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How can English teachers encourage pupils to write in the age of Chat GPT?

About 8 days ago By Michelle Tilley

Opened Ai Chat Laptop 1268 21506

When Open AI launched ChatGPT in November 2022, the education world changed. Walk into any staff room today, and one common frustration among teachers is students submitting their homework using AI. Often, this is without deep engagement or understanding. English teachers have already faced challenges with pupils writing in ‘text speak’, and now Chat GPT presents extra hurdles. English teachers know that there are many limitations to this recent technology.

Concerns about AI tools

AI writing tools raise several concerns for English teachers. Chat GPT is far from being a writer; it is a predictive text device. It generates text by predicting which words follow a prompt. AI tools struggle with tone and context and understanding the nuances of language and emotion.

Chat-GPT can be inaccurate or misleading. Inconsistencies and errors are also commonplace. These include factual inaccuracies, logical inconsistencies, and grammatical errors. Pupils need to verify the content before they use it. Often, this is because they don’t know how or assume the tech will ‘always be right.’

Other AI tools

AI writing tools such as Grammarly, Hemingway Editor, and QuillBot can improve students’ grammar and punctuation skills. These tools utilise advanced algorithms to identify grammar, punctuation, and syntax errors. Paid versions provide suggestions to improve clarity and style.

Yet, the limitations are that pupils do not use simple grammar rules and rely on these tools to check their work. AI writing tools can promote over-reliance among students. Learners often prioritise quick fixes from AI tools over understanding and learning from their mistakes, which negates learning, growth, and development in writing.

Human knowledge is still needed, as not all suggestions are correct. In some cases, grammar additions, such as the Oxford comma, are subjective.

The importance of unassisted writing

For native English learners and those in the UK school system, being able to write unassisted remains a key skill. While some studies favour the use of Chat GPT and its positive effects, many researchers have voiced concerns about the side effects of these tools (e.g., Y. Liu et al., 2022; Lund & Wang, 2023; Qadir, 2022).

Instant messaging and AI-powered tools like Chat GPT are prevalent, yet nurturing writing skills remains as crucial as ever. Teachers must guide pupils to develop their writing abilities in a world where communication is digital and instantaneous.

However, a main concern is that learners become dependent on technology. Relying on AI can diminish critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It also means that pupils may struggle in non-tech-assisted exams or panic when they do not have internet access.

How to encourage unassisted writing

Explain to your pupils why English writing is important. It is more than asking them to remember tricky spellings, handwriting, and grammar. The ability to express ideas in writing is an essential skill. It is key across all subjects, for their education and careers.

Cultivate a love for writing

Whether you teach English in primary or secondary school, there are several ways to cultivate a love for writing and build pupil confidence.

Encourage reading

Well-chosen texts provide learners with good-quality models for their writing. Diverse reading lists expose pupils to rich language structures. By analysing reading, they can see how writing works and its impact on readers.

Creative freedom

Provide opportunities for pupils to explore different genres and styles of writing. Let them choose topics they are interested in. This creates a sense of ownership and passion for writing.

Purposeful writing

Encourage pupils to engage in different types of writing. Assigning tasks such as essays, reports, and creative writing prompts can help them understand different writing styles and the significance of structured and thoughtful communication.

Understanding the audience

One limitation of AI tools is that they don’t understand different audiences. When pupils write, they need to be clear to their audience. They can then understand how writing is a tool for communication and expression. Writing is more effective when pupils understand its purpose. Writing exercises for different audiences can help with this.

Free writing and creative writing prompts

Many educators question the impact of AI writing tools on creativity. Some educators worry that students might use these tools to generate ideas. This could curtail their creative thinking and originality (Johinke et al).

Use class time for a free writing exercise and make the lesson interesting by using non-digital writing prompts such as prompt cards, objects, music, photographs, or paintings. Build some editing time at the end of the class so pupils can learn how to edit writing away from a computer and digital tools.

Encourage critical thinking

Writing prompts that need students to plan arguments, analyse texts, or express opinions can help learners develop critical thinking skills.

Peer-to-peer feedback

Depending on the group, create an opportunity where pupils can share their writing and receive feedback from peers. This collaborative approach encourages them to refine their writing skills in a supportive environment.

Celebrate achievements

Recognise and celebrate good writing through showcases, publications, or competitions. Positive reinforcement motivates learners to continue developing their writing abilities.

Harness technology as a tool

Chat GPT can assist learners with generating writing prompts, providing feedback and revision suggestions, and offering writing help. Some research suggests that for learners of English as a foreign language, adopting AI-powered writing tools can help students improve their writing (e.g., Kurniati & Fithriani, 2022; Wang, 2022; Zhao, 2022).

Used effectively AI can be an enhanced learning tool that gives instant access to educational resources. It can offer personalised responses to queries and act as a virtual tutor. Modern technology also increases engagement, as learners can engage with interactive content.

Teachers can introduce students to AI tools like Chat GPT as aids for brainstorming, idea generation, or editing drafts. Emphasise that while AI can assist, it cannot replace the creativity and personal tone of voice that make writing interesting.

Balancing AI in education

The key for educators in all subjects lies in balancing the integration of Chat-GPT into teaching. While AI tools offer some advantages, it is crucial to address their limitations. Ensuring that technology complements rather than replaces traditional teaching is essential. By doing so, teachers can enhance learning while maintaining the vital human element of education.

By embracing technology as a supplementary tool rather than replacing traditional writing practices, teachers can empower students to navigate the digital world while preserving good writing skills and creativity.