Level Up Higher Education Assessments with ChatGPT

Robot and person sitting across from each other with lightbulbs and computers

Technology can become the wings that will allow the educational world to fly farther and faster than ever before – if we allow it (Arledge).” ChatGPT has given the field of higher education another opportunity to fly farther and faster. Will we allow it? We cannot escape the tremendous impact that advancements in technology are having, and will continue to have on what we consider most important in education.

Every time I use ChatGPT, I am amazed at its capability.  ChatGPT is a generative artificial intelligence tool that was released in November 2022. It has become a game changer in classroom assessment. It is perhaps even an understatement to say that it is capable of understanding and generating fairly accurate responses across a wide range of topics and contexts. With its impressive ability to understand human language, it is clear that ChatGPT can be leveraged in optimizing assessment and evaluation in higher education.

Higher education locally and internationally pivoted to distance learning during the pandemic. The few years of operating in a pandemic saw higher education institutions heightening their efforts in online proctoring, ensuring academic integrity, and earnest longing for “things to return to normal.” However, the dawn of AI – ChatGPT, is providing yet another opportunity for stakeholders in higher education to reflect on how learning competencies are assessed at the tertiary level.

Our default posture may be to become overly punitive as we exert ourselves in ensuring that those who plagiarize (using ChatGPT) are duly brought to “justice.” Whilst I strongly agree that academic integrity is crucial, especially in higher education, ChatGPT presents us with a unique opportunity to think creatively about how we design and administer assessments at this level.

Traditionally, assessment in higher education has mainly been standardized exams and course work pieces of varying degrees of realism. Astoundingly, ChatGPT can assist in “leveling up” these exam items as well as aid in designing high quality alternative assessments. One of the most significant benefits I have found is ChatGPT can simulate real-world scenarios and provide very plausible responses that demonstrate higher-order thinking processes such as synthesizing, evaluating, and creating.

For example, in one of my facilitation sessions, student-teachers were to demonstrate competencies in designing high quality scoring rubrics for alternative tasks. ChatGPT was able to generate three fairly well-developed scoring instruments for the same alternative task. So, instead of spending time on learning about the guidelines for preparing alternative assessments and associating rubrics (knowledge application), time was better spent on knowledge synthesis:

  • Critiquing the appropriateness of each rubric in assessing the competencies required in the task
  • Contrasting and comparing the three versions of the instrument
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the instruments in ensuring scoring reliability and validity

Don’t get me wrong, knowledge acquisition and application are absolutely necessary, but this can be done independently by learners outside of live sessions. After all, we also want to promote self-directedness even in adult learners. This also presents an opportunity to remind adult learners that not all that appears on the internet or through ChatGPT is accurate. Here is a typical example:

In one class session, student teachers were learning how to construct high-quality multiple-choice items at varying levels of rigor. ChatGPT was therefore prompted to, “Write a well-written multiple-choice item on equivalent fractions, targeting Depth of Knowledge level 3 (strategic thinking).” 

In less than eight seconds, a response was generated. Of course, as an educator who is committed to the complexities of my craft, you can only imagine that this sent chills down my spine. What if my students decide to use this app? I thought.

Nonetheless, upon analyzing the output, the item was fairly well-written with minor issues, but it was not at the required level of rigor. Instead of regenerating the response, I thought, Why not build on this opportunity? My question to the class was then:

Do you agree with the output of ChatGPT? Justify your response, making referencing to:

  • The quality of the item based on best practices learned in previous sessions
  • Cognitive rigor—Depth of Knowledge
  • Evidence from the item that supports your stance
  • One recommendation as to how you would lift the rigor of the given item—justifying your decision

I encouraged learners at the tertiary level to utilize this tool for good. Use ChatGPT to help stretch your thinking muscles. To my colleagues, there is astounding potential in using this tool to develop and refine creative thinking. Let Artificial Intelligence (AI) do the hard work while we focus on the best parts of teaching and learning: creative thinking, problem solving, and developing 21st century learning skills.

New technologies such as ChatGPT are remarkable at synthesizing information, answering short answers, and generating recommendations (Dr. Matty Wood). Hence, if this chatbot can do what we have always prided ourselves in, how will we “level up” our efforts in developing critical-creative thinkers who can contribute meaningfully to self and society, rather than continuing to expend ourselves “standing guard” in the name of academic integrity.

This is a call to action! Let us re-imagine how we assess learning at the tertiary level. In a similar way, we are gradually embracing hybrid learning, and we should now embrace hybrid-assessments—an organic blend of faculty-AI collaboration. This blended approach will see technology being infused with more authentic tasks—a truly pragmatic approach.  

Overall, ChatGPT is an exciting technology with enormous potential, and it will be interesting to see how it continues to evolve and impact education in the future.

Check out these related resources on this topic! Use coupon code PODCAST20 to take 20% off either/both Magna Online Seminars: Facing the Future: Educators Discuss Teaching in the Era of ChatGPT and Using an AI Chatbot: Programmed for Success.

Shellon Samuels-White is a passionate educator of over 14 years. She serves as a lecturer in the faculty of education at the Mico University College (a teacher-training institution in Jamaica). Samuels-White also serves as a faculty examiner where she coordinates, monitors, and evaluates faculty assessments. She has a passion for quality instruction that drives learning improvement and holds the belief that teaching is a lifelong process of learning, where the effective educator continuously improves his/her/their craft through reflective-reflexive practice. Samuels-White holds a bachelor of science in secondary teacher education (distinction) and a master of arts in curriculum and instruction from Northern Caribbean University (NCU).