The positive and negative aspects of rapidly developing technology have always created a real challenge for schools and universities to embrace. The most recent challenge to educational assessment discussion revolves around the new AI (Artificial Intelligence) chatbot technology, and how it will impact upon an exam board or university’s ability to mark and assess.

At university level, plagiarism platforms such as Turnitin are used to assess the originality of an assignment, and the technology used is impressive. But the emergence of AI chatbots presents a new challenge for examiners and markers. This situation was highlighted with UK tabloids quickly seizing on the story of a university student who used a chatbot to generate an essay which scored a reasonable 2:2 grade. So, the difficulty for academics is how to differentiate between original student work, and chatbot generated text.

The Times Educational Supplement (TES) recently reported that the International Baccalaureate (IB) has been the first to embrace this new technology and will allow students to quote from documents generated by the ChatGPT artificial intelligence system in their essays, much as they currently do with other quoted sources. As a result, the IB will not ban their students from using the AI chatbot technology in their assessments, providing all quoted or referenced sources are correctly cited, and that the student does not claim to be the author. The IB currently offers four educational programmes at 120 UK schools.

Probably the best-known AI platforms is ChatGPT. It can respond to questions in a seemingly human like manner and can even adopt styles and forms of writing. It can also follow up questions and can seemingly converse.

Matt Glanville (IB Head of Assessment Principles and Practice) believes that AI should not be seen as a threat but should be embraced and accepted into our daily lives, just like calculators, spellcheckers, and translation software. He said ‘The clear line between using ChatGPT and providing original work is exactly the same as using ideas taken from other people or the internet… As with any quote or material adapted from another source, it must be credited in the body of the text and appropriately referenced in the bibliography…  To submit AI-generated work as their own is an act of academic misconduct and would have consequences. But that is not the same as banning its use.”

Please see here for the full IB official statement.

The Chartered Institute for IT noted that 62 per cent of computing teachers believe that said AI chatbots would make it difficult to mark student work fairly, however, they were keen to capture the positive aspects of this new technology.

Geoff Barton (General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders) stressed both the positives and the negatives - “ChatGPT potentially creates issues for any form of assessment that relies upon coursework where students have access to the internet… Allowing students to use this platform as a source with the correct attribution seems a sensible approach and in line with how other sources of information are used… We would caution, however, that ChatGPT itself acknowledges that some of the information it generates may not be correct and it is therefore important for students to understand the importance of cross-checking and verifying information, as is the case with all sources… What is important is that students do not pass off pieces of work as their own when this is not the case, and that they use sources critically and well’.

Barton had previously told the TES that  the development of this new AI technology highlighted the need for an informed review of teaching and assessment. While Sarah Hannafin (National Association of Head Teachers) praised the IB approach , saying ‘The International Baccalaureate seems to be taking a very sensible approach… We need to respond to technology as it develops, helping children and young people to evaluate the benefits and risks and to understand how to use it appropriately and effectively.’

So be very clear  - AI chatbot technology is here to stay and there is a real need for all examining bodies and universities to review their teaching and assessment procedures, and to embrace this new and powerful technology.

For further educational news digest and comment, please look at our University Advice  blog.

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King, Jasper. The Metro.Graduate uses ChatGPT to write 2,000 word essay in 20 minutes – and it passes’. Wednesday 8th February 2023, 7:12 pm

The Times Educational Supplement. ‘IB students can use ChatGPT in essays’. 27th February 2023, 3:50pm IBO website.

Glanville, Dr Matthew. IBO website. ‘Why ChatGPT is an opportunity for schools’. Updated 8th March 2023.