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  • Revolutionizing Education: The Impact of AI on Learning and Teaching

    Embracing Change

    The questions surrounding AI have drastically changed within the past year. Questions surrounding technology range from “what is this?” to “what are its limits?” In the dynamic landscape of higher education, AI has been a transformative force, reshaping the way faculty teach and students learn.

    Earlier this year, Pearson conducted a survey focused on generative AI (GAI) and ChatGPT in higher education, to examine faculty sentiment. Recently, Pearson revisited that survey, releasing it a second time to evaluate how feelings toward, and actual usage of, GAI has evolved. In just 6 months, a shift has occurred. There has been a 14% decrease in the level of concern for ChatGPT, and now over half of the respondents have familiarity with ChatGPT and its applications within education. This shift in perception paints an inspiring picture of an educational community willing to discover the transformative potential of GAI.

    The Influence in Higher Education

    Many believe that AI holds the power to revolutionize education – the degree of change remains up for debate. Some instructors aren’t yet making changes to their courses. Others are discovering a powerful ally in GAI when it comes to tasks like grading homework and enhancing course materials. Integrating AI into their workload allows instructors to save time and refine their courses to focus on their students.

    Enthusiasm or Concern?

    In the initial release of our survey a significant portion of participating instructors had reservations about the potential benefits of generative AI - this “game-changing technology.” Many respondents struggled to envision how GAI could benefit them. When the question was revisited this fall, one instructor commented that ChatGPT gives their students a “running start on their writing” allowing them to start with a structured foundation rather than a blank page. They found that “students can produce better papers when they use ChatGPT productively.”

    Results this fall indicated that the percentage of faculty who are “excited” or “enthusiastic” is almost equal to the number who responded as “concerned” - 28.6% and 26.7% respectively. Faculty are leaning into GAI as another tool for learning and developing new content. Conversely, some expressed concern surrounding cheating, academic dishonesty, and plagiarism detection. In fact, one instructor believes “students who wish to do minimal work now have an amazing new way to cheat, and they are definitely doing so!” To help combat these concerns, some faculty are having open conversations with their students, and instructors are adjusting their testing protocol.

    “This is really going to make us think about authentic assessment, and what learning means. Students are going to need to be able to use the technology to create code, aggregate data. But how will they know what to ask and if the answer is reasonable,” a faculty member commented. Furthermore, someone else said that ChatGPT presents the opportunity for students to think more critically and to fact-check more often.

    Charting a Course Forward

    When first distributing the survey, a notable 40% of respondents initially believed ChatGPT would change the industry, and have an immense impact on them. However, upon revisiting this question in the more recent survey, only a modest 10% of respondents experienced a discernible influence from the GAI tool. It is not uncommon to harbor apprehension towards change; however, sometimes it is not as daunting as it seems.

    Since individuals and organizations are working through how to use this technology at the same time it continues to develop, many instructors have had to (or plan to) adjust their course requirements. Some are increasing citation requirements or making assignments more interactive. This journey of transformation effects all disciplines. One writing composition instructor started using ChatGPT in their class earlier in the year, and now has integrated it into their lesson plans. They explain that their “students love learning what it does well and what it does poorly, and by exploring its capabilities, they learn a lot about writing expectations and standards.” Thus, by integrating ChatGPT into their lesson plan, this instructor is guiding students to think critically about GAI and its competencies. Another instructor uses it to demonstrate how to compose code in other languages and plans to continue to adapt their class as GAI grows.

    Embracing these tools as part of a collaborative teaching effort is the path forward. As one instructor comments, “students are going to need to be able to use the technology to create code, aggregate data, but how will they know what to ask and if the answer is reasonable?” When using AI in a partnership alongside traditional teaching, the instructor can step in, judiciously apply these tools, and help students discern when to employ them versus where conventional methods are more appropriate.

    A Vision for the Future

    The shift to familiarity and adaptation of ChatGPT and other GAI brings a new era of higher education. Similar to other major societal shifts, higher ed faculty find themselves with the opportunity to help lead the charge in forging this new path for themselves and their students by creating guidelines, and understanding how best GAI can be used. Even if you’re still reticent to embrace it, consider a common sentiment from our survey respondents - GAI creates the opportunity for open dialogue with students.

