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ChatGPT: Enabling Students to Cheat Themselves Out of Authentic Learning

December 27, 2022

When I started teaching high-school-level senior English six years ago, I quickly learned that I was going to have to devise both assignments and grading criteria that would withstand the sophistication and ease with which computer technology enables my students to cheat on my assignments– and cheat themselves out of authentic learning experiences.

I learned, for example, that the objectives of utilizing the internet for research needed to be separated from my tests because students were taking my test items and having Quizlet (a site that is supposed to assist teachers in constructing quizzes) answer the items for them in real time during my tests.

Of course, the immediate giveaway was the sudden rise in brain trusts speedily– and perfectly– completing my tests.

So, no more unlocked Chromebooks during my tests, and to be sure no other, unlocked devices are used to dodge the locked Chromebooks, tests are to be taken undermy watch as students are seated in my room.

As for those research objectives that I still needed to teach in this era of ever-easier cheating, I soon realized that including an interview component as a requirement for passing a major paper assignment does the trick. One cannot speak fluently (or at all, as the case often is) about a research paper one has not actually researched and written oneself.

Then came COVID. In 2020 and 2021, I was no longer able to conduct those in-person interviews, so I had to think of another tack.

As a result, I devised a research proposal assignment (as opposed to having students write a research paper). Moreover, I have learned not to issue the entire assignment at once but in sections, and to have students show me the sections as they are writing them. (I was able to do so even with COVID protocols in place by taking student laptops to my desk and having across-the-classroom conferences about the sections, but certainly the one-on-one conferencing that I do with each individual student is easier without having to socially distance).

Having students meet with me individually as they write the proposal assignment a section at a time really puts a damper on would-be cheaters. Some have tried to plagiarize the sections, but the section criteria are so specific that the plagiarism glares like a neon light in Vegas. I have the student erase the section nd rewrite in class, promising my guidance. That has worked well to steer students toward ethically completing their own writing assignments.

Now, there is the likes of ChatGPT, or artificial intelligence (AI) that generates superficially realistic student papers. AI paper generators hold the promise of robbing generations of high school and college students of the ability to produce and effectively communicate their own unique writing. However, one issue with ChatGPT, at least for now, is that it cannot effectively cite sources.

As the December 07, 2022, Plagiarism Today, notes, part of combating the AI problem may come in changing prompts. I have learned this already in how I both frame my writing prompts and require unusual assignment lengths that make a standardized response not quite fit. I have had students try to alter both my prompts and my length requirements to suit their preferences, and for such actions, students have paid a steep price gradewise.

Another strategy for comfronting AI assignment response is to incorporate an oral component into the assignment. For my papers, the oral component is the teacher-student interview about the student response. Furman (SC) professor Darren Hick noted in his December 15, 2022, Facebook post, that if he suspects an AI response to an exam, he tosses out the exam and requires an impromptu oral exam in its place.

Combating AI cheating necessitates human responses impervious to algorithms.

Such will increasingly be the indispensable component for literally cornering many students into authentically learning.

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter (don’t be scared) @deutsch29blog

2 Comments
  1. Threatened Out West permalink

    The interview part is a great idea except that I have 35 or so 9th graders at once and I can’t interview one without having the other 34 doing who knows what. Anything that has worked for you?

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