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Is Generative AI helping or harming students?

Is Generative AI helping or harming students?

3 min read
  • Phones & technology

In an era where digital tools and technologies are increasingly integrated into every facet of our lives, Generative AI seems to be on everyone’s mind in education.

Proponents claim that this technology has the potential to radically transform how students learn, offering both unprecedented opportunities and new challenges. But we’re also seeing increasing concerns surrounding cheating, plagiarism, and lessened learning outcomes.

So, which is true? Is generative AI helping or harming students? New research would suggest the latter… Let’s discuss:

  • The state of AI in education
  • How AI has affected students and educators
  • Navigating the challenges of AI

The state of AI in education

Generative AI refers to the subset of artificial intelligence technologies capable of generating new content, from written text to images and beyond. Since becoming widely and freely available in late 2022, it’s been a popular subject of conversation in education.

Many schools are creating their own AI policy (see some examples here), and we’re seeing more and more research and guidance being published, from the PISA 2022 report or the UK government, for example.

Take a look at our blog, 7 approaches to using AI in the classroom (with prompts) to discover evidence-informed ways in which you can introduce generative AI to your classroom.

On the one hand, this technology opens the door to potential customised learning experiences, interactive and engaging learning materials and instant feedback loops for students. On the other hand, it may lead to students avoiding engaging deeply with their learning material or even to cheat, with 35% of teachers having suspected unauthorised AI use in their students.

How has Generative AI affected students?

Concerns have been raised about the potential for decreased human interaction, over-reliance on technology and issues related to data privacy and security. Moreover, the rapid pace of AI development can sometimes outstrip the ability of educators and institutions to adapt effectively, potentially leading to disparities in access and quality of education.

An interesting piece of recent research investigated ChatGPT usage and its effects among 494 students. Here are the key findings from the study:

  • Students who reported high workload and time pressure were likely to use ChatGPT more.
  • Students who were sensitive to rewards were less likely to use ChatGPT, possibly due to fear of poor grades in case of getting caught.
  • Surprisingly, sensitivity to quality of work was not significantly related to the use of ChatGPT.
  • The study also suggested that extensive use of ChatGPT may lead to memory loss among students.
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What should educators do about this?

This research offers a fascinating (and worrying) glimpse into the complex relationship between student behaviour and Generative AI tools like ChatGPT. It is a good idea to consider how you can support your students in navigating the challenges and opportunities presented by such technologies, ensuring they enhance learning without compromising academic integrity or cognitive development.

To maximise the benefits of generative AI while mitigating potential harms, we as a society need to stay informed about the latest developments in AI, critically evaluating AI-generated materials for accuracy and bias and fostering an environment where technology complements rather than replaces human interaction and creativity.

Final thoughts

Generative AI represents a significant shift in the landscape of education. But it is a double-edged sword. If we get it right, hopefully, it can help reduce teacher workloads and accelerate student learning. But if we get it wrong and we create a culture of shortcuts where we value the output more than the process, ultimately, this has the power to hindering learning.

To help your staff to understand and apply the latest and most important Cognitive Science research such as this, join our Teacher CPD Academy today!

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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