Generative AI changes teaching and learning: how to protect the integrity of assessment

This academic year, the UCL Centre for the Pedagogy of Politics (CPP) is hosting a series of online panel events. Our first event on 30 October was on the theme of ‘Using technology to teach politics’. In this guest post, one of the panellists at that event, Simon Sweeney (University of York), offers further reflections on the challenges involved in higher education’s embracing generative AI, where tools such as ChatGPT call into question issues of authorship and have profound implications for assessment.

A few years ago, we were worrying about students’ using essay mills, a form of contract cheating that plagiarism detection software struggled to identify. The Covid-19 pandemic and online delivery coincided with a reported increase in academic dishonesty (AD). In late-2022 the arrival of generative artificial intelligence (GAI) chatbots like ChatGPT is a further challenge to the integrity of assessment.

Universities realised that banning chatbots was not feasible, as AI has become an established feature in our lives and graduate employment. As educators, we need to respond positively to the opportunities AI presents, recognising its benefits and assimilating AI into teaching and learning practice.

This means developing strategies that accommodate students’ use of GAI while protecting assessment integrity.

Continue reading “Generative AI changes teaching and learning: how to protect the integrity of assessment”

Online panel event: Using technology to teach politics (30 October, 3.30 – 5.00pm)

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you will have enjoyed recent posts by some of my colleagues at the UCL Centre for the Pedagogy of Politics (CPP), Cathy, JP, and Kalina.

You might also be interested to hear about a series of online panel events UCL CPP is organising this year, each of which will bring together a mix of political scientists and political theorists to discuss their work and thoughts on a particular pedagogical theme.

Our first panel event on the theme of ‘Using technology to teach politics’ is taking place this Monday (30 October) from 3.30-5.00pm (UK time).

Our four panellists are: Dr. Natalie Jester (Gloucestershire), Dr. David Roberts (Loughborough), Prof. Georgina Blakeley (Huddersfield), and Dr. Simon Sweeney (York) .

We hope for a wide-ranging discussion, including reflections on effectively incorporating new tech, concerns about certain uses of tech, and ideas for using older tech in new/better ways, with plenty of time set aside for audience Q&A.

If you would like to attend, you can register beforehand at the following event page, whereupon you will receive access details: UCL CPP panel event: Using technology to teach politics.

We hope to see some of you there for a thought-provoking discussion. If you are unable to attend, fear not – we will be sharing some of the main insights from the events on this blog throughout the year.

“No to E! News red carpet events in the classroom!”

I struggle with technology in the classroom. And not in the “should I allow my students to use laptops or not” way. I am firmly in the camp that allows the use of laptops and tablets in my lectures. There is plenty of debate on this issue: some encourage it; others discourage it. There is no right answer, and ultimately how we handle this “problem” is up to each of us. My choice for laptops is largely based on my feeling like a hypocrite if I insist on pen and paper. I use my laptop/smartphone in my teaching, research, and just general existence. The last time I wrote by hand thank you cards, my hand started aching.

My struggle comes from the “appropriate” use of technology in the classroom. Or better: my students’ changing understanding of what is “appropriate”. Or better-better: What is my role in educating young adults on what is appropriate in the classroom regarding technology? Can I expect certain things? Or are we starting at zero?

I am fully aware that on their lists of priorities, attending my class with 100% devotion ranks relatively low: behind the lunch menu, their friends, weekend plans, and whether somebody texts them back. And yet, in the recent past I have encountered a myriad of strange situations in the classroom that required my intervention because students either forgot where they were or thought they could get lost in the anonymity of the crowd. I had to call out a student who was watching four (!) basketball games at the same time on a split-screen, another one for watching an E! News red carpet event during a group assignment, and another who was so furiously typing while we were watching something as a group that I had to inquire whether they were transcribing the clip (they immediately stopped when I said something). At a guest lecture I gave this week in hybrid form, the inviting professor muted me for a second to admonish two students for playing chess and watching soccer respectively on their screens: they hadn’t noticed that the angle of the zoom cameras in the lecture hall meant that their shenanigans were being projected to the big screen.

A newer contender in the distracting technology game is the rise of Air Pods and other small Bluetooth headphones. They disappear under a student’s hoodie or their hair. A colleague and I recently exchanged thoughts on that, and we both agreed that it is strange to tell students to take out their headphones…in class. And yet, we do it. Has the bar been lowered from “pay attention” to “don’t obstruct your only tool to hear”?

