Approaches to Addressing ChatGPT and Academic Integrity

Consider these 12 ways to minimize and address concerns regarding ChatGPT and academic integrity.

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People are scrambling to figure out what ChatGPT means for education. Should we be scared? …Excited? …Curious? When we face a change like this, it’s natural to feel a little bit of all these emotions and probably others as well.

Change can be uncomfortable, and ChatGPT is bringing potentially disruptive change to our schools. Unsurprisingly, the initial reaction to ChatGPT by many educators has been focused around how this may impact academic integrity in the classroom. Will ChatGPT become the newest cheating tool for students? If we’re being honest, we’ll acknowledge that most people look for shortcuts and efficiencies to make their lives easier. So yes, some students will probably try to use this to write their papers and do their homework for them.

Before we dig too far into this topic, it’s probably wise to establish some perspective. First of all, ChatGPT is just the beginning of publicly available artificial intelligence (AI) that can be used to generate original content. It’s not going away, so it’s important that we help our students prepare for a world of AI. Like it or not, this is a part of our world now.

Secondly, we should remember that this is not the first time educators have been faced with a situation like this—not even close. In the seventies, calculators were banned because of the fear that students would no longer learn their math facts. Then, when every home and office had powerful and inexpensive calculators, they were brought back into the classroom and embraced for what they could do. Today, very few adults bypass a calculator when doing their computations. It has become an accepted part of our society and a tool that is regularly leveraged to complete computations more quickly and with fewer errors.

Countless other innovations have followed this path from disruption to acceptance. A few of them include spellcheckers, grammar checkers, language translators, citation generators, and math problem-solving websites. Perhaps the closest parallel to ChatGPT is the Internet. Because students can Google to find information, many people thought that the Internet meant the end of education, but as we all know now, it has not.

Did these tools cause us to reevaluate what we did in our classroom? Absolutely. Did we find ways to integrate and maximize these new tools? Yes, we did. Over time, we have gained perspective around these changes and disruptions, and we’ve settled into a new normal. The same will likely happen with ChatGPT. Yes, this can be uncomfortable, but it’s also inevitable.

To help jump-start this assimilation process, let’s take a look at one of educators’ biggest concerns: cheating. It’s a question that schools will need to address. If you are worried about students using ChatGPT to cheat in your classroom, here are 12 approaches that you might consider as you think about AI’s impact on academic integrity in education:

Even if you ban ChatGPT from your school, there is likely no stopping students from using it at home. As a result, if students complete their writing in your classroom and you conference with them frequently, you will not only be able to see them generating their own ideas, but you will also be able to provide frequent and timely feedback. You’ll be involved throughout the process and see the evolution of students’ ideas as they write.

This app was developed by Edward Tian, a 22-year-old senior at Princeton University, to determine if writing is AI-generated. While you don’t want to create a “gotcha” culture in your classroom, this program can help detect writing that was created with AI.

When students research, they should already be citing their findings, so this is a good opportunity to recommit to this practice. ChatGPT does not provide references for the content it provides, so by asking students to cite their sources, they will need to conduct their own original research. Even if they use ChatGPT as an idea starter, which is a valid approach to consider, students will still need to do their own work in order to cite their sources.

ChatGPT is text-based, so setting the expectation of multiple forms of media will require students to synthesize ideas on their own and go beyond the text-based answers that ChatGPT can provide. Even if they use ChatGPT to generate ideas (much like they already use the Internet), they will need to understand the concepts behind these ideas in order to remix them in multimodal formats. An additional win is that this gets students thinking creatively and at higher cognitive levels—a good goal for any lesson.

This allows them to process and communicate their ideas. Some examples include debates, Socratic Seminars, Philosophical Chairs, public speaking, fishbowls, and small-group problem-solving. These activities require complex thinking skills and are extremely valuable even outside the context of writing and academic integrity.

ChatGPT can be a great way to brainstorm ideas and do some preliminary learning about a topic. This is much like doing a quick Google search or checking out Wikipedia. While effective researchers go beyond these rudimentary starting points, these strategies are valid ways to gain general knowledge and to inform the deeper research that follows. You might also use ChatGPT to model how to get editorial feedback by asking the program for feedback on your own writing.

As a class, you could do a ChatGPT query, and then have the class become accuracy checkers. Have them do their own research to either affirm or debunk the ChatGPT response. You could even turn it into a fun challenge, like “Is ChatGPT smarter than an 8th grader?”

Have a conversation about ChatGPT. Talk to your students about your concerns and listen to their perspectives. Students can be incredibly insightful and understanding about these types of issues. Together, create a common understanding and collaborative path forward.

This approach is not without its limitations, but it can be useful to have students pledge that their work is original and that it has been created by them. It ensures that they are actively considering their actions and the work they’ve produced. It can also be an effective way to initiate a conversation about academic integrity.

This is a good opportunity to rethink how we ask our students to acquire, process, and demonstrate their learning. Are the tasks that we assign authentic and meaningful? Torrey Trust and Robert W. Maloy from the University of Massachusetts Amherst cowrote a blog post about this topic. In social studies, for example, they argue that students need to go beyond summarizing information. They say, “Students must learn how to become HISTORIANS and WRITERS, not simply how to research information and summarize it in writing.” In this light, they suggest using ChatGPT for information retrieval (which is quick and efficient) and then focusing on curation and analysis as professional historians and writers would do. This is one example of the many ways that educators might rethink their classroom assignments.

New inventions often change the work we do. When we write with modern word-processing programs, we don’t need to spend as much time looking up definitions, correcting spelling, or checking grammar. The program helps us do those things much more quickly and efficiently. It saves us time, so we can focus on our message, our ideas, and how we communicate them. For example, a similar change happened when citation generators were developed. Some teachers felt that using these new tools was cheating, but most eventually found the use of them to be a good way to offload this tedious formatting task and reclaim more time to focus on writing. It’s important to be real about the impact of ChatGPT and think critically about what we are asking our students to do. Are those tasks and assignments still the most relevant and practical use of their time considering the new tools that are available?

While PBL is a way to mitigate cheating, its benefits go far beyond that. PBL is a powerful way to transform your classroom into a place of authentic learning and problem-solving. By having students solve real-world problems, they will need to go beyond simply collecting and synthesizing content. They will use the content they discover in new and inventive ways to solve problems. These are skills that will benefit our students long after they leave our school buildings.

This is certainly not the end of this conversation about artificial intelligence and ChatGPT. In fact, it’s probably just the beginning, and the ideas listed here are not intended to be the definitive answers to your challenges regarding academic integrity. Rather, they are conversation starters for you and your colleagues. Use them in a way that is helpful to you in finding a path forward and to continue providing your students with rigorous learning experiences that will help them become productive citizens in a tech-rich world.