Most teachers think AI is too ‘inaccurate’ to use despite Sunak drive | UK | News

The majority of teachers think artificial intelligence (AI) is too unreliable and inaccurate to be effectively used in the classroom, a new report has revealed.

Two-thirds (63 percent) said they were put off using AI tools, such as ChatGPT, to aid teaching, according to international examination board Trinity College London.

It comes just months after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the Government was piling £2million into a scheme that could pave the way for a personalised AI assistant in every classroom to help reduce teachers’ workloads.

At the time, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), questioned if it was a good use of the money, saying £2million could be used to hire 40 teachers.

He said he agreed with developing AI to support teachers, but he pointed out that £43million had already been allocated to Oak National Academy – an online classroom resource – for other projects.

Less than a quarter (23 percent) of teachers admitted to using AI tools in their teaching in the past term. And 29 percent of those polled thought students should be banned from using AI to help them with their schoolwork.

However, given such widespread student adoption of generative AI tools, more than one in 10 (13 percent) of teachers also said schoolwork grades needed to be reformulated due to an “assumed use of AI”.

When asked in what ways the Department for Education (DfE) should incorporate AI into the curriculum, more than half (54 percent) of the 1,012 teachers who took part in the study said students should be taught the ethical implications of using AI.

More than a third (38 percent) of teachers think students should be given a foundational understanding of how AI works.

Some teachers (27 percent) think AI should be integrated into classes such as maths and science and 16 percent think it should be used in all compulsory national curriculum subjects.

Mr Sunak previously said: “AI has extraordinary potential to reform our education system for the better, with considerable value for both teachers and students. 

“Oak National Academy’s work to harness AI to free up the workload for teachers is a perfect example of the revolutionary benefits this technology can bring.” 

But half (54 percent) of all teachers remain unconvinced that every classroom will use a personalised AI assistant any time soon, as predicted by Mr Sunak last October.

The use of AI in the classroom could include marking students’ work and giving feedback, as well as helping children develop their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. 

Mr Barton told the Express: “It’s become increasingly clear over the last couple of years that artificial intelligence is going to have an impact on pretty much every aspect of our lives. 

“Education is no exception to this, but determining exactly what the impact is going to be is, and perhaps more pertinently what it should be, is a far from simple task.

“I think most school and college leaders would agree that there are some potential benefits to the use of AI in education, but also a number of risks and challenges to overcome. 

“There’s undoubtedly potential for AI to do some of the heavy lifting associated with teaching – such as an aid to lesson planning – and help address some of the workload issues which are such a big problem in the sector. 

“If we can get to the stage where AI can help teachers concentrate more of their time on helping pupils to learn, then this can only be a good thing.

“However, there are some big hurdles to navigate in that AI is currently not reliable enough as a single source and can generate answers which sound definitive but are actually inaccurate.

“There are equally big issues to resolve around the use of AI by students, particularly in assessment and how we can prevent AI from being used in an inappropriate manner.

“The crucial thing to understand about AI is that it is not a replacement for all the skills that are needed in teaching and learning, but another tool – albeit a particularly powerful one – that we need to be able to use effectively and ethically.”

Erez Tocker, chief executive of Trinity College London, said: “Teachers’ scepticism towards generic AI tools underscores not a rejection but a call for precision and reliability.

“Notably, the research indicates that a quarter of teachers are already incorporating AI into their instruction, signalling a readiness for change, provided these tools meet their exacting standards.”

Mr Tocker added: “When used ethically, AI can become a pivotal tool in expanding traditional learning boundaries and fostering creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

“Integrating AI seamlessly into education will help prepare students for a future where technology and human creativity converge, rendering education more inclusive, effective, and forward-thinking.”

Writing in Trinity’s report, David Weller, learning and development manager at the University of Exeter, compared the use of AI in the classroom to the introduction of the calculator, which “made setting homework for simple arithmetic redundant”.

He added: “AI is probably going to force more change than previous tools because teachers will quickly realise the futility of setting certain tasks.

“Much as the calculator made setting homework for simple arithmetic redundant, so teachers will have to come up with more interesting ways to set homework that doesn’t rely on lower order skills such as memorisation and regurgitating facts.”

Sarah Hannafin, head of policy at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: “Schools need to adapt to new technologies, recognising their potential benefit as well as any risks, both for pupils and staff.

“NAHT believes that while generative AI has the potential to improve certain aspects of the education system, AI cannot replace human judgement or expertise, and is not infallible, particularly at the current stage of development.

“Pupils need to be taught about AI tools and how to use them appropriately in their learning and wider lives.

“However, schools are dealing with issues around AI largely by themselves and use and knowledge of this technology is currently hugely varied and inconsistent.

“The Government needs to ensure that school and college staff have access to funded training and reliable sources of evaluation on the benefits, limitations and risks of different AI tools and their potential uses.”

A DfE spokesman said: “Artificial intelligence has the power to transform education. However, for that potential to be realised, we need to understand both its opportunities and risks, which is why we have launched and extensive exploratory research on the uses of AI in education to develop policy on this emerging technology.
“The DfE’s first-ever hackathon on AI in education, and an investment of up to £2million in Oak National Academy, are helping us to develop tools which aim to save teachers’ time so they can focus on what they do best – teaching and supporting their pupils.”

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