Teaching in the AI Era

The recent release of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence (AI) text generation tool, has raised many questions about the future of education and whether students might use the tool to complete assignments. Below are some suggestions from the TLHub to help you be on the forefront of this tool and its impact on your course. Please note that ChatGPT and other AI chatbots such as Bing AI are emerging tools, and we will continue to provide new and updated resources as we develop our guidance on the intersection of teaching and AI tools.

Quick Strategies

  • Explain what unpermitted aid for assignments means for your course. At Stanford, the use of unpermitted aid to complete course work violates the Honor Code. Depending on the course, unpermitted tools may include AI text generators (e.g., ChatGPT), AI image generators (e.g., Dall-E and Hotpot), and other language tools (e.g., Google Translate). You may also explain what other kinds of aid are or are not permitted (e.g., Hume Center for Writing and Speaking and Grammarly). State your policy in your course syllabus and the Course Policies and Norms form, and then follow up in class with your students.
  • Test it for yourself. Consider running your course’s assignment through ChatGPT. Discuss your findings with your students and, if ChatGPT’s output is problematic or insufficient to meet your expectations for their work, explain why.
  • Lead a class discussion about AI tools in your field, such as emerging areas of AI use or creative applications of AI tools. If AI tools are not allowed or allowed in only limited circumstances in your course, explain why.
  • Review your course’s assignments and assessments. Look for opportunities to require higher-order thinking and personal reflection. Break assignments into parts and lower the stakes for performance. Such assignment or assessment design practices help improve learning but have an added benefit of incentivizing academic honesty and making tools like ChatGPT harder or less relevant to use.

What kinds of content can ChatGPT be used to generate?

Note: this is not an exhaustive list and may change based on the specifics of your assignments. We highly recommend testing your particular assignments with ChatGPT.

ChatGPT can be used to generate…

  • Short essays
  • Basic communications
  • Presentation outlines
  • Answers to multiple choice questions
  • Computer programming source code

ChatGPT’s output is more reliable when prompts are centered on…

  • General topics (e.g., historical reports, news, theory)
  • Foundational knowledge in your field
  • Public data sets

ChatGPT’s output is less reliable when prompts are centered on…

  • Personal accounts
  • Reports or reflections on experiential learning activities
  • Analysis of new research or current events (especially 2022 or later)
  • Private data sets
  • Multiple representations of students’ thinking

FAQs about ChatGPT and AI Tools in the Classroom

Guidance from the Board on Judicial Affairs states that Stanford instructors may set course policies regarding AI use as they choose. The guidance recommends that such policies are stated in the course syllabus and communicated clearly to students.

Sometimes. According to the Honor Code, students commit to not receiving “unpermitted aid” for assignments or examinations. If you do not specify that students can use generative AI tools, then their use would violate the honor code. But because these are emerging tools, it’s important to explicitly clarify with your students whether or not you permit ChatGPT and other AI tools.

If you choose to allow the use of AI tools, see sample guidelines for documenting AI use from the Sentient Syllabus Project and a sample Bibtex-format citation for the tool from OpenAI, the publisher of ChatGPT.

We strongly encourage you to test your assignments in ChatGPT for the clearest sense of how a ChatGPT output may compare to high-quality student work in your course. Note that ChatGPT does not produce the same output each time a question is posed. Stanford does not currently have approved licenses for plagiarism monitoring tools such as GPTZero (prototype) or Turnitin.

Other common strategies for detecting plagiarism may also be useful, such as looking for a mismatch of styles or language, improper and missing citations, or if a student can’t explain how they arrived at an answer or made choices in producing an assignment.

Yes. Consider having students research emerging areas of AI use or brainstorm creative applications of AI tools in your field. This will allow students to explore, gain experience with, and discuss the pros and cons of such applications.

Resources like University of Georgia’s resource on “Artificial Intelligence Writing” and Inside Higher Ed’s article “ChatGPT Advice Academics Can Use Now” offer classroom strategies for harnessing the potential of ChatGPT.

The Stanford Business Insights article “How to Survive the A.I. Revolution” explains how Professor of Operations, Information, and Technology Erik Brynjolfsson argues for taking a “human-centered approach” with AI to spur innovation and economic benefits. Learn more from Stanford’s Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence lab.