  • The 7 Pillars of Inclusivity

    In higher education, students have needs and aspirations based on the diversity of their lived experiences, and they bring their rich social and cultural backgrounds with them when they learn. To serve all students, educators need to widen their teaching methodologies and perspectives to serve varied characteristics and preferences1. They also need to consider factors such as age, learning styles, strengths, improvement areas, and more to develop inclusive and active learning strategies in their classrooms. 

    The ‘7 Pillars of Inclusivity’ can help educators incorporate inclusive practices that value diversity and embed equity in the classroom.  

    What Are the 7 Pillars of Inclusivity?

    To create an inclusive classroom, educators must keep their students at the center of learning and provide an environment that enriches their learning outcomes.2 Educators can follow seven strategies to welcome all students into an inclusive classroom experience.

    1. Access

    An accessible learning environment is one where students don’t experience any barriers to education. It’s vital that educators ensure accessibility for students with special needs, learning disabilities, and neurodivergence, and for students who come from diverse language, economic, and cultural backgrounds. If implemented well, a focus on equitable access will set up all students for successful learning outcomes.

    Educators can create an accessible and accepting classroom by incorporating the following practices

    • Design an inclusive and high-quality curriculum targeted towards positive learning outcomes.
    • Provide accessible educational materials and software that meet the learning needs of students with physical and/or cognitive challenges so as to help them learn their best and feel a sense of belonging.
    • Make sure learning materials are representative of and relevant to all students so that those whose first language isn’t English or who come from under-resourced communities will see themselves in what they’re learning and feel like they belong.
    • Support all students by forming collaborative groups for projects when possible.
    • Build relationships with students so you understand them and learn how to differentiate instruction to meet their learning needs whenever possible.
    • Adopt active learning strategies that motivate students to take initiative.3 A healthy mix of reflective, movement, or discussion-based lessons and projects can be targeted toward achieving behavioral and cognitive objectives.
    • Providing scholarships for deserving students. 
    • Being more approachable and responsive to students’ queries.

    2. Mindset

    Making the classroom inclusive requires a growth mindset, which encourages an openness to understanding the diversity of students’ lived experiences. Implicit biases can pollute a growth mindset and cause educators to lower their expectations of students who require specific support to be successful.

    According to the American Psychological Association, an implicit bias is a negative attitude toward a specific group of people of which one is not consciously aware.4 Implicit biases can include prejudices toward learners who come from low income homes, have unique cultural backgrounds, or are differently abled learners.

    Educators can maintain a growth mindset by identifying their implicit biases, resolving them, and focusing on setting high expectations for all students. 

    Identifying implicit biases

    Practicing self-reflective techniques or collecting responses/feedback from students and colleagues can be great ways for educators to identify their implicit biases.5

    • Self-reflection and assessment involves focusing on teaching and assessing methodologies and recognizing how those are influenced by underlying social, economic, or cultural prejudices. Educators can keep a record of their teaching methodologies, experiences, and growth through personal journals and go back to see if they have changed past behaviors or not.
    • Seeking responses through observation sheets filled out by students or peer reviews from trusting colleagues can provide educators with honest opinions about their behavior toward inclusion, diversity, and equity in the classroom. 

    Both these techniques can help educators identify areas of their teaching, curriculum, coursework, and assessing styles that are not inclusive or engaging and implement improvements.

    Creating a positive and collaborative campus culture 

    A positive attitude6 that’s grounded in a growth mindset positions educators to express the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their words, actions, and classroom practices. Students who feel seen, heard, and welcome are more likely to succeed in class.

    On a larger scale, institutions can support diversity by promoting a positive and collaborative campus culture with events that create opportunities for all students to connect and explore differences and commonalities with each other. Educators should encourage students to attend these events and be a part of the inclusive learning community. 

    3. Student Choice

    Choosing to express themselves can help students be more involved in the learning process. Educators can give students a chance to voice their opinions through in-person conversations  where they share feedback about the coursework, projects, and teaching style. By being more approachable and attentive, educators can better understand their students’ challenges and devise curriculums or solutions that enable strong performance and active learning. 

