The use of generative artificial intelligence (AI) in Australian schools comes with many benefits but also poses serious challenges, including concerns over inherent algorithmic biases, for the whole Australian education system, according to the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA), which released its submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the issue.
According to AHISA’s survey of members on how their staff and students use generative AI, the approaches varied and depended on the situation of each school community. However, overall, schools have been careful in their response, with teachers typically experimenting with the tools in their own work first.
Also, tools for student learning were being used for selected subjects and year levels.
This was largely due to the fact that the use of generative AI by students presented some complex challenges for schools, among which were questions as to how to assess students’ AI-assisted work. These could not be resolved until there was a guarantee of equitable access to generative AI tools and training in their use, they said.
Also, AI also presents ethical issues such as inherent bias, intellectual property rights and data privacy, and in detecting and managing erroneous output from generative AI tools and the impact of an increasing pace of technological change on teacher wellbeing.
AHISA’s chief executive Dr Chris Duncan said that the survey showed that teachers’ use of generative AI tools in their work was relatively widespread among AHISA members’ schools.
“Some schools reported just over 70 per cent of primary teachers and up to 80 per cent of secondary teachers were using generative AI tools in their work,” he noted.
“The average across all respondents’ schools was 24 per cent of primary teachers and 39 per cent of secondary teachers.”
On a positive note, teachers reported time saved as one of the key benefits and praised AI tools for helping them quickly develop differentiated learning tasks for students.
“Teachers are using generative AI tools for tasks such as lesson plans or learning design, to create learning resources, to generate ideas for curriculum unit outlines or rubrics for assessing student work, and to create class discussion questions,” Duncan said.
“One of the positive impacts of the use of generative AI tools on student work reported by schools is in gains for students with literacy difficulties.”
Following this, school leaders also reported opportunities to personalise learning for students as one of their main hopes for generative AI gains in schools, as was the capacity of generative AI to provide students with real-time feedback and support.
“This is very new technology, with the potential to be a major disruption to education, and caution is warranted,” AHISA’s CEO stressed.
“Even so, our survey results indicate that, if managed well, and with appropriate safeguards in place, generative AI tools offer tangible gains for both teachers and students.”
AHISA SURVEY DATA AT A GLANCE
NUMBER OF TEACHERS USING GENERATIVE AI IN RESPONDENTS’ SCHOOLS
- On average 24 per cent and up to 72 per cent of primary teachers
- On average 34.5 per cent and up to 80 per cent of middle school teachers
- On average 39 per cent and up to 80 per cent of secondary teachers
TOP 10 AI-ASSISTED TEACHER TASKS
- Lesson plans or learning design
- Learning resources
- Ideas for curriculum unit outlines
- Discussion questions
- Rubrics for assessing student work
- Questions for Q&A sessions
- Summaries of articles
- Student assessment tasks eg quizzes, essay topics
- Articles for the school newsletter or school website
- Differentiated learning tasks
TOP 3 BENEFITS OF GENERATIVE AI TOOLS FOR TEACHERS’ WORK
- Saves time
- Helps to create a draft to get started
- Supports the development of ideas
TOP 3 CHALLENGES OF USING GENERATIVE AI TOOLS FOR TEACHERS’ WORK
- Lack of time to test the various applications with students
- Learning to use the tools is too time-consuming
- Lack of school guidelines
TOP 10 AI-ASSISTED STUDENT TASKS
- Support student research
- Generate ideas for creative projects
- Offer feedback to improve written text
- Draft or check coding
- Find definitions of concepts that are more relevant or accessible
- Check mathematical calculations
- Generate presentation slides
- Generate illustrations
- Generate music
- Generate animations
POSITIVE IMPACTS OF GENERATIVE AI OBSERVED IN STUDENT WORK
- Improvements in drafting, creative inputs, brainstorming in creative work, generating ideas
- Assistance for students in research
- Improvements in the calibre of students’ work.
- Greater understanding of concepts
- Gains for students with literacy difficulties
- Improvement in student engagement