Using AI for Teaching and Learning

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Hello and welcome to the Functional Skills Blog for April 2024. This month we will be looking at AI and will have a case study on using AI in the Functional Skills maths classroom with Sheila Rai Assistant Principal at Capital City College Group. 

I am very new to the concept of AI, so I started by having a conversation with one of my colleagues here, David Pautsch, Product Manager Digital and Business Support Services.

When we talk of AI for educational purposes, what do we mean?

I suppose it comes in two forms really. For teaching and for learning/assessment; so really from the teachers’ and learners' perspective.

There has been a lot of focus on learners using AI to shortcut assignments and to digest a lot of information, kind of like the old study guides we used to have for English literature texts. Did we frown upon them, no not really…but if a computer does it…then it feels wrong as there is no effort on the student's part (perceptually).

A lot of that perception comes from people who haven’t used AI or don’t really know about it. To really get useful answers you have to craft the questions well (this is called prompt engineering) and that requires subject knowledge. Also, AI can generate garbage or unhelpful answers or sometimes results that are just wrong (these are called hallucinations). To be able to filter through that needs some degree of subject knowledge.

Also, a lot of AI isn’t up to date. ChatGPT, for example, has a date cut-off of September 2021 which means it contains no knowledge after that date. Asking, for example, who is the Queen of England to ChatGPT would bring out a wrong answer. For learners it really should be used with caution. It is very risky to create something for an assessment, homework or any set work as unless you really know what you are talking about then you could be handing in something very flawed.

For teachers it’s a tool that can save time and many teachers are already doing this in their lessons by using it to create handouts, lesson plans, sequence schemes of work and more. It's useful for subjects which a teacher may be new to or that they need brushing up on.

Can AI benefit a tutor?

Yes it can, it just needs a bit of caution. As I have already said, the data can be out of date and also at times unreliable. So just creating content with it with no regard to the output can lead to real problems. AI is extremely clever but can jump to false conclusions as it treats data without context and without priority. If you are using an AI to create teaching materials, I would always check exactly what has been produced before using it. The devil is in the detail and the last thing you want is for your class to lose confidence in you due to the AI giving you incorrect information.

What are the potential pitfalls of using AI?

There are quite a few, some of which I have already mentioned, like incorrect responses and out-of-date data. AI just takes information from the internet and gives it to you without really knowing where it came from. There are obvious copyright issues here and as we go through a wider adoption of AI you can expect more and more issues around copyright. But ultimately it comes down to being able to check the information coming out before reusing it. It could be misleading or just plain wrong and treating it as genuine knowledge without crosschecking is not advisable.

There are also some real challenges about unconscious bias in AI. If you think about using AI in recruitment, it may make assumptions on the right candidate and attributes based on a small amount of data and the wrong conclusions. Also, AI doesn’t really understand the difference between educational levels, so you need to be sure what you have is pitched correctly.

What AI tools are commonly used?

ChatGPT has obviously led the way and it changed the game in terms of how AI works. But Google (with Bard), Microsoft (with BingAI – Microsoft Co Pilot) are good tools. But AI goes beyond that with things like Stable Diffusion for images and things you may already be using like Grammarly. There are other tools for scheduling and other tasks which learners might find useful.

What’s a good starting point for using AI?

I would start with ChatGPT. Trying to ask it a few things you know the answer for and getting used to how to frame your questions. I would also use this as a training tool. Getting to know how to ask questions and how to frame and use responses is really important, which leads me onto the tips.

What are your top tips for using AI?

Following a framework from the prompts you use will get the best result out of an AI. A framework like CARE is a good place to start. CARE stands for Context, Action, Result and Example. Let's take this step by step. If I were to ask the AI ‘I am preparing a lesson for my group on how to prepare for a half marathon’, I would get something quite detailed and not usable.

But if we use CARE...

The first Prompt is the Context

  • I want to prepare a lesson for my group.

And then setting the Action

  • I would like you to provide an outline of the lesson topics for this session.

Then the expected Result

  • Can you give the result in a timed format for an hour's lesson?

And then the Example

  • Ok, now my lesson is on how to prepare for a half marathon. Could you apply everything above to produce that plan for me?