Business journals like Forbes (“ChatGPT’s Impact on Business: 4 Applications for Generative AI”), Business Insider (“How 6 Workers Are Using ChatGPT to Make Their Jobs Easier”), and The Wall Street Journal (“Business Technology Chiefs Question ChatGPT’s Readiness for the Enterprise”) are examining AI tools’ promising future and current limitations.

ChatGPT currently requires personal information, including an email address and mobile phone number, to sign up and use the chatbot. The site’s privacy policy states that this data can be shared with third-party vendors and other businesses. If you develop assignments that rely on ChatGPT, make sure to offer an alternate assignment for students who do not wish to make an account, or see the adoption process for new technologies.

ChatGPT isn’t always available for users without paid subscriptions. When the app has reached its capacity for processing load, general users are instructed to return later. General users may encounter this more frequently as demand increases.

We can offer one-on-one consultations, answers to questions via email, and even a short presentation with Q&A at your next department meeting. If you have questions about the impact of AI tools like ChatGPT on your course and assignments, reach out to discuss your concerns or specific use case with us.

Strategies for Effective Assignment Design

Below are suggestions for designing effective assignment prompts and questions, lowering the stakes by scaffolding challenging student work, and promoting student self-efficacy. All of these strategies help to promote academic honesty, and do so by helping you understand how your students are learning and by supporting your students in becoming motivated and successful learners.

Note that some of the following strategies, such as leading a discussion on career applications of course concepts, can be adopted fairly quickly. Others may not be applicable for your upcoming course, such as converting take-home to in-class exams or assignments.

Design Prompts for Critical Thinking

  • Develop assignment prompts that require higher-order thinking and personal reflection, such as the analysis or critique of sources, deep connections with class discussions and activities, or the application of course material to new contexts.
  • Allow students to shape assignments according to personal interests. Develop assignment prompts that are open ended or offer a selection of prompts for students to choose from.
  • Develop assignments that require students to express their thinking in multiple ways. Examples include a formal video presentation followed by an informal in-person Q&A, a written essay including thought maps or other visuals, or a final report accompanied by intermediate drafts and an explanation of how the student made choices in developing or editing their project.

Lower the Stakes

  • Break your assignments into parts. Assign portions of a project that later contribute to a larger paper or portfolio, or have students turn in drafts of their work.
  • Incorporate lower stakes assignments or assessments throughout the course, such as weekly quizzes or short, regular writing assignments. These can also help you become familiar with students’ personal writing styles.
  • Give students time to work on portions of their assignments during class, such as developing an initial or main idea of an assignment, writing an introductory paragraph, or discussing and revising a draft essay. You might consider having students turn in these initial drafts alongside final versions.
  • Offer retakes or re-writes for one or more assignments, and ask students to provide a reflection of how they improved their study or writing approach for their second attempt. This can help lower the stakes for students when initially completing assignments or tests, and long-term learning increases when students are given the chance to think deliberately about and remedy their learning gaps.

Find the Right Environment to Evaluate Learning

  • Convert take-home assignments that may tempt the use of unpermitted aid to in-class activities. For example, instead of assigning an essay on a general topic for homework, have students complete a five- to ten-minute freewrite at the end of class to demonstrate their understanding of course materials, or have students work in small groups to paraphrase the main takeaways of the class session and develop predictions for how those ideas will apply to upcoming course material.
  • When converting take-home exams to in-class exams, account for differences in the test-taking environment. Make sure that writing prompts are direct and detailed and that grading rubrics are developed with quick, not polished, writing in mind. This will help account for time limitations and performance pressures.

Promote Motivation and Self-efficacy

  • Explain how students will use skills developed in your course in their professional careers to foster intrinsic motivation. Highlighting stories told by guest speakers and other diverse course alumni may be especially helpful.
  • Discuss the ethical and career implications of AI tools such as ChatGPT and forthcoming AI systems, as the issues relate to your course content.
  • Provide multiple opportunities and ways for students to get help in your course. Academic dishonesty and the use of unpermitted aid often arises out of desperation. Clarify often how students can get the help they need, and reach out to students who are struggling.

Additional Resources