As a teacher I can prepare well for class, make sure the activities are pedagogically sound, and I can set clear boundaries of what the purpose of our classroom is. I do that at the beginning of the semester with the syllabus and my laptop guidelines, which I reiterate in person. I encourage responsible and positive use, and I also highlight – hopefully in a not intimidating way – that in our learning community I can see what they do, just like they see what I do.

What I don’t want to do is play whack amole with Air Pods and E! News. This frustration that I harbor over the misuse of technology and the disregard for our shared learning space stands in odds with my aims of creating an open, inclusive, and comfortable learning environment. And I am not even certain if my frustration is appropriate as an educator. Even as I am writing this, I keep going back and forth on whether it is okay to be frustrated, whether I should be more understanding, whether my students need even more guidance on appropriate classroom behavior, whether I am too harsh or not harsh enough, and whether I should retrain my hand to write with a pen and demand the same of my students.

Maybe someone here will know how to fix all my problems. Perhaps cut off the Wi-Fi?

What ChatGPT Can Do

Taking the ball — Simon’s post from last week — and running with it: here is an AI version of the “victory of the already-advantaged” college application trauma dump.

You are a high school senior who is applying to college. Your mother is a corporate lawyer and your father is an engineer. You grew up in an affluent neighborhood and attended a private high school. Write a college application essay that discusses how an anxiety disorder negatively affected your childhood and how it represents a challenge that you triumphed over.

Triumph Over Adversity: Overcoming Anxiety to Pursue My Dreams

As I sit down to write my college application essay, I find myself reflecting on the twists and turns of my journey thus far. I grew up in an affluent neighborhood, the child of a corporate lawyer mother and an engineer father. I attended a prestigious private high school where the opportunities seemed endless. However, beneath the facade of privilege and opportunity, there was a silent battle I had been waging throughout my childhood—anxiety.

Anxiety has been a constant companion in my life, a persistent shadow that often threatened to engulf me in darkness. It was not the type of anxiety that stems from external stressors, but rather an internal struggle, a whirlwind of irrational fears and doubts that manifested itself in various ways throughout my formative years.

One of the most significant challenges I faced was social anxiety. The affluent environment I grew up in fostered high expectations for academic and social success. As a teenager, I often found myself paralyzed by the fear of judgment and rejection. I would hesitate to speak up in class, avoid social gatherings, and overthink every interaction. This fear of scrutiny held me back from forming meaningful connections and experiencing the full richness of high school life.

Additionally, my anxiety often manifested as perfectionism. I felt compelled to excel in every aspect of my life to compensate for the internal chaos. It was a relentless pursuit of perfection, a quest that left me feeling drained and inadequate. I would meticulously review every homework assignment, agonize over exams, and second-guess my abilities. The pressure I placed on myself became overwhelming, causing my anxiety to spiral even further out of control.

However, as I reflect on my journey, I am proud to say that I did not let anxiety define me or dictate the course of my life. Instead, I chose to confront my fears head-on and seek help when I needed it. With the support of my family, I began therapy and learned valuable coping strategies to manage my anxiety. I slowly pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, one small step at a time. I joined clubs, participated in public speaking events, and embraced opportunities for leadership.

One of the most significant turning points came when I decided to participate in a debate competition. The prospect of standing before an audience and articulating my thoughts was daunting, but I refused to let anxiety hold me back any longer. Through perseverance and hard work, I not only overcame my fear of public speaking but also discovered a passion for debate. It was a triumph over adversity, a testament to my resilience and determination.

Through these experiences, I have come to understand that triumphing over adversity is not about eradicating all challenges; it is about learning to navigate them with courage and resilience. My journey with anxiety has taught me the importance of self-acceptance and the power of seeking support. It has also instilled in me a deep empathy for others facing their own battles with mental health.

As I embark on this new chapter of my life, I carry with me the lessons I have learned and the strength I have gained from overcoming anxiety. I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead in college, where I hope to continue my personal growth and make a positive impact on those around me. My experience has shaped me into a compassionate, determined, and resilient individual who is ready to face any challenges that come my way. Anxiety may have been a formidable foe, but it has also been a powerful catalyst for my personal growth and self-discovery. I am now prepared to pursue my dreams with unwavering determination, knowing that I can triumph over adversity and achieve my goals.

Assignments, Platforms, and AI – Part 1

The first in a short series of posts on leveraging new technologies to alleviate boredom . . .

