April 24, 2023

ChatGPT: One More (Powerful) Tool at Our Disposal

This article is a translation of a text first published in Eductive’s French edition.

For me, ChatGPT is a great time-saving tool. It could allow me to be more efficient and effective by helping me accomplish certain time-consuming tasks. This would give me more time to spend on tasks that I would otherwise have to leave aside.

In addition, as I discuss my own use of ChatGPT with my students, I try to encourage them to use it effectively and ethically as well.

Creating evaluation grids

In my courses, I almost always use descriptive evaluation grids. However, designing such grids is very time consuming. To make an evaluation grid that I am truly satisfied with, I often need 6-8 hours.

In one of my courses, I had run out of time and one of my evaluation grids seemed flawed. I came up with the idea of providing my 4 evaluation criteria to ChatGPT and asking it to create a 4-level descriptive evaluation grid (excellent, very good, acceptable (passing grade) and failure).

Within seconds, ChatGPT provided me with an excellent grid. Its suggestions for 3 of the 4 criteria seemed perfect to me. I asked it for corrections for the 4th criterion by telling it to add information on a topic and to make links to another item. In the end, I got an excellent rubric in a fraction of the time it usually takes.

Obviously, judgment is required (just as we teach our students to use ChatGPT wisely!). I would never copy and paste a ChatGPT production and use it without carefully evaluating it first. ChatGPT regularly makes some spectacular mistakes… but also some much more subtle ones. The reason I was able to say that the grid ChatGPT produced for me was excellent is because I myself have a very good understanding of what a descriptive evaluation grid consists of. You can judge for yourself.

Editor’s Note

Since the original evaluation grid was produced by ChatGPT in French, Eductive asked the AI to translate it into English. The translated version, uncorrected and unmodified, is presented below.

ChatGPT’s English translation of the evaluation grid it originally created in French

Similarly, ChatGPT can generate a list of learning objectives that match the taxonomy levels and competency items presented to it. Again, professional judgment on the proposal made by the artificial intelligence (AI) is key. But it is potentially a great way to speed up, for example, the thinking process of new teachers.

Write feedback for students

In one of my classes this session, I had only 7 students. Such a small group seemed ideal for testing when grading an assignment.

I started by grading all the students’ papers, as usual. Then, I submitted 3 of the assignments to ChatGPT, question by question (and answer by answer). I asked it to evaluate each answer based on the associated evaluation criteria. I also provided my evaluation grid to the robot. (In this assignment, each question was associated with only one evaluation criterion, which made things easier for the experiment).

ChatGPT systematically placed each answer at the same level as me in the evaluation grid (excellent, very good, etc.).

Then, I asked ChatGPT to write feedback for the students.

I consider feedback to be extremely important to student learning, but providing rich, personalized feedback is very time consuming! Sometimes, for some assignments, due to time constraints, I can’t afford to be as thorough as I would like. (With 7 students, it’s fine, but when there are 40…)

For the assignment I submitted, I asked ChatGPT to give specific feedback on each answer and general feedback on the entire assignment. ChatGPT managed to write excellent feedback, worded positively and constructively, in just a few seconds.

As far as the links to being a sales representative are concerned, you were successful in making coherent connections, but I would have liked to see you develop your arguments a bit more to make them even clearer and more understandable.
— ChatGPT feedback on a student’s answer (text generated in French and then translated in English by ChatGPT)

You provide an accurate summary of the conference by explaining its central concept and highlighting the benefits and challenges of adopting this approach. In addition, you link the concepts of the conference to your daily life by highlighting how your attitude and decisions influence your success in your personal and professional life. Finally, you provide concrete and relevant examples by mentioning that the conference is presented with humour and boldness, which is an approach that is adapted to the participants.

Grade: Very good

—General feedback from ChatGPT on a student’s assignment (text generated in French and then translated in English by ChatGPT)

The day I handed back the corrected assignment to the students in class, one student whose paper ChatGPT had not corrected was absent. So, I gave 3 students papers that I had corrected and 3 others, without telling them, papers that ChatGPT had corrected (I kept for myself the copies of these 3 papers that I had corrected myself).

I began the class by asking the students to take the time to read the feedback on their assignments. Then, I explained that feedback was important to me and that I was looking to improve in this area, so I asked them to fill out a short Forms questionnaire on the subject. Everyone (both those who had read my feedback and those who read the ChatGPT feedback) said they found the feedback useful, tailored to their needs, and relevant to helping them improve.

Then I revealed to the group that so-and-so’s work had been graded by ChatGPT. It was a bombshell in the classroom! We had a very stimulating and enjoyable discussion about using AI.

I then asked the students to answer more questions on Forms. I asked them what the impact was on them of learning that a robot had corrected some of the assignments. Again, the answer was unanimous: there was no impact in their eyes. I asked them if they were comfortable with a robot providing feedback on their work that was more comprehensive than what the teacher could provide, as long as the teacher validated it before presenting it to them. They all said “yes.”

Then I asked them if they would be comfortable with an AI grading the work and the teacher just validating. 5 out of 6 students said yes. Personally, I wouldn’t be comfortable… But we have to admit that students trust the AI!