You will get the response in a more meaningful and useful way. It's tempting to just cut to the chase. But learning how to have a conversation, rather than the ‘one shot’ approach is the best way forward.

A Warning

As part of my own research for this blog, I used AI for the first time to create some Functional Skills maths resources (obviously before reading David’s tips too). After an initial wow moment of how straightforward this was, a deeper dive left me with some concerns. I asked ChatGTP to create an Entry 3 Functional Skills maths quiz based on healthy living, thinking this would save me an inordinate amount of time.

However, it soon became obvious that I would need to put more effort into this. Firstly, ChatGPT had very little to no understanding of what Entry 3 maths looks like in reality. What it created was more in line with Level 1 and Level 2. Secondly, some of the questions just did not make sense. Here is one example:

If you discount the use of dollars and the use of the word fruits, the key issue is that $12 a day for a week is $84, so the question itself is not valid.

It is very important, for me, that you need to couple AI with a human source, someone to proofread, who knows the subject and the levels. AI does not seem to understand when it is wrong. Something ChatGTP readily admits.

Case Study: Using AI in Functional Skills Maths for increased success!

Capital City College Group (CCCG) is leading the way in the use of AI across teaching and learning. Last month, Sheila Rai presented at the AoC English and Maths Conference on how they are using AI in Functional Skills for increased success.


CCCG supports its staff in the use of AI. It is actively experimenting with different AI platforms (ChatGPT, Microsoft Copilot and TeacherMatic) and is providing training for staff throughout the college group. They have an AI Academy where staff can discuss what they are doing and new tools they are experimenting with. Their aim is “to be digitally enabled going forward to lessen the workload throughout the college”. They are using AI for constructing safeguarding materials, student reports and lesson plans as well as using AI in the classroom. They are using prompt engineering utilising the CRAFT model to ensure the responses meet their needs.

How is CCCG using AI?

Personalised Learning

Tailoring learning and exercises to help learners improve their weaknesses.

Collaborative problem-solving example:

Assign a probability problem and have students work in groups/pairs. Each group can use ChatGPT to seek clarification or hints if they encounter challenges, making it more personal to them and their ability.

Reducing Teacher Workload

AI can efficiently create quizzes, generate ideas and provide examples of schemes of work, therefore reducing teacher workload and saving significant time.

Once you become experienced with providing the prompts, then the results you get back will improve. This is a prompt that Sheila demonstrated for creating two maths quizzes for her learners:

"Could you please create two quizzes aimed at Functional Skills Maths Level 1 learners who are preparing for the Pearson Edexcel exam? These learners are from an ESOL background and face challenges in grasping the concepts of Rounding and Negative/Positive numbers. The quizzes should each contain 5 questions, with 3 possible answers provided for each question. Additionally, include hints within the questions to provide extra assistance in understanding. Your task is to design quizzes that effectively address these topics, taking into account the learners' ESOL background and their need for clarity and support in comprehending mathematical concepts."

These are the results:

These were much better than my results and shows how both users and AI can develop.


AI can be used to create contextualised resources for Functional Skills maths learners. Sheila believes that the use of learner focused contexts can make the maths more relevant and therefore improve engagement and retention. It also helps the learners prepare for the workplace and develops their problem-solving skills.

The Impact of AI at CCCG

  • An internal student motivational survey revealed a 70% preference for practical activities and quizzes in Maths sessions.
  • AI implementation has helped to enable the creation of engaging quizzes and practical activities, boosting Maths session appeal.
  • AI integration at CCCG has correlated with 64% increase in attendance, highlighting its positive impact at our college.

Teachers’ feedback:

  • "AI has significantly reduced my lesson planning time, allowing me to focus more closely on individual learners"
  • "AI has provided my learners with access to a personal assistant, enabling them to receive explanations for questions they may not fully comprehend, all at their fingertips"

AI is a Brave New World, but tutors still need to keep a professional eye on what it produces. I remember observing tutors using handouts in lessons that they had just picked up without much thought to the learners (or the answers). This is no different. If you are going to use AI, then you need to engage with AI. For now, it is your partner and not your replacement. As David Pautsch says, used incorrectly, “it may save you time but ruin your reputation.”

I would like to thank both David and Sheila for their time and support in creating this blog.

Christopher Briggs - Product Manager - Post 16 English, Maths & Digital Skills