By Jeff Schwartz, Instructional Designer, and Dr. Leslie Cramblet Alvarez, Assistant Vice Provost, Teaching and Learning
Over the last few months the rise of AI writing tools generally, and ChatGPT specifically, has been a pervasive topic of conversation, especially in higher education. The OTL blog has covered this subject, providing an overview of the pros and cons of ChatGPT, as well as inviting professors to share their thoughts and practices. Our winter ChatGPT faculty panelists shared resources with the campus community and we anticipate continued conversations as this topic evolves. With the Spring Quarter approaching, we’d like to use this post as an opportunity to discuss how faculty can take a proactive approach in setting expectations for the use of AI writing tools.
Discuss academic honesty
- At the beginning of the quarter, carve out time for robust discussions about academic honesty, integrity, and ethics; such discussions will help students understand the importance of their own work in response to course engagement. Make sure they are familiar with the University of Denver Honor Code.
Update your syllabus policies
- Be very clear about your expectations regarding students’ work. Consider syllabus statements indicating whether and how AI tools can be used. Review Dr. Joel Gladd’s Policies Related to ChatGPT and Other AI Tools and the Classroom Policies for AI Generative Tools document for sample policies across disciplines and institutions.
Think about your course and assignment structure, including perhaps allowing the use of an AI tool
- Provide multiple incentives for active learning throughout the course. Instead of relying exclusively on a final project, such as a term paper, assess student learning throughout the course through using formative approaches in addition to summative ones.
- As much as is possible given class size, get to know your students’ writing styles. For instance, you could ask them to produce a reflection, submitted via Canvas, at the beginning of the quarter that asks them to discuss their familiarity with the subject matter of your course, as well as their goals or concerns. Canvas discussion boards or low-stakes, in-class writing prompts are other ways to learn about your students’ writing styles.
- Write specific prompts that asks students to synthesize knowledge and make connections among various ideas, sources, disciplines, etc. ChatGPT struggles with details and making connections among ideas.
- Consider allowing students to use AI tools with clear boundaries around how and when. For example, ask students to write a paragraph that accompanies their work about how they used the tool, including their prompts, citations for what was generated, and explanation of how they fact-checked and what they ultimately kept or discarded. If you’re looking for ways to help students learn how to productively use ChatGPT, take a look at this assignment, developed by Dr. Morton Ann Gernsbacher at U-W-Madison.
Connect with peers and the OTL
- Be sure to talk with peers in your department/program, across campus, and at other institutions. Is there an appetite to craft a department policy? How are others approaching it with students? There are many excellent models for navigating this in the classroom at DU and beyond.
- Schedule a consultation with an OTL Instructional Designer to discuss how you want to use (and not use) AI tools in your classroom.
What do to if you suspect a student may have used an AI tool to complete an assignment
- Don’t rely on AI checking software to confirm your suspicions. Although Turnitin and other companies are developing programs that check for AI-generated writing, many of these programs are, at best, in their earliest stages, or at worse, unreliable.
- Instead of assuming the worst and demonizing the student, take the time to have a conversation. If AI tools are banned in your class, consider requesting that the student visit you in office hours (this is a tactic that you may already implement with other forms of academic dishonesty which would also work for violating an AI policy). Ask the student about their writing process; get a sense of how the student developed their ideas. Then, you can ask the direct question about the use of AI. Depending on how the student responds, you can decide how to proceed based on your course and/or department/program policies.
- If you suspect that more than one student has used an AI tool to complete an assignment, use class time to have a broader discussion about the uses and misuses of AI tools; reiterate your course’s and departments policies as well as the guidelines of the DU Honor code.