Teaching Resources

ChatGPT and AI Composition Tools

Resource Overview

Information about ChatGPT and its implications for teaching and learning.

We will be continuously updating the information and recommendations on this page as we all learn more about this new technology.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an AI chatbot that was launched in November 2022 by the company Open AI. A chatbot is an interface that allows someone to have an automated and dynamic “conversation” with a computer that replicates an interaction with an actual person. What makes ChatGPT somewhat different from other bots is the extremely high quality of its responses and the wide range of topics it can respond to. ChatGPT is publicly available and free to use, which means almost anyone can use the tool to quickly generate text.

What Can ChatGPT Do?

ChatGPT can complete a variety of tasks, from writing short essays on almost any topic to generating working software code. We offer some some examples of the the bot’s responses to a number of prompts. Each answer was generated in a matter of seconds. While these examples can give you an idea of the tool’s capabilities, the best way to understand what ChatGPT can do is to try it out yourself.

While ChatGPT is very impressive, it also has some limitations. The tool was trained on data from 2021, so it is not very good at commenting on current events. It also has limited abilities in some languages outside of English, and generally has trouble producing citations for what it writes. Most importantly, ChatGPT can be wrong and sometimes produces plausible sounding, yet nonsensical responses.

Concerns

The ability to quickly and easily generate relatively high-quality text raises a number of concerns. Faculty at WashU and other institutions have wondered how ChatGPT will impact the integrity of take-home exams and essays, the utility of homework, and possibility of AI-generated discussion post responses, among other concerns. Many faculty are also worried that focusing too much on policing student work for possible AI use will damage the learning environment and their relationships with students.

Recommendations

As ChatGPT is new, the higher education community is still grappling with its potential impact and how best to respond. We offer the following initial suggestions:

Assignment Design

  • Learn how ChatGPT would respond to your class assignments: Try out ChatGPT yourself to understand its capabilities and limitations.
  • Focus on higher order thinking tasks in Bloom’s taxonomy (e.g., analysis over recall): ChatGPT is best at summarizing from its training data and less good at applying knowledge to new areas. Focus student tasks on the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, such as creating, evaluating, and analyzing.
  • Make assignments more authentic and robust: Authentic assessments asks students to complete complex tasks similar to those they would in a non-academic setting.
  • Use local or class-based prompts: One limitation of ChatGPT is that it does not know what happens in your class. Consider designing prompts related specifically to your course. For example, one could ask students to expand upon a particular class discussion or answer questions requiring knowledge from a lecture slide.
    • Leverage other educational technologies: Instead of using open-ended questions in Canvas, try social annotation tools that require students to engage with a text or video along with their classmates. WashU supports Hypothesis for social annotation of texts and Annoto for collaborative commenting on videos.
  • Focus on the good parts of student voice: Consider how your assignments can allow students to showcase their voice, style, interests, and connection to your class. There are many ways students can show more of their humanity and whole self to learn more about themselves or their peers. Students can even help design prompts or questions in the assignment by discussing what they want to articulate, share, or learn about others in the assignment.

Course Design

  • Update your syllabus language: Our syllabus template now has additional language added specifying that the unauthorized use of AI-content generators is a form of academic dishonesty.
  • Incentivize the learning process, not just the product: Asking students to submit one final perfect paper for an A may increase the odds of cheating. Instead, provide points for behaviors and habits associated with learning such as articulating ideas, failing, improving, and reflecting on one’s learning. For essays, this may be outlining, drafting, reviewing, and revising, which are essential skills for students to develop in the thinking and writing process.
  • Request a 1-1 consultation: Get more specific recommendations for your class by working with one of our educational developers.

Further Resources

Basic Information

News Outlets

Blog Posts

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If you have suggestions of resources we might add to these pages, please contact us:

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