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Understanding AI ‘should be part of teacher training courses’

Understanding artificial intelligence (AI) should be part of teacher training courses, the professional body for computing has said.

Using digital technology, including AI, should be prominent in initial teacher training (ITT) and headteachers’ leadership qualifications, according to BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

The measure would help teachers to better understand how students are using AI at home, including possible plagiarism risks, BCS said.

It comes after guidance from the UK’s major exam boards suggested that schools should make pupils do some of their coursework “in class under direct supervision” amid cheating fears in the context of AI use.

ChatGPT is a form of generative AI which can respond to questions in a human-like manner and understand the context of follow-up queries, much like in human conversations, as well as being able to compose essays if asked – sparking fears it could be used by students to complete assignments.

Julia Adamson, managing director for education and public benefit at BCS, said: “Failure to make AI part of teacher training will mean that outcomes for pupils and school leaders’ development both suffer.

“Using AI to plan and prepare lessons, mark and assess students’ work, and identify improvements, will become the standard for schools aspiring to excellence, and we need to make sure that it benefits all of them, across every region.

“It’s not just about understanding how many students are using chatbots away from school for homework, but ensuring that AI is used across the school to accelerate learning, without, for example, biases in training data creeping in.”

Last week, a letter sent to The Times signed by more than 60 education figures said schools are “bewildered” by the rate of change in AI and believe it is moving “far too quickly”.

The school leaders announced a cross-sector body composed of leading teachers and guided by tech experts to advise schools on AI in schools.

A survey by BCS, published in February, found that more than half of computing teachers think schools are unprepared for the impact that ChatGPT could have on learning.

It found that 62% of computing teachers said AI-powered chatbots such as ChatGPT would make it harder to mark the work of students fairly.

Ms Adamson added: “Teachers and school support staff should be able to use digital technology in every aspect of their work; but they aren’t trained to do that and are being let down.”