ChatGPT Advice Academics Can Use Now

Remind Students to Think.

Johann N. Neem, professor of history, Western Washington University

With ChatGPT, a student can turn in a passable assignment without reading a book, writing a word or having a thought. But reading and writing are essential to learning. They are also capacities we expect of college graduates.

ChatGPT cannot replace thinking. Students who turn in assignments using ChatGPT have not done the hard work of taking inchoate fragments and, through the cognitively complex process of finding words, crafting thoughts of their own.

With an hour or so of work, a student could turn an AI-generated draft into a pretty good paper and receive credit for an assignment they did not complete. But I worry more that students will not read closely what I assign. I fear that they will not be inspired, or challenged, by the material. If the humanities grew out of the study—and love of—words, what happens when words don’t matter to our students?

Professors should find new ways to help students learn to read and write well and to help them make the connection between doing so and their own growth. I anticipate offering more opportunities for students to write in class. In-class writing should not just be additive; hopefully, my classes will in time look and feel different as students learn to approach writing as a practice of learning as well as a demonstration of it.