Teachers consider AI, ChatGPT policies


Since the release of ChatGPT in November 2022, artificial intelligence (AI) has become much more easily accessible to students and a way for many to generate essays, codes, and other types of assignments artificially. The recent use of AI has prompted a new concern for teachers surrounding academic integrity and plagiarism in their classes. As a result, many Berkeley High School teachers have updated their syllabuses and classroom expectations to accommodate and address this issue. 

BHS computer science teacher Peter Seibel presented to BHS staff at the start of the year about the relevance of ChatGPT at BHS and how teachers should address it. In his presentation, Seibel explained ChatGPT’s inevitable influence, the difficulty of detecting it, how to make this issue more manageable for teachers, and the benefits of having access to AI. 

One of the main points that Seibel noted was that because ChatGPT is almost impossible to identify definitively, the best way for teachers to address this issue is to build trust with their students. This proposal not only seeks to reduce students’ inclination to use ChatGPT but also makes it more likely for students to be honest about it if it does become a concern.

Seibel also explained that one of the main indications that a student has used AI for an assignment is the tone or sophistication of the work. “It is certainly a sign when it’s, either in writing or in code, written in a way that is using vocabulary or techniques that we’ve never discussed,” Seibel said. 

When Seibel catches students using ChatGPT in his class, he treats it as no different from other forms of cheating or plagiarism. However, Seibel also recognized that ChatGPT can also be used as a resource and that there are times when he will allow his students to use AI as long as it doesn’t take away from the skill he’s trying to teach. 

Brooke McKinney, an English teacher at BHS, makes a point of setting clear expectations for her students surrounding the use of AI at the beginning of the year, including the consequences of plagiarism and the importance of academic integrity. Because of this, McKinney explained, she has a low tolerance policy for ChatGPT in her class. “If they’re in (an) AP (class), there are really no excuses. I talk to them about the fact that I know it’s ChatGPT and why, and they usually get a zero with no chance of redo,” McKinney said. 

McKinney noted that in order to be able to recognize students using GPT for her assignments more quickly, she often runs her own prompts through ChatGPT to see what they come up with. “Even if (ChatGPT) will produce an original response for each person, it’s usually going to be relying on the exact same main points,” she explained.

Furthermore, McKinney reognized that this kind of software could also be a helpful resource for students when used correctly. “ChatGPT can definitely level the playing field, especially for students that don’t go home to private tutors,  (and) students who don’t have extra (support),” she said. “It’s just a matter of them knowing when something is their own idea versus not their own idea and knowing how to appropriately cite it.” 

English teacher Amanda Daly said that she doesn’t face many conflicts concerning ChatGPT because the majority of her assignments are hand-written. However, when it does occur, she is typically quick to notice a difference from her students’ usual writing style. When AI use occurs, Daly said she treats it as any other form of plagiarism by talking with the student and noting the real consequences that can come with it later on.