AI & ELT: A Match Made in Heaven?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has undoubtedly infiltrated numerous aspects of our lives. Every professional, no matter what their field is, has likely heard about how artificial intelligence could affect what they do. We have heard countless debates about the potential of AI to not only assist individuals in their work but also to take over certain human tasks, potentially rendering some of our roles obsolete. Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of education. Discussions surrounding the integration of AI in Education have proliferated, sparking both excitement and apprehension. As educators, we find ourselves immersed in debates on how AI can revolutionize teaching methods and enhance learning outcomes. Yet, alongside the theoretical discourse, tangible instances of AI's impact in education are emerging, offering insights into its practical applications and implications for the future of teaching.  

Is AI transforming classrooms today? 

Experienced educators understand that change in education can often be slow, but the integration of AI signals a shift.

Schools are embracing this new technology, which is increasingly prevalent in our classrooms. Students, ever eager to accept innovation, bring AI with them, while most teachers and education professionals recognize its transformative potential, acknowledging that it's a force to be harnessed, not restrained. Both students and teachers have understood the beneficial uses of this groundbreaking solution. The younger generations are skilled in utilizing generative intelligence effectively; if you ask your students, many of them have likely employed platforms like ChatGPT to seek assistance with various tasks, such as: 

  • Writing assistance: Students can use it to generate ideas, outline essays, or even receive feedback on their writing style and structure. 
  • Homework support: ChatGPT can provide explanations and answers to academic questions across a wide range of subjects, helping students understand complex concepts. 
  • Study aid: ChatGPT can create flashcards, quiz questions, or summarize text, helping students review and retain information for exams. 

On the other hand, teachers can employ the tool to receive support with tasks such as: 

  • Lesson planning: ChatGPT can generate ideas for lesson plans, suggest activities and resources, and help organize content based on curriculum standards. 
  • Student feedback: Teachers can use it to draft personalized feedback for students on assignments, providing constructive criticism and encouragement. 
  • Grading assistance: AI can assist with grading tasks by automatically scoring multiple-choice questions or providing preliminary assessments based on rubrics. 

Incidentally, these lists were proposed by ChatGPT itself, to give you an insight into its capabilities…  

Beyond ChatGPT, there are plenty of other tools based on AI and specifically dedicated to teachers, such as “Diffit” that helps teachers build educational support based on a simple PDF or Link.  


What about testing and assessment? 

The field of testing and assessment is not lagging behind in the AI race; on the contrary, it has been employing AI or its predecessors for automated scoring for years. Moreover, AI finds application in test content development, assisting in crafting prompts and selecting the most suitable passages, in addition to generating effective questions, to enhance overall exam quality. The use of AI in assessment boasts notable strengths, including: 

  • Efficiency and speed: AI-driven algorithms can evaluate a large number of responses in a fraction of the time it would take human raters. They can also rapidly generate or curate a large volume of test content, saving time and effort compared to manual creation. 
  • Consistency and objectivity: For automated scoring this tool can be highly valuable, because unlike human raters, who may be influenced by factors like fatigue or personal biases, AI algorithms provide standardized scoring criteria, leading to fair and unbiased assessments.   
  • Cost-effectiveness: By automating various aspects of test content development and scoring, AI can reduce the need for manual labor and associated costs. 

Indeed, AI is not infallible and comes with its own set of weaknesses. For example, its algorithms often struggle to grasp nuances like sarcasm or humor in language. Additionally, AI tends to prioritize certain linguistic features such as vocabulary and grammar over others like critical thinking or creativity, which can lead to misinterpretations and inaccuracies in scoring. So, what is the optimal approach for leveraging AI in this field and in education overall? 

All that glitters is gold? Best practices for AI implementation 

Navigating the complexities of integrating AI in both classroom instruction and standardized testing can be daunting, often leading to confusion and potential overuse. Therefore, implementing best practices is essential to guide educators through this journey. The ethical considerations surrounding the use of AI in education are undeniable. From both the students' and teachers' perspectives, these tools can present several problematic aspects, including: 

  • Student privacy: The collection and analysis of student data by AI systems raises concerns about privacy infringement, particularly when sensitive information is involved. 
  • Bias risk: Since AI learns from historical data, if that data contains biases related to gender, race, or culture, it may perpetuate and even amplify these biases in its decisions and actions. 
  • Unequal access: The use of AI-powered educational tools may exacerbate existing inequalities in access to technology and resources, widening the digital divide between privileged and marginalized communities. 
  • Over-reliance on technology: Excessive reliance on AI-driven teaching methods may diminish the role of human teachers and interpersonal interactions in education, potentially reducing the quality of learning experiences for students. 

While we may not have a definitive solution to address all the challenges posed by the use of AI in education, finding a balance between leveraging the capabilities of AI and maintaining human oversight and interaction is key to making effective use of this phenomenon. A hybrid approach that combines the technological advantages of AI with human supervision and that indispensable human touch seems to be the best course of action. 

Keep informed and stay ahead: join our Virtual Seminar for ELTs “Humanizing AI for Learning and Assessment”join our Virtual Seminar for ELTs “Humanizing AI for Learning and Assessment” 

Don't miss the chance to enhance your professional development with informative sessions exploring the practical applications of AI in the classroom. Gain insights from experts at ETS, who have first-hand experience studying and applying AI in assessment. In our half-day Virtual Seminar, on 24th May 2024, starting at 1PM CEST we'll delve into the latest developments and trending topics in AI for ELTs. Topics covered will include human/machine hybrid scoring, AI-driven content generation, and ethical considerations. The seminar will feature a presentation on the most recent developments and tools by ETS, along with an insightful talk, a panel discussion, a round table session, and ample opportunity for participants to pose questions to our experts. 

Register now to secure your spot!