Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) for writing (including ChatGPT) can quickly create coherent, cohesive prose and paragraphs on a seemingly limitless set of topics. The potential for abuse in academic integrity is clear, and our students could be using these tools already. Furthermore, it is likely that this is only the first of many such AI products we’ll see in the years to come, and we may need to permanently re-envision how we assign college writing. As such, FCTL has assembled this set of ideas to consider, falling into three categories.
Category 1: Neutralize the Software
- Hyper-customize your writing assignments. As is the case for contract (“for hire”) writing by professionals, academic misconduct can be curtailed or detected when the writing prompts are so specific to the course and the discussions within the class that an outsider, or an AI, would have little chance of producing an output that would earn a good grade. It can also help to specify heavy citations and a specific length, both of which are difficult for the AI to deliver convincingly.
- Break major assignments into smaller graded chunks. By scaffolding assignments into smaller bits, students are not only less likely to cheat, they are more likely to create stronger final products. An annotated bibliography might be an especially good idea to blunt the advantages of AI-generated writing.
- Prioritize writing in an authentic environment. While some students may lack experience with in-class writing (on paper), this high-touch method of collecting and grading writing offers the best chance to eliminate academic misconduct. In larger classes, grading may be kept more manageable by assigning shorter, but more frequent, in-class writing assignments.
- Collect at least one diagnostic of in-person writing to compare to submitted essays. A student whose formal essay writing style deviates significantly from their spontaneous, hand-written writing might warrant additional scrutiny.
- Assign writing with heavy citations. The AI software is more likely than a student to use citations that you (let alone a student) might never think to use, making them appear suspicious. Moreover, the chosen citations might poorly reflect what you had in mind with your hyper-customized writing prompt.
- If feasible, assign a writing prompt that requires information after 2021. ChatGPT only includes information up to 2021, so anything from 2022 and beyond will stymie the software.
- Preview your writing prompt on the AI platform yourself. The type of prose produced by ChatGPT is remarkably cohesive, but the style can be recognized over time. Certain markers, like the flat topic sentences that begin most paragraphs, can help identify the prose as machine-generated. The rhetorical level of the prose can also be a marker—for many topics, the produced essay is superficial and can be characterized more as summary than analysis. It can also be helpful to know what your students might be seeing as output if they ask the AI a similar question, which can aid in detecting misconduct on student-submitted essays. However, do not rely on plagiarism detection software (e.g. Turnitin), since an identical prompt given to ChatGPT on two occasions will yield two unique essays.
- Specify your policies about AI writing on the syllabus. If you ban the use of AI writing, say so directly on the syllabus. Alternately, if you allow its use but want it acknowledged (cited, referenced, etc.), be explicit in the syllabus about your expectations.
- Explore formats beyond traditional essays. In some cases, there may be other ways to communicate thinking, analysis, or evaluation beyond a written essay. Examples might include mind maps, podcasts, vlogs, debates, or applications (both long and short) of interactive techniques.
Category 2: Teach Ethics, Integrity, and Career-Related Skills
- Discuss the ethical and career implications of AI-writing with your students. Early in the semester (or at least when assigning a writing prompt), have a frank discussion with your students about the existence of AI writing. Point out to them the surface-level ethical problem with mis-representing their work if they choose to attempt it, as well as the deeper problem of “cheating themselves” by entering the workforce without adequate preparation for writing skills, a quality that employers highly prize.
- Create and prioritize an honor code in your class. Submitting AI-created work as one’s own is, fundamentally, dishonest. As professionals, we consider it among our top priorities to graduate individuals of character who can perform admirably in their chosen discipline, all of which requires a set of core beliefs rooted in honor. Make this chain of logic explicit to students (repeatedly if necessary) in an effort to convince them to adopt a similar alignment toward personal honesty. A class-specific honor code can aid this effort, particularly if invoked or attested to when submitting major assignments and tests.
- Reduce course-related workload to disincentivize cheating. Many instances of student cheating, including the use of AI-writing, is borne out of desperation and a lack of time. Consider how realistic the workload you expect of students is.
Category 3: Lean into the Software’s Abilities
- Re-envision writing as editing/revising. Assign students to create an AI essay with a given prompt, and then heavily edit the AI output using Track Changes and margin comments. Such an assignment refocuses the work of writing away from composition and toward revision, which may be more common in an AI-rich future workplace.
- Refine editing skills via grading. Assign students to create an AI essay and grade it, providing specific feedback justifying each of the scores on the rubric. This assignment might be paired with asking students to create their own essay responding to the same prompt.
Clearly, the strategies in these categories are not mutually exclusive and many can be used in combination with each other.
Feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any further questions or ideas–we are actively seeking additional strategies to add to this list.