courageous new exploration of higher-order pondering expertise. There are absolutely bigger conversations to have about the position of composition programs in increased schooling—and of assessments in all programs—however the argument will be made that AI is a instrument and college students who study to make use of that instrument are studying a beneficial ability.

In ten years, possibly Skynet can be writing everybody’s 5 paragraph essays and none of this can matter. Or possibly we’re panicking about one other Y2K. AI will definitely nonetheless be plugging away in the subsequent technology. We can alter now to facilitate it doing so hand-in-hand with increased schooling.

Eric Prochaska taught English for over ten years earlier than pivoting to educational design. He presently works at Mt. Hood Community College in Oregon, the place he helps college design on-line programs and actions.

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