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Surveys: Educators Approve of ChatGPT for K-12, College

Two separate entities conducted nationwide studies, one in the first week of February and another in the first week of April, showing that the AI tool is popular at school on both sides of the lectern.

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More teachers than students use the AI chatbot ChatGPT, though the tool appears to have high marks with both groups nationwide, according to a pair of recent studies.

The first study, completed by Impact Research on behalf of the Walton Family Foundation, found that 51 percent of K-12 teachers who responded to the survey use the tool, with higher percentages among African American (69 percent) and Latino (also 60 percent) educators. As for the students, one-third between the ages of 12 and 17 indicated that they’ve used ChatGPT for school, including 47 percent for those in the 12-14 age group.

This study surveyed 1,002 teachers and 1,000 students during the first week of February. The research did not include elementary school students, though for the teachers interviewed, all grades were covered. U.S. Census Bureau data from 2021 was factored in to correlate the findings as a national sample. The Walton Family Foundation announced the results in a news release last month.

Forty percent of the teachers surveyed said they use ChatGPT weekly, while 10 percent indicated daily usage. The purposes included lesson planning (30 percent), creative ideas for classes (30 percent), and “building background knowledge for lessons and classes (27 percent),” according to the news release. The percentages for each of those three purposes were higher for middle school and high school teachers, though each of the three purposes came in at under 40 percent for those grades as well.

Eighty-eight percent of the teachers and 79 percent of the students surveyed said they think the AI tool “has had a positive impact,” according to the news release. Only 15 percent of the students surveyed admitted to using the program without teacher permission, and 24 percent of teachers said ChatGPT will likely “only be used for students to cheat,” according to the report.

Most survey respondents had the sense that generative AI is just getting started: 65 percent of the students and 76 percent of the teachers surveyed said integrating ChatGPT for school “will be important for the future,” according to the report.

“Educators are innovators,” Romy Drucker, Walton Family Foundation education director, said of the survey results in a public statement. “They recognize the urgency of this moment and want to use every tool at their disposal to meet each student's unique needs.”

Zachary Clifton, a high school junior, called ChatGPT a tool that he will use responsibly moving forward.

“As a young person, I see my future as, in some ways, limited by computers and algorithms, knowing there are jobs [that can be] replaced by automation,” Clifton said in the news release. “But this is an algorithm I can take advantage of and use it to advance myself …”

The other study, conducted by the education website, surveyed 1,000 U.S. high school teachers and college professors or instructors, but no students, between March 30 and April 4. Ninety-eight percent of the educators interviewed said they use ChatGPT, and 79 percent of them said they approve of students using the tool.

Only 1 percent of those surveyed said they don’t believe any of their students have ever used ChatGPT to complete assignments. Seventy-one percent indicated that their school does not have a policy regulating ChatGPT use.

“I started this semester by showing students how I used ChatGPT to write the syllabus. Students told me they had used it to compose emails to professors to ‘get the right tone,’” Doug Goodwin, visiting assistant professor in Media Studies in Scripps College, said in the study report. “Others had used it to write code for CS (computer science) courses, and a few had used ChatGPT themselves to write essays — exactly as we feared. Why wouldn’t they? Students are under tremendous pressure to perform well in school. They feel that they are competing with one another for limited job prospects. There is also a real urgency to find ways to pay for their education after they graduate.”

The study also determined:

  • 97 percent of teachers use it to write lesson plans.
  • 62 percent of teachers have instructed students on how to use it.
  • 93 percent of teachers said they use it for grading and providing feedback.
  • 91 percent of teachers said they use it for writing emails.
  • 89 percent said they used it for writing letters of recommendation.

Unlike the Walton Family Foundation survey, accepted open-ended comments from educators who do not approve of ChatGPT:

“Students may become over-dependent, thereby reducing the ability to study independently and think independently, and failing to provide the practice and experimental opportunities students need, which are especially important for some subjects,” one respondent wrote.

Another respondent replied: “With ChatGPT it is difficult to distinguish the learning level of students and [I] cannot personalize teaching.”