Teaching AI to Be Your Personal TA

Aug 10, 2023

TLDR: Why This is Important

Artificial intelligence (AI) like ChatGPT has the potential to be an incredibly helpful teaching assistant for educators. But like any new student entering your classroom, you have to put in the time and effort to train ChatGPT properly first before it can really help lighten your workload.

In this blog post, we'll break down the key strategies for "teaching" ChatGPT to be a top-notch teaching aide. Keep reading to learn how to prompt ChatGPT effectively and integrate it into your daily teaching workflow.

Why Teach ChatGPT? The Benefits for Educators

Let's start by looking at some of the major benefits an AI assistant like ChatGPT can provide once it's properly trained:

  1. Create personalized lessons and activities catered to your students' needs and interests

  2. Quickly grade quizzes and short answer responses to save you time

  3. Curate relevant reading materials, videos, and other resources on specific topics

  4. Develop customized study guides and review sheets before big exams

  5. Compose first drafts of emails, memos, and other communications

  6. Research and compile background information on lesson plan topics

  7. Suggest creative ideas and approaches for presenting new concepts

And much more! Essentially this AI can act as a virtual TA to support you

As you can see, the possibilities are truly endless. But AI is only as smart as the data you provide it. That's why proper prompting is so critical...

5 Key Prompting Tips for Training ChatGPT

Prompt engineering is the practice of carefully crafting your input to AI to shape the ideal response. Like any student or assistant, ChatGPT performs best when expectations are set clearly upfront.

Here are 5 key tips for structuring effective prompts:

1. Give Step-by-Step Instructions

ChatGPT excels when you break down tasks into simple, sequential steps. Instead of saying "Write me a quiz for my 9th graders on Shakespeare," try:

  • Make a 10 question multiple choice quiz on Shakespeare for 9th graders

  • Focus on plot points and character analysis from Romeo & Juliet

  • Make the questions and answers easy to understand

  • Use basic vocabulary suitable for 14-15 year olds

  • Check that quiz is the right difficulty level for freshman English students

2. Provide Examples

Giving ChatGPT 1-2 examples of what you want sets the standard. Share an existing lesson plan, quiz, email, etc and ask it to create something similar.

3. Specify Important Context

Be detailed when explaining the relevant details like:

  • Grade level

  • Subject matter

  • Number of students

  • Length of assignment

  • Purpose of content

  • Tone and vocabulary

This context ensures ChatGPT gives you what you actually need.

4. Iteratively Improve Responses

View ChatGPT's initial drafts as a starting point. Provide feedback and have it refine the content until it's polished.

5. Rephrase Prompts

Small tweaks to wording can make a big difference in results. If you don't get what you hoped for, rephrase the request and try again.

Putting ChatGPT to Work: Classroom Use Cases

Now let's look at some practical examples of how you can put these prompting best practices into action:

  • Ask ChatGPT to compile a list of 30 potential essay topics on a novel you’re teaching. Specify reading level, themes to focus on, and length of essays.

  • Have ChatGPT draft trivia or icebreaker questions for the first day of a new course. Explain the class demographics and topics you want covered.

  • Use ChatGPT to create a personalized study guide for a struggling student. Provide context on where they need extra help.

  • Ask ChatGPT to make a lesson plan outline on the key events leading up to the Civil War. List out the learning objectives, timeline, and activities to include.

  • Prompt ChatGPT to write sample responses to short answer questions on an exam. This provides models for students to reference.

  • Have ChatGPT draft an email update for parents on what students are currently working on in class. Set the right tone and specifics to include.

  • Ask ChatGPT to research and compile a list of online videos, games, quizzes, and other materials on geology for an interactive lesson.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless once you master prompting ChatGPT effectively. While it will take an investment of time upfront to train, that effort pays off exponentially in the long run in time savings and personalized support.

Approach ChatGPT as you would any promising but inexperienced new teaching assistant - with clear guidance, patience, and practice. Soon you'll have an invaluable AI aide to help you better educate and inspire your students.