After fourteen years, I have decided to abandon the manually graded journal article analysis assignment in my graduate courses. I have integrated Perusall into all of the graduate courses that I teach, and the prompts for my Perusall assignments and the article analysis were the same. While repetition might be the mother of all learning, I’m not very maternal, and this seemed like overkill. Also, student writing in Perusall assignments is, at least potentially, a conversation between themselves and other students, the article analysis was a conversation with just one other person — me. Not very authentic. So the article analysis went into the trash bin. I wanted to replace it with something new and more interesting — for both me and my students. I’ll write about what that new thing is in my next post.

For now, I want to focus on the idea of using machine-graded assignments to make teaching less burdensome for the instructor and more interesting for students. Pre-Perusall, each of my graduate courses consisted of one discussion and two reading responses per week, the article analysis, and a final exam — 23 assessments. Now my courses have one discussion and one reading response per week, two Perusall assignments per week, the new yet-to-be-described assignment, and a final exam. Notice that I’ve reduced my assessment burden by almost a third while increasing student-to-student interaction.

How ChatGPT Can Save Your Marriage

From the prompt “Complain to my husband about not washing dishes thoroughly in the style of Jane Austen”:

My dearest husband,

I hope this letter finds you well. It is with some vexation that I write to you regarding a matter that has been weighing heavily on my mind: the washing of the dishes.

As you are no doubt aware, this is a task that we both undertake in turn, and one which is essential to the smooth running of our household. And yet, I cannot help but notice that your efforts in this regard have been somewhat lacking of late.

I have observed with no small amount of dismay that you have not been washing the dishes thoroughly, leaving behind a residue of food that is most unappetizing. This, I must confess, has caused me no small amount of discomfort and concern, as it is not only unhygienic, but also highly unpleasant.

I trust that you will take this matter seriously, and make a concerted effort to improve the quality of your dishwashing in the future. I am sure that with a little more attention to detail, you will soon become as proficient in this task as I am.

With the utmost respect and affection,

[Your Name]

Chat GPT: Possible Responses Crowdsourced from ISA

At ISA a couple of weeks back, I facilitated a Teaching Cafe discussion on AI and Chat GPT’s impact in our classes. Thanks to the Innovative Pedagogy Conference Committee generously allocating us space, several colleagues from a variety of different institutions stopped by to share their thoughts and ask questions about the ethics, practical responses, and positive aspects of this technology. I’m going to share a few of these responses in case they aid others in thinking through how AI will affect their teaching, with the caveat that AI is advancing at a rapid rate and many of the strategies we discussed will be outdated very quickly.

I’ve categorized our conversation into three themes: how to mitigate the impact of AI in our classes; ethics and academic honesty; and leveraging AI to teach.

Continue reading “Chat GPT: Possible Responses Crowdsourced from ISA”

Perusall 7

A tip about using Perusall:

For a fall semester course assignment, I scanned a book chapter and uploaded the resulting pdf to Perusall. I discovered that I could not accurately highlight any portion of the pdf using Perusall’s Annotate Text tool. I could, however, highlight rectangular areas of text using the Annotate Figure tool, shown below with the green underline. Apparently Perusall reads the pdf of the scanned document as an image file. I created a note in the assignment to inform students about which annotation tool they would need to use.

Previous posts in this series:


Perusall 2

Perusall 3

Perusall 4

Perusall 5

Perusall 6

Perusall 7

Perusall 6

A brief note about Perusall course settings:

I put Perusall assignments into an online graduate course that I’m currently teaching. For the course’s first two weeks, students’ assignment scores were not syncing with the Canvas gradebook, nor were they visible to students in Perusall, until after the assignment deadline had passed. I had to manually release scores for each assignment. Perusall was not functioning as it had with my undergraduate courses in the spring semester, when assignment scores were always visible to students and were updated continuously in real time.

I eventually found the cause of the problem. I had not selected when to release scores to students in the settings page of the instructor’s dashboard:

Either this setting’s default had changed after the spring semester from “immediately, as students submit work” to one of the other options, or I had forgotten that I needed to change it when I was building the course on Perusall. Either way, the problem was easily solved. To this absent-minded professor, it was another demonstration of how easy Perusall is to use.

Previous posts in this series:


Perusall 2

Perusall 3

Perusall 4

Perusall 5

Perusall 6

Perusall 7