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Assignments

Designing assignments effectively relies on the same principles as before the rise of natural language processing tools, with a few added considerations. To navigate the impact AI could have on your students achieving the learning goals you set out for them, it helps to understand how to use tools like ChatGPT.

A variety of tools can be used to generate a wide range of outputs and products including essay drafts, reading responses, coding projects, visual designs, audio threads, and more.

Questions to ask

Consider asking yourself the following six questions to help guide your assignment design process:

  1. Why does this assignment make sense for this course?
  2. What are specific learning objectives for this assignment?
  3. How might students use AI tools while working on this assignment?
  4. How might AI undercut the goals of this assignment? How could you mitigate this?
  5. How might AI enhance the assignment? Where would students need help figuring that out?
  6. Focus on the process. How could you make the assignment more meaningful for students or support them more in the work?

(Questions adapted from Derek Bruff, former director of the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, as written in his blog.)

Strategies

Below are some practical tips and strategies that foster a need for authentic, original writing. We’ve also outlined ways to integrate AI into an assignment’s design.

Design for authentic, original writing

Design to integrate A.I.

Assignment examples

Below, see examples of assignments Georgetown faculty have adapted and newly created to account for generative AI’s capabilities.

Adapted assignments

Original assignmentAdjusted assignment
“Present and discuss a philosophical debate, concepts, or theories with your friends or family in the format of a podcast interview, email exchanges, a TED-Talk style video, or social media.”“Use ChatGPT to generate an essay. Identify strengths and weaknesses of the essay, identify any knowledge gaps and fill the gaps. Write a meta-cognitive reflection on whether and how using ChatGPT could enhance their learning.”

Sherry Kao, Philosophy

Original assignmentAdjusted assignment
“Write a paper about the respective business models of two businesses that compete.”“I’ve asked ChatGPT this question and I want you now to critique what is said. Identify where you think it’s wrong. Identify where you think it’s right and improve upon what it’s done.”

Nicholas Lovegrove, McDonough School of Business

New assignments

Assignment:

Prompt ChatGPT to write a four-paragraph essay, at the college level, on an expert-level topic of your choosing related to this class. Write a companion piece analyzing each paragraph of ChatGPT’s essay. For each paragraph, you will comment on what it got right (and the source of that information), what it got wrong (with sources for the correct information), and where it may be missing important information. Submit your prompt, the ChatGPT essay, and your companion piece, as a single document.

Rebecca Helm, Earth Commons


Assignment:

Use AI tools such as hotpot.ai or DALL-E to generate images of female rulers. Input the characteristics you believe female rulers should have.

Goal: Students will examine their perceptions of a female ruler, share their perceptions using visuals, and reflect on their biases on female leadership.

Key Questions: Can AI be biased in how it produces images of human figures? How can we take advantage of the convenience of AI tools without reinforcing biases in students’ learning?

Janet Gomez, Liberal Studies


Assignment:

Schneider asks students to directly interact with ChatGPT, and then asks: “Do you think it can be useful to your learning (not for cheating but for improving your understanding of concepts in a course)? Why or why not?” Read the full assignment here.

Nathan Schneider, Computer Science


Lecture:

Once Hensley revealed his lecture was AI-generated, he distributed the text of the lecture and asked students to consider 1) the issues with what an NLP suggested for a survey course and 2) how that raises questions about what ‘should be’ covered in an intro-level class.

He then asks students to consider the following sources:

Assignment: Study ChatGPT, test it out, and read up about large language models and AI writing technology. Write some stuff with it. Answer the question: Is it writing?

Nathan Hensley, English


For more examples beyond Georgetown, visit Yale’s Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning page on faculty teaching examples.

Common Questions About Assignment Design

How are students using AI tools?

For years, students and faculty alike have likely relied on polishing tools such as Grammarly or even simple spell check. But as new tools become more seamlessly integrated into student workflows, their uses will continue to evolve. See this slide deck which captures several uses of generative AI tools.

How can I redesign my assignments and exams to maintain my learning goals for my students?

Ask yourself a few questions about your assignment’s design in conversation with the capabilities of generative AI tools. See the Questions to Ask section to get started.

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