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As AI tools like ChatGPT gain popularity on campus, instructors face new questions around academic integrity and AI. Some worry that they could inadvertently give higher grades to students using AI compared to those who are doing coursework themselves. Others are concerned that reliance on AI tools could hinder students’ development of critical thinking and writing skills. Whether or not you choose to integrate AI technologies into your courses, it’s important to reflect on how you’ll address them with your students. How can you foster academic honesty and critical thinking when every student has easy access to generative AI tools?
In response to these questions, some companies have developed “AI detection” software. This software aims to flag AI-generated content in student work. However, early experiences show that AI detection software is far from foolproof—in fact, it has high error rates and can lead instructors to falsely accuse students of misconduct (Edwards, 2023; Fowler, 2023). OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, even shut down their own AI detection software because of its poor accuracy (Nelson, 2023).
In this guide, we’ll go beyond AI detection software. We’ll discuss how clear guidelines, open dialogue with students, creative assignment design, and other strategies can promote academic honesty and critical thinking in an AI-enabled world.
Set Clear Policies and Expectations
It’s important to be clear with your students about if, when, and how they should use AI in your courses (Eberly Center, n.d.; Schmidli et al., 2023). Here are some potential strategies:
- Announce your policies on AI use both in person and in writing. First, make sure to talk about these policies with your students during class at the beginning of the semester. It’s also essential to include the policies in your syllabus and course site (as recommended in MIT Sloan’s Generative AI Guiding Principles) so students can easily go back and reference your expectations (Teaching + Learning Lab, n.d.-b).
- Provide definitions of key terms like plagiarism and cheating in the context of generative AI tools.
- Share clear examples of appropriate versus inappropriate AI applications for specific tasks (Eberly Center, n.d.; Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning, n.d.). For example, you might allow students to use ChatGPT to brainstorm ideas or review grammar, but not to generate significant portions of essay content.
Setting clear expectations from the start can help you guide appropriate use of generative AI tools. Furthermore, by aligning our policies and practices with MIT Sloan’s Values, we can foster a culture of academic honesty and ethical leadership even as new technologies emerge.
Promote Transparency and Dialogue
In addition to transparent policies, you can support academic integrity through open conversations with your students. Consider these possible approaches:
- Hold class discussions where students can ask questions and share their perspectives about AI tools (Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning, 2023).
- Explain the rationale behind your AI policies so students understand that the goal is to facilitate meaningful learning—not just enforce compliance (Teaching + Learning Lab, n.d.-a)
Open conversations can help you build trust with your students and learn from them as partners as we navigate these new challenges together.
Foster Intrinsic Motivation
Thoughtfully designed assignments can reduce the temptation to misuse AI by sparking students’ intrinsic motivation. These are some research-backed strategies for enhancing student engagement:
- Help students understand how completing a given assignment will support their learning (CAST, n.d.-a).
- Allow students flexibility to incorporate their interests and creativity through choices in project formats, topics, and methods (Usable Knowledge, 2016; CAST, n.d.-b).
- Build in opportunities for self-reflection and metacognition—for example, by asking students to reflect on what they’ve learned and how they learned it (Smith & Darvas, 2017).
- Scaffold assignments by breaking them into smaller pieces that build on one another—for example, asking students to submit an outline before writing their final paper (Sotiriadou et al., 2019; Eberly Center, n.d.).
- Give students opportunities to revise their work based on feedback before grading (Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning, n.d.).
- Connect assignments to real-world contexts and applications that are meaningful for your students (Sotiriadou et al., 2019; CAST, n.d.-c).
No assignment design can prevent all improper use of tools. However, instructors can thoughtfully shape activities to motivate meaningful effort.
Ensure Inclusive Teaching
If you don’t want students using AI in your course, it can be tempting to revert to analog forms of assessment. However, relying on handwritten exams, in-class writing, or oral presentations can raise equity concerns (Ceres, 2023):
- Timed, hand-written exams may present a distracting challenge for most students, since few today are accustomed to composing and writing by hand. This format can especially disadvantage those who are unable to hand-write quickly (Tai et al., 2022)
- Oral presentations may put extra stress on students with anxiety and non-native English speakers, who may then face additional challenges that their peers do not (Grieve et al., 2021).
- In-class writing assignments might not fairly assess all students’ written communication skills, especially if they don’t have the chance to revise their work.
Prioritizing student success means creating an environment where everyone has an equitable opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities. Ultimately, incorporating a mix of assessment approaches into your course is the best way to maximize equity and inclusion (Centre for Teaching and Learning, n.d.; Eberly Center, n.d.).
As the educational landscape evolves with new generative AI tools, remember that the heart of teaching and learning is undeniably human. By proactively establishing clear policies around the use of AI in your course, you can help students consider how to use AI responsibly. By engaging in open dialogue, you can encourage students to think critically about how and when they use these tools. By designing assignments that align with students’ interests and goals, you can make learning experiences more meaningful. And by adopting fair assessment methods, you can give every student the opportunity to showcase their skills. Generative AI tools will affect how today’s students experience education. However, it’s still the authentic, human-centered learning experiences that will stand out and leave a lasting impact on students.
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Teaching + Learning Lab. (n.d.-a). Rethinking your problem sets in the world of generative AI. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. https://tll.mit.edu/rethinking-your-problem-sets-in-the-world-of-generative-ai
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