Your students are likely going to be using ChatGPT no matter what–but how they learn to use ChatGPT can make or break if it helps or hinders their learning.

AI has been steadily evolving and becoming more commonplace in our everyday lives. However, the explosion in popularity of the chatbot ‘ChatGPT’ has raised many questions in educators’ minds. The one we will tackle today is: how can I use these AI tools to benefit student learning in the classroom?

Preparing Students for the Future

While ChatGPT’s ability to generate content and provide guidance can be utilized by educators in all aspects of their job, bringing ChatGPT into the classroom not only allows for engagement in unique generative learning strategies, but also helps foster healthy criticism and understanding of the limits of ChatGPT and the future of similar AI tools. Because, let’s be honest, things are only ramping up from here, and an AI-supported world is a future that students will have to understand and navigate. 

But that begs a second question: how do you support a tool that simply provides all the answers without compromising critical thinking skills or the ability to identify biases and/or false information? Because, spoiler, ChatGPT can get things wrong sometimes…even a lot of times. That doesn’t mean it is going away.

DO Use ChatGPT in the Classroom, but DON’T Trust It (At Least 100%)

This may seem like a fine line to walk for an educator who already has plenty on their plate–but below are a few specific activities you can try that exemplify how you can show the utility of these tools, teach how to use them effectively, and all while modeling how to maintain a healthy criticism of ChatGPT.

‘Debate’ or ‘Grade’ ChatGPT as a Class

For example, asking ChatGPT about the impact of Dr. Robert Kosch and Dr. Louis Pasteur on the field of  medicine, science, and daily life provides a litany of response areas that may be overly simplified or biased. This builds up the students’ understanding of the limits of ChatGPT and a healthy skepticism to AI results, while still engaging in the material at hand in a fun and creative way.  

Actually, it can be straight up wrong in little ways more often than you think as well, not just biased. Let me give an example from my own personal use. In asking it to detail a theory of moral development known as Moral Domain Theory, it told me:  

“Eliot Turiel’s Moral Domain Theory posits that there are distinct domains of social knowledge, such as moral, societal, and psychological…”  

Which is SO close to right, but not quite. There are three important distinct domains, yes, but they are moral reasoning, social convention reasoning, and personal reasoning domains. Seems like a small error but only on the surface, it takes a deeper knowledge of the theory to see the major flaws in this response.

Use ChatGPT’s Responses as Prompts for Complex or Difficult Questions

It can be difficult for both educators and students to know where to start when tackling questions that don’t really have a simple answer. But you know who does have an answer? ChatGPT. Use its response as a starting point for a deeper class discussion. It can sometimes be hard to get the ball rolling with class discussions, and especially hard for controversial or complex topics, let ChatGPT be of assistance. 

 For example, asking an AI bot—  

“what systemic changes need to be made at the local, state, and federal level to reduce poverty–and what role does the stigma around homelessness play into these changes”  

—is going to provide a great jumping off point for discussion, provide scaffolding for specific points to be discussed, and not give full dominion of what is right and wrong to ChatGPT. This will again show its utility as a tool but that whatever answer ChatGPT gives you is not the answer.

Ask ChatGPT for Multiple Answers with Different Prompts

…but keep in mind that the responses are only as good as the quality of the prompt given.  The more detailed you are in stating clearly what you want, the better the results. ChatGPT is a machine learning tool that generates responses by calculating all the possible words that are often associated with the key terms provided. However, it is important to note that the generated responses may be influenced by the biases of the tool itself and those of the user. Despite this limitation, using ChatGPT in the classroom can provide additional material to discuss, analyze, or grade with your students, and can also serve as a valuable example of the impact of biases in AI technology.  

For example, here are a few examples it gave me re-wording the previous question on homelessness:  

  1. “What are some viable legislative measures that can be taken to address the issue of housing insecurity and discrimination against homeless populations?” 
  1. “How can we as a society reduce the negative perceptions surrounding homelessness, and what policy changes can be made to support homeless individuals in their journey to stability?” 
  1. “What can teenagers do to support efforts aimed at reducing homelessness stigma and promoting policy changes that address housing insecurity?” 

One last important note here: Make sure to ask these questions in different tabs so that ChatGPT doesn’t use previous answers and questions as a reference.

Tabs with different ChatGPT chats with titles
Read a text transcript for all ChatGPT chats included in this post.

Use ChatGPT to Lighten the Load

For example? This very article. See below:

Chat with prompt asking for examples of questions to ask ChatGPT or similar AI
Read a text transcript for all ChatGPT chats included in this post.
Chat asking ChatGPT to regenerate the answer with keywords
Read a text transcript for all ChatGPT chats included in this post.

Notice here that the answers are only as good as the prompts–just because you don’t get what you want at first doesn’t mean you can’t rephrase your prompt and try again. Just be as clear as you can on what you want.  

So in summary, you can use these activities to help prepare students for the AI-dominated world we are already in, develop an understanding of its limitations and healthy criticism of its answers, as well as model how to use AI generative tools like ChatGPT to bolster critical thinking rather than inhibit it.

How are you adapting to developments in AI like ChatGPT? What role do they have in your classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Addison Helsper (they/them)

    Addison is a prior suicide prevention counselor and clinical case manager turned academic currently completing their PhD in Educational Psychology at Ball State University's Teachers College. While Addison's primary research focus rests in the field of stress management, coping, and coping interventions--they also work on the application of creativity and design models to crisis intervention work, the application of AI tools for educators and students, and motivation as a moderator/mediator of social media use on adolescent adjustment. Additionally, they volunteer for the student ran organization DESK (Delivering Educational Support to Kenya) as vice-president and for NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) as a LOSS Team trainer for Delaware County (Muncie Cares).

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