    4. Partnerships

    Educators can promote partnerships in the classroom and school to instill inclusive learning structures and pedagogies. These can include:

    • Collaborative initiatives or group projects where students are not grouped per their perceived ability levels.7 This encourages students to engage with each other, exchange thoughts and ideas, value group members’ diverse perspectives, and work to achieve common goals instead of feeling left out or experiencing the stigma of being in a low-performing group.8
    • Guest speaker events where the institution/educator expands classroom or campus diversity by inviting guest speakers to share stories that are new and different. These stories can inspire students to enlarge their worldview.
    • Collaborations with other educators to provide a more enriched learning environment. 

    5. Explicit Communication

    At the start of a course, educators can establish rules related to their coursework and class culture to set expectations for performance and collaborative behavior. They can encourage healthy communication practices by first being available to speak to all students and then organizing events or collaborative projects to ensure students learn to listen to and understand each other. 

    Engaging with students through in-person or email conversations can help monitor their academic development and struggles. Educators can connect with students to discuss their progress or performance and highlight achievements and areas of improvement.

    6. Policy

    Higher education institutions can advance inclusivity, diversity, and equity by establishing policies focused on supporting students based on their specific needs. For example, while affordability is important to all students, it is especially important to those without personal or family wealth. A policy of providing grants and scholarships to students with real financial need can be the difference between those students being able to enroll and learn and them not being able engage in higher education at all. A culture of equity depends on policies that consider real-world needs and ensure that inequitable barriers don’t prevent students from being part of the community.

    7.Opportunities

    Higher education institutions and educators need to ensure that all students have an opportunity to access and complete their education. Diverse classrooms adopt strategies that motivate, support, and enhance students’ strengths and academic performance. 

    Educators can support their students’ talents and potential by considering the various needs of their diverse student body and designing assessments and grading systems that are inclusive of and accessible by everyone. This can give all students the opportunity to succeed in their education.

    In an inclusive higher education environment, educators model a positive growth mindset and provide opportunities for students to collaborate with and learn from one another. This is the key for supporting the success of all students, no matter their lived experiences. 

     

    References

    1. Diane Casale-Giannola and Linda Schwartz Green, 41 Active Learning Strategies for the Inclusive Classroom Grades 6–12 (USA: Corwin, 2012), 4.
    2. Diane Casale-Giannola and Linda Schwartz Green, 41 Active Learning Strategies for the Inclusive Classroom Grades 6–12 (USA: Corwin, 2012), 6.
    3. Diane Casale-Giannola and Linda Schwartz Green, 41 Active Learning Strategies for the Inclusive Classroom Grades 6–12 (USA: Corwin, 2012), 6.
    4. “Inclusive Teaching Strategies”, Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, accessed May 12, 2023, https://poorvucenter.yale.edu/InclusiveTeachingStrategies.
    5. “Implicit Bias”, American Psychology Association, accessed May 12, 2023, https://www.apa.org/topics/implicit-bias.
    6. Tim Loreman, “Seven pillars of support for inclusive education: Moving from “Why?” to “How?”. International Journal of Whole Schooling Vol. 3, No. 2, (2007): 24.
    7. Tim Loreman, “Seven pillars of support for inclusive education: Moving from “Why?” to “How?”. International Journal of Whole Schooling Vol. 3, No. 2, (2007): 29.
    8. Tim Loreman, “Seven pillars of support for inclusive education: Moving from “Why?” to “How?”. International Journal of Whole Schooling Vol. 3, No. 2, (2007): 29.
  • What education experts are saying about ChatGPT

    ChatGPT is game-changing technology. As a large language model tool designed to respond to prompts based on a wealth of information it already possesses, the program has taken artificial intelligence (AI) to a new level. With just a simple request, ChatGPT can write essays, poems, computer code, and more. While some of those working in higher education are concerned about ChatGPT, many see great potential in AI technology.

    Recently, Pearson hosted a well-attended AI webinar featuring a panel of education experts and innovators. Part of the conversation centered on helping educators better understand what ChatGPT offers. But the overall focus of the event was to provide perspectives and glean insights on what emergent AI technology means for educators now and in the near future.