In the comments at the end of the survey, some students wrote sentences stating, roughly, “This is a tool that is available to the teacher; why not use it?”

I found the reflection very interesting. It’s like the introduction of the calculator or the internet… If the tool is there, why not use it?

The ethical dimension remains extremely important to consider and this is what makes me uncomfortable with the idea of using AI to correct and grade assignments; it would not be consistent with my vision of my role as a teacher. But as a tool to help write feedback, AI seems promising to me!

A lecture and slide show prepared by the AI

In one of my courses, I teach about the possibilities of AI in agriculture. This year, I decided to give a 45-minute lecture presentation on the topic, with a slide show as a visual aid. The secret: the entire presentation had been designed by AI. The textual content had been written by ChatGPT and the slide show images had been created by Midjourney.

At the end of the presentation, I revealed to the class that I had not prepared the content, that I had only memorized the text. You can imagine their reaction! Since the presentation was about the possibilities offered by AI, the trick seemed appropriate and pedagogically relevant.

Part of the presentation prepared by ChatGPT and the corresponding slide created by Midjourney

A French-language slide with the title

The use of AI in agriculture has many advantages for farmers and the entire food chain. Here are some of the most important benefits:

  • First, the use of AI can increase productivity and profitability on the farm. AI-based technologies allow farmers to monitor crops and animals more effectively, make more informed decisions about resource management, and optimize production. This can result in increased crop yields, reduced losses, and better use of available resources.
  • Second, the use of AI can also reduce costs and resource use in agriculture. By using technologies such as smart irrigation systems and crop monitoring sensors, farmers can reduce the consumption of water, fertilizers, and other expensive agricultural inputs. Robots for fruit and vegetable picking can also help reduce labor costs for farmers.
  • Finally, the use of AI can improve the quality and quantity of agricultural products. By using technologies to monitor crops and animals, farmers can detect early signs of diseases and stress, and take action to remedy them before they compromise the quality or quantity of the harvest. Robots for fruit and vegetable picking can also help minimize crop damage during harvesting, which can improve the quality of the finished products.

In summary, the use of AI in agriculture can bring many benefits for farmers, consumers, and the environment. By increasing productivity and profitability, reducing costs and resource use, and improving the quality and quantity of agricultural products, AI can help support a more sustainable and efficient agriculture for the future.

-ChatGPT (text generated in French and then translated in English by ChatGPT)

A tool for reflection

The use of AI is often associated with intellectual laziness. Yes, copying and pasting an AI production without thinking is a form of intellectual laziness. But when you use AI as a tool to help you write and reflect, the situation is quite different.

This session (Winter 2023), I am taking 2 Performa courses. In one of the courses (which is about digital technology), I had the opportunity to use ChatGPT. One of the questions that needed to be answered in an assignment seemed like a good example of something AI could answer. So I did a test. Before submitting the question to ChatGPT, I wrote a draft of my own answer. Then I asked ChatGPT. Some of the elements in its answer got me thinking. I found that my own answer left out some relevant points. (On the other hand, there were also some elements in ChatGPT’s answer that were uninteresting or incorrect).

In the Performa course, a one-on-one meeting with the teacher was scheduled before the assignment was to be submitted. I presented my approach to my teacher in a transparent manner. I explained to her that, after using ChatGPT, I would not write my answer in the same way. I would write a… better answer! My answer is richer but tinged with some of the ideas that ChatGPT put forth. My teacher found, as I did, that ChatGPT allowed me to deepen my reflection further than I would have otherwise. In other words, ChatGPT allowed me to… learn!

I asked my teacher if she would prefer that I keep my original answer (written without the help of ChatGPT), but she didn’t find my use of ChatGPT problematic at all; on the contrary! During our discussion, my teacher simply suggested a way to cite ChatGPT as a “source” in the paragraphs of my response where I would reference it ideas. (This was before many institutions developed formal standards for this).

I may be exaggerating, but I would venture to say that my use of ChatGPT is somewhat close to socioconstructivism…but with an AI! 😉

Evaluation by an “artificial peer”?

In my classroom discussion with my students about AI-written feedback, no one spontaneously indicated that they intended to use ChatGPT to “pre-correct” their next assignment. Yet, it seems to me that this would not be a bad idea. I have discussed this with my pedagogical advisor Julien Martineau [in French] and we agree: in a competency-based approach, we want to get students to improve. Many teachers advocate (with good reason!) co-evaluation or peer evaluation… Why not evaluation by an AI? It comes back to the idea that AI is a tool that is available to us.

My vision is that we are better off allowing the students to use AI and coaching them to use it ethically and rationally, rather than pretending AI doesn’t exist and outlawing its use…

First and foremost, I believe that an in-depth reflection on the use of AI in education must be conducted. This reflection will identify the ethical and pedagogical issues related to the use of AI, as well as the best practices and standards to follow for a responsible integration of AI in education.

About the author

Alexandre Bakaras

Having taught for 8 years in the field of machinery, robotics, digital and new agricultural technologies, Alexandre Bakaras is fascinated by this next 4.0 revolution.

He is currently completing a graduate diploma in College Pedagogy with Performa (Université de Sherbrooke) and intends to continue his studies at the master’s level. His research project will focus on the use of artificial intelligence in higher education.

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