PedAIgogy Post #5 – Considerations for Integrating AI in Writing Assignments

By Nadia Jaramillo Cherrez, Oregon State University Ecampus

Colorful laptop keyboard

> Generative AI tools are shaping teaching and learning in the educational landscape leading instructors to make urgent changes to their courses. While there are numerous and valid concerns about the use of these tools, ranging from ethical to bias to legal, we all need to recognize that banning their use may have an unintended negative impact on student learning. For instance, students may be denied the opportunity to leverage technology to enhance their learning, develop their digital literacy skills, or be at the forefront of technology innovation for the future. It is clear, for now, that banning generative AI tools (such as ChatGPT or Claude 2) may be an impractical step. These tools are ubiquitous and students are already using them.

Fall term is approaching and the urgency to create AI tools course policies, redesign assignments, and rethink pedagogical practices is widely felt. These technologies are here and we will have to learn to deal with them. You may feel intimidated, anxious, confused, and worried about the potential of generative AI, how your students may be using it, academic integrity in your courses, and the ethical and legal aspects surrounding this type of technology. You may also be wondering about the whole purpose of assignments and how to prevent students from cheating in an era of AI. You are not alone; many of us are concerned and surprised by the capabilities of generative AI. It is an unsettling feeling. Nevertheless, let’s engage in a silent dialogue with ourselves (a.k.a. reflection) first, then with colleagues to explore the spaces and activities where the use of generative AI tools may be most beneficial to students.

The first aspect to consider is that generative AI tools are sophisticated enough to generate written work. However, these tools can not be effectively used without human oversight or human intervention (Warner, 2023). This means that the user will need some level of skills and knowledge to critically analyze the artifacts AI produces. Before thinking about how to integrate tools into your writing assignments, let’s contemplate the following in our reflection:

  • What is my program/department’s stance on the use of the tool?
  • How would I emphasize the experience of writing for my students?
  • What is the purpose of the assignment in the context of the course?
  • How does this assignment help my students meet the learning outcomes?
  • How meaningful is the assignment for student academic success?
  • Why would my students need to do a writing assignment (unless it is a writing or WIC course)? Are there alternatives that can lead students to accomplish the outcomes successfully?

If you decide to integrate the AI tool into your assessment practice, think about the following:

  • What type of assignments will I be most interested in adjusting to integrate AI?
  • What areas/steps of the assignment should remain human-created only?
  • What is my level of comfort at which I would like to integrate the AI tool (e.g., full use, some use)?
  • What changes might I need to make to emphasize the writing process or add multiple steps?
  • Where would I need to provide my students with explicit guidance in completing the assignment?
  • Which tool might be the most accessible/available (e.g., ChatGPT, Claude 2) to my students?

Suggestions abound for testing the AI tools and familiarizing oneself with their affordances and limitations. Consider the following if you intend to experiment with AI tools:

  • What am I most concerned about? What challenges do I anticipate in integrating the tool? How can I mitigate them?
  • How might the use of the AI tool support or undercut the goal of the assignment(s)?
  • Are there processes that would benefit more from the AI tool than any other approach (e.g., peer review, instructor feedback)?

An “assignment makeover” (Bruff, 2023) may require more thinking and an action plan guided by the following:

  • How will I encourage students to maintain academic integrity while making use of AI tools?
  • What is my rationale and/or guidelines on the use of AI to share with students? What is my current course policy on generative AI (do I have one)?
  • What would be an alternative if students express concern about using the AI tool or if the AI tool is not available to them?
  • How can I provide examples of what is and what is not acceptable in assignments that use AI?

“Writing is thinking. When we write, we are both expressing and exploring an idea” (Warner, 2023). Instill in students the value and wonder of expressing one own’s thoughts through writing, of creating and engaging in the process of writing. Students do want to learn.

Don’t panic about your pedagogy; breathe and learn more about these tools. Re-focusing the assessment approach for your writing assignments to emphasize process over product may go a long way in using AI technologies as pedagogical tools for student success.


For OSU-specific guidance, see ChatGPT and Other AI Tools: Implications for Teaching and Learning from CTL and Artificial Intelligence Tools from Ecampus. Follow up if you have questions:


Resources

Center for Teaching Innovation (n.d). AI in Assignment Design. Cornell University. https://teaching.cornell.edu/generative-artificial-intelligence/ai-assignment-design

Gannon K. (2023, July 31). Should You Add an AI Policy to Your Syllabus? The Chronicle of Higher Education [Advice column]. https://www.chronicle.com/article/should-you-add-an-ai-policy-to-your-syllabus

Roose, K. (2023, January 12). Don’t Ban ChatGPT in Schools. Teach With It. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/12/technology/chatgpt-schools-teachers.html

Scott, I. (2023, August 2). Faculty: Your Classes Must Change. Here’s Your Five Step AI Action Plan for Fall [LinkedIn blog]. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/faculty-your-classes-must-change-heres-five-step-ai-plan-scott-j-d-/

Ta, R. & West, D.M. (2023, August 7). Should schools ban or integrate generative AI in the classroom? Brookings [Commentary]. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/should-schools-ban-or-integrate-generative-ai-in-the-classroom/

Terry, O.K. (2023, May 12). I’m a student. You have no idea how much we’re using ChatGPT. The Chronicle of Higher Education [Opinion column]. https://www.chronicle.com/article/im-a-student-you-have-no-idea-how-much-were-using-chatgpt?sra=true&cid=gen_sign_in

Warner. J (2023, January 19). Teaching writing in an age of AI. Teaching in Higher ED [Podcast, Episode 449]. https://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/teaching-writing-in-an-age-of-ai/


About the Author: Nadia Jaramillo Cherrez, Ecampus Senior Instructional Designer. Nadia supports instructional design initiatives for the Bacc Core-WIC courses.

Photo by Taiki Ishikawa on Unsplash

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