Man, the whole generative AI situation in schools is wild right now. Like, people are freaking out about it. You got think pieces all over the place talking about whether it’s cool for kids to use ChatGPT to write essays and whether schools should punish students who use AI to do their assignments. But, could AI actually be a good thing for teachers, man? Could it give them more time to focus on teaching and actually help students engage more with their coursework? A research team at Harvard decided to find out.
In this study at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, they tried out using AI to help instructors give feedback to students in a project-based, collaborative classroom. The students had to learn how to use a bunch of tools, and then they had to make an educational toy. Usually, the teachers would write up personalized feedback for each student, like giving them props for their progress and offering words of encouragement.
But this time, the researchers had the teachers use an AI platform loaded up with info from the students’ self-reflections and surveys to write the feedback. Then, the teachers would look over the messages, make any changes they wanted, and hand them out to the students.
The researchers found that using AI made the feedback process a lot faster and helped the teachers tailor their messages to help students develop a “maker mindset.” That’s a way of approaching their coursework with persistence, creativity, curiosity, and openness to collaboration, man.
So, they asked the students what they thought about the class and the feedback from the teachers. And the students said that the AI feedback made them feel like they were in a caring classroom, and it even helped reduce their burnout levels.
But, for some students who were struggling, they felt like the AI feedback was too short and not very helpful. The researchers said that there was some randomness in how the AI-generated messages were created, which made it kinda hard to predict the quality of the feedback for struggling students. They said that while it’s possible to improve the feedback by adjusting the prompt, it might take more time than it would for an instructor to write personalized feedback.
The research team is hoping to make the AI program better in future studies, but they think that this study was a good learning experience. They said that there’s potential in using AI to help teachers, like having an intern to do tasks so the teachers can focus more on their students and their struggles.