Writing workshop for teaching assistants addresses use of AI

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In an age when artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming how students may potentially create their work, a writing workshop at FIU is addressing the use of the technology.

Associate professor Kevin Evans , who teaches politics and international relations, helped organize a Writing Across the Curriculum workshop on the appropriate use of AI tools like ChatGPT for graduate students who are working as teaching assistants (TA) or plan to teach soon.

The Writing Across the Curriculum Program led the workshop, which was presented in preparation for the fall semester by the Green School's Graduate Studies Office.

The focus of the workshop was to help TAs consider how writing assignments in their courses may be impacted by AI. It covered strategies that instructors and TAs can employ in response to these tools and how to ensure academic integrity.

Evans planned the workshop while preparing his syllabus for the fall semester. "I was thinking of how to incorporate language and thinking about the assignments in this new era, when text can be generated so easily," he says.

"I thought it was particularly important to try to offer some sort of workshop that would help them (TAs), because so many of them are either teaching for the first time or about to start."

The workshop offered potential solutions concerning students using AI for coursework: for example, redesigning writing assignments to encourage original and course-specific work and establishing clear expectations regarding academic integrity and the responsible use of AI technologies.

Lindsay Maxwell, assistant teaching professor in the Department of History, shared her approach that makes use of AI while encouraging student enthusiasm for writing.

Evans says the main takeaway from the workshop is helping TA's creatively find ways to ask students questions that would be hard for an AI tool to answer. Incorporating the use of a research log and in-depth citations and bibliographies, which focus on the process of their research rather than just the paper, was another example.

"Different people are OK with different things," he said. "You need to think about the learning outcomes in the class to define what you're going to allow or not allow."

Evans has previously prohibited the use of AI writing tools in his class, requiring students to deliver research-based work alongside their writing.

"ChatGPT can't give them details about a gated New York Times article from 1961 on the Kennedy administration, at least not easily. I am making them use specific sources and databases of information," he says.

"I just don't like the idea that they're able to do it in two seconds and they don't get the benefits that come from struggling with the research process, which can bring about some real growth."

Evans acknowledges that he may change the way he plans his courses in the future, as many new AI tools are becoming popular among students.

"My relationship with it might evolve over time in terms of finding ways to incorporate it. At some point it's (AI) going to feel like the calculator in a math class, but we're not at that point."