Hallucinations do not limit AI's power to transform education

Published: Wednesday 23 Aug 2023

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can transform education by cutting teacher workload and improving marking reliability, AQA has found.

AQA, in its response to the Department for Education consultation, Generative artificial intelligence in education: call for evidence, said that it had been exploring potential uses of AI to improve assessment and education. AQA found that there is concrete potential for AI tools to make working life better for teachers and complement human marking. Al tools, however, can generate wrong or misleading information – known as hallucinations – and therefore need close human supervision to be effective.

Alex Scharaschkin, AQA Executive Director of Assessment Research, likened AI tools to actors in Casualty, the long-running BBC drama – they look and sound like doctors, but cannot actually do surgery in a hospital to make people better.

AQA researchers trialled a number of AI tools to test their automated marking capabilities on a range of publicly available science papers. These included ChatGPT, GPT4, LLaMA and Alpaca.

AQA found that, in combination with human involvement and the right regulation, AI could be used to automate simple marking processes. This could help provide feedback that could be used by teachers in their everyday work.

AI could also be used to help develop digital assessments, which the AI could then mark – providing commentary on a student's responses. This should initially be restricted to low-stakes informal assessment in class. The technology itself still needs to improve, and it is not currently suitable for high-stakes examinations.

In the long run, it could help to ease teachers' workload – a key factor in teacher recruitment and retention – and allow teachers to better tailor their lessons for students.

There are real reasons to believe that AI could help teachers in many ways in the long run by:

  • helping teachers create tasks and assessments for students – a chatbot could follow a teacher's instructions to create a lesson or quiz, including with audio, video and text
  • assisting students with their own research, helping them learn how to use AI effectively
  • giving students automated feedback, or providing the first draft of a more detailed report which a teacher could then build on and edit
  • supporting awarding organisations to create digital assessments.

AQA also found that some people have concerns about the legal basis for processing huge amounts of personal data to inform AI. AQA suggests that one option could be a process of approving AI tools that mirrors the way drugs are currently approved.

Alex Scharaschkin, AQA's Executive Director of Assessment Research and Innovation, said:

"AI has exciting potential to transform education and help teachers focus on what matters to them: teaching students in the classroom. If AI can reduce workload by helping with lesson planning and marking, then the brightest people will be more likely to become teachers and stay in the job.

"We need to remember however that AI tools are a bit like actors in Casualty: they can learn to use the language of doctors and sound like they have medical expertise, but they cannot perform an operation. They will always need close human supervision.

"AI is already a part of our lives and we must now consider if AI literacy will become a must-have skill, like literacy and numeracy, that will help young people find jobs, navigate everyday life and reach their full potential."

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