Generative AI

The Role of AI in Assisting Teachers and in Formative Assessments of Students

How can AI be developed to help advance teaching? For beginners, it needs to put teachers front and center, according to a new report from the United States Department of Education.

The recently released report, “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations,” by ED's Office of Educational Technology (OET), outlines the opportunities, challenges, and risks of using AI in teaching and assessments. It offers recommendations for how these can be successfully fielded.

The report notes that the use of AI in teaching should “always center educators” (ACE) so that the answer to the question of whether AI will replace teachers is a resounding “no.” Teachers need to be involved with decisions about the design, selection, and evaluation of AI-enabled technologies. They spend about 50 hours a week, less than half that time directly involved with students, the report notes. AI can change that, taking over some of the administrative, clerical, planning, preparation, and evaluation tasks.

Some of the ways AI can assist and lighten teachers’ workloads include:

  • Helping adapt the standardized curriculum to better fit specific student or class needs;

  • Providing voice assistance to students with disabilities such as hearing impairment to translate American Sign Language into English;

  • Noticing and communicating patterns in student performance to target areas where they might need extra help.

But in order for teachers to help design, select, and evaluate AI tools, they need “time and support so they can stay abreast of both the well-known and the newer issues that are arising” to anticipate risks, the report warns. Questions such as when teachers should be at the helm, how much can be delegated to an AI, and how teachers can override the AI and regain control if needed should be addressed early on.

Other risks involve the danger of surveillance resulting in negative consequences for teachers and the possible difficulty in balancing how far to trust an AI. A chilling example is a study in which researchers found that “people will follow instructions from a robot during a simulated fire emergency even when (a) they are told the robot is broken and (b) the advice is obviously wrong.”

The report recommends that teachers be able to understand how an AI model works in order to make an informed decision about using, modifying, or overriding it, especially when the AI is making recommendations for individual student instruction.

This speaks to formative assessments and how AI conducts them. A key priority is to keep humans “in the loop and in control,” the report states. Such assessments go beyond mere grading. They involve using different question types to demonstrate student knowledge, measuring student skills beyond subject matter, giving real-time feedback, helping neurodiverse students demonstrate competencies, adaptating to differing learner abilities, assessing the learning process, and documenting ongoing progress as opposed to only achieved milestones.

AI-enhanced formative assessments can be done successfully using aids such as game format or reading aloud. Instant “feedback loops” of various kinds can be valuable, whether students are working alone, in small groups, or in a classroom.

The report’s recommendations for AI involvement with formative assessments include:

  • Measuring what matters, not only academics but other skills for success in life;

  • Supporting “help-seeking and help-giving” and detecting when those are needed;

  • Having teachers and students participate in assessment design and efficacy;

  • Monitoring for “algorithmic discrimination” in instructional interventions and support.

A webinar going into more depth on this report will be held Tuesday, June 13, 2023, at 2:30 p.m. ET. Signup is available by QR code at this link.

Visit this page for a summary handout of the report’s main points.

The full report can be downloaded from this page.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.