Higher Education

Session Recap: AI in Teaching Writing and Literature

Session Recap: AI in Teaching Writing and Literature

In the realm of education, particularly in writing and literature, the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) presents both innovative opportunities and notable challenges. Valerie Guyant, Associate Professor at Montana State University Northern, presented on this topic at ReAction Virtual. Her session focused on how educators are increasingly using AI in teaching methods to enhance learning and foster skill development.

The Role of AI in Teaching as a Research & Writing Tool

AI tools, such as ChatGPT, have surged in popularity and utility, with applications spanning various academic fields. In writing courses, AI can serve as an ally. For instance, students can use these tools to research a topic, breaking down questions into manageable components. 

Guyant gave an example of students asked to research “Does participation in youth sports reduce recidivism rates?” ChatGPT provided different angles for the students to explore, such as demographic factors, countries, types of sports involved, and the nature of the offenses. This breakdown helped students see the question from multiple perspectives, enabling them to narrow their focus and research more effectively before tackling the writing. They also used AI to identify relevant keywords to use for deeper research. Guyant noted that the students were using AI as a tool to gather information rather than writing the paper for them. 

Using AI in teaching extends beyond simple research. In creative writing classes, AI can kickstart the writing process for students unfamiliar with certain genres. For example, AI-generated scripts or stories can provide a basic structure on which students can build, refine, and infuse with personal insights, ensuring their final submissions are less dependent on AI-generated content.

Ethical Considerations and Academic Integrity

Despite its benefits, the use of AI in academic settings raises significant ethical and integrity concerns. One primary worry is that students might become overly reliant on AI, potentially stunting their learning and engagement. There is also the risk of inadvertent plagiarism or the misuse of AI-generated content, which can lead to serious academic misconduct charges.

To address these issues, educators are encouraged to teach students about the ethical use of AI, including the importance of citing AI contributions accurately. Recent updates from academic institutions and organizations like MLA and APA have begun to provide guidelines on how to cite AI-generated content, reflecting its growing influence in academic writing.

Another example Guyant shared was professors who provide guidelines in their syllabus on using and citing AI-generated work, from what prompts were used, what results AI produced and highlighting any AI-generated content within their final papers or presentations. This clearly spells out what AI use is allowable and what is not, so students are aware of permissible AI use within a class. 

AI Tools for Teachers

Navigating Challenges: Accuracy and Personalization

Another challenge with using AI in teaching is the accuracy of the information it provides. AI systems can sometimes produce false or misleading information. Additionally, because AI often lacks a deep understanding of context, the materials it generates can sometimes be superficial or biased. Educators must teach students how to discern reliable information from AI-generated errors and biases, a crucial skill in the digital age.

Discussing plagiarism policy, and how AI tools fit within that policy is helpful for students to understand how and when they can use the tools. To help students better understand allowable AI use, Guyant compares using AI in school to other practices that qualify as misconduct when it comes to turning in work created by someone else. Having AI write an entire essay and simply turning it in is just like paying someone to write a paper for you, she said. 

Practical Classroom Applications

In practical terms, educators are finding innovative ways to integrate AI in teaching strategies effectively. For example, after an AI tool summarizes a text, students can be tasked with analyzing and critiquing the summary to identify what’s missing or misrepresented. This exercise not only improves their analytical skills but also helps them understand the limitations of AI.

Furthermore, AI can be used to generate discussion points or essay outlines, which students can then expand upon, ensuring that their engagement with the topic is active and personal. 

AI in Teaching as a Tool, Not a Replacement

No matter what classes AI teaching tools being used in, AI should be viewed as a tool that augments the educational process, not as a substitute for genuine learning and engagement. By carefully integrating AI in teaching strategies, educators can help students harness its potential while also teaching them the skills necessary to use it responsibly and effectively.

As AI continues to evolve, so will its role in education. It’s up to educators and students alike to navigate this landscape thoughtfully, ensuring that AI serves as a bridge to greater understanding and not as a barrier to genuine intellectual engagement.