    The panelists began by discussing how ChatGPT is changing education. “This is historical,” said panelist Erran Carmel of the American University’s Kogod School of Business. “This will change everything.” Carmel and the other panelists went on to provide plenty of insight on the ways faculty can best embrace AI technology and benefit from it.

    ChatGPT Concerns & Alleviations

    Among those in higher education, the top three concerns surrounding ChatGPT and other generative AI include:

    • Will it be harder to engage students in critical thinking and learning?
    • Will cheating be more common and more difficult to detect?
    • Will students leave school unprepared to contribute to the world?

    While the panelists for Pearson’s webinar acknowledge the potential downsides of ChatGPT, they also recognize the many opportunities. And they have a lot of good advice on how to approach ChatGPT and related AI technologies going forward. This advice includes:

    1. Adapt a growth mindset

    In a recent Pearson survey, fewer than 15% of educators are ready to embrace ChatGPT. But the webinar experts agree that reticence is not the best approach. Instead, the experts recommend that educators familiarize themselves with AI technology and focus on the ways it can benefit teaching methods and student learning. Randy Boyle of Weber State University drove home the importance of embracing the technology when he said, “The organizations that are saying ‘how can we use ChatGPT to enhance our education’ are going to win.”

    2. Bring AI into the classroom

    “Innovative faculty find innovative ways to use disruptive technology.” 

    Panelist Darcy Hardy of Anthology Education and Research Center made this point early in the discussion and the other experts agreed. Instead of banning ChatGPT and similar AI technology, the panelists advocate for teaching it. They suggest designing assignments that teach students how to use AI tools like ChatGPT and how to differentiate between generative AI and human-created works. Doing so can help students understand the applications and limitations of AI. Even simple projects where students critique work done by AI can help them see where AI provides value versus where humans provide value. Such lessons can help students prepare for a future with AI while also helping educators learn more about the ways students use and interact with the technology.

    3. Discuss the impact of AI on the future  

    As generative AI technology continues to improve, it will become capable of doing more tasks at a more complex level. However, this is not the same as replacing human critical thinking and expertise. Both faculty and students can learn how to incorporate AI to be more effective at their respective teaching and learning.

    4. Normalize citing AI

    When used properly, ChatGPT can be a student’s co-pilot. It can help them brainstorm, improve phrasing, and learn new concepts. The webinar’s experts recommend educators determine how they would like to incorporate ChatGPT into their classroom and set guidelines for students to follow. Panelist Anna Mills of City College of San Francisco said she teaches critical AI literacy and believes in “setting a norm of transparency and labeling of AI text.” She recommends students clearly label any portion of an assignment that was generated with ChatGPT or another AI tool—just like they would cite other sources.

    5. Reinforce the value of writing

    Yes, ChatGPT can write an essay. But how does that improve learner outcomes? The panelists agree that writing encourages critical thinking and students need to engage in it. To ensure they do, educators should reinforce the value of writing and set boundaries to ensure the development of critical thinking.

    6. Continue to follow core teaching methodologies 

    Just because technology is evolving doesn’t mean the foundational best practices of teaching have changed. Building a rapport with students, assigning drafts and edits, and being active in student learning can help students understand the value of education and use ChatGPT as a tool rather than a substitute for learning.

    7. Modify the curriculum

    Cheating has been an issue in education for a long time. And, every time technology has changed, new methods of cheating have arisen. In other words, “innovations” in cheating is not a new problem. Educators can respond to ChatGPT in the same way they have responded to other new technologies over the years: they can adjust the curriculum to help prevent the new methods of cheating and ensure students are absorbing the material. “The academic integrity issues are important,” said panelist Erran Carmel, “but we should focus on learning… Let’s not get distracted by [the cheating aspect].” 

    What is the expert consensus on the future of ChatGPT in higher education? 

    The panelists who participated in the webinar all agree that we are in a historic moment of change—and the potential for positive change is high. To make the most of the moment, institutions of higher education should embrace ChatGPT and learn how to make use of it.

    “From a global perspective on education, I could not be more excited,” said Darcy Hardy. The statement echoed the sentiments of all the panelists. There are always challenges when it comes to new technology but, with the right approach, ChatGPT and other generative AI tools can change education for the better.

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