When We Let Machines Evaluate Student Work
Letting machines evaluate student work is something many teachers haven’t fully supported. They have what may be a healthy dose of suspicion when it comes to relying on machine learning and artificial intelligence to do the work teachers have always done.
Many times, teachers grade papers after school and on weekends to return evaluations and get grades in. It would seem like teachers would like a little help in this area. AI grading would alleviate the burden of grading papers. Teachers could focus on more critical concerns in the classroom, like meeting curriculum standards and engaging students in hands-on learning experiences.
Additionally, learning algorithms could free up the teacher’s time after school for personal pursuits.
How China has gained an advantage in learning algorithms
If you think that using artificial intelligence to grade papers is futuristic, you should know that it’s already here.
At least 25% of Chinese schools routinely use AI to evaluate student work. As reporter Kyle Wiggers points out, “The AI, which can be accessed through various online portals, and which the report describes as similar to the system used by the Education Testing Service in the U.S., uses an evolving “knowledge base” to interpret the “general logic” and “meaning” of pupils’ essays and to highlight stylistic, structural, and thematic areas that need improvement. It can read both English and Chinese, and it’s reportedly perceptive enough to notice when paragraphs veer too far off-topic.”
More than an instructional assistant
It also scales personalization in ways that a teacher cannot. Anyone who has ever given an electronically graded multiple-choice test understands the power of using technology to get their grading done.
Machine learning has taken the scanned test a step further. Now, AI grades short answers and essays – almost as well as any teacher. In addition, machine learning can make suggestions for improvement.
That’s not all AI will do for the teacher when grading. Automation now gathers data and analyzes it. The teacher can take the results and use them to determine the next steps in instruction.
What if AI takes away part of the teacher’s job?
Educators have perseverated over what will happen when they become obsolete, thanks to machine learning. Regardless of how many of your tasks AI replaces in the classroom, stressing over losing a job because of machine learning is an exercise in futility.
AI will never take away the job of a teacher who is compassionate and curriculum-centered. These teachers build rapport and relationships with their students while coaching, mentoring, and cheering them toward their academic goals. They communicate on an emotional level with their students. That’s something AI cannot do.
When we let machines evaluate student work, we’re giving ourselves the opportunity to focus on what’s essential in teaching: our connections with our students. We are giving ourselves back the most precious gift we have: time.
Let’s use that time with our students.