ChatGPT + Class Discussion: Let’s Augment the Smart with the Sentient | Liza Garonzik | 6 Min Read

January 25, 2023

ChatGPT calls on Humanities teachers to dig even deeper into what is already our core purpose—celebrating humanity … even in a tech-centric world. ChatGPT challenges us to get more intentional about why and how our classrooms teach and celebrate the skills humans have that ChatGPT lacks. 

Put more succinctly, ChatGPT is smart but not sentient—let our classrooms be the places where students learn the difference.

How? Through live, in-person conversation.

Today’s discussion dilemma

How do tools like ChatGPT impact class discussion? 

My answer

Tools like ChatGPT make in-class learning—like class discussion—more important than ever because it’s an opportunity for teachers to witness and assess students’ communication—including analytical and relational—skills. In many ways, ChatGPT is simply forcing a new emphasis on that which is a uniquely human skill: the ability to use conversation to explore ideas and build relationships.

The challenge? The increasing pressure on the class discussion as a key assessment opportunity calls for a far more systematic approach to teaching, practicing, and assessing in-person communication skills than currently exists in most schools.

The knee-jerk response

But discussion is more art than science! In my classroom, discussion is about relationship building—and I don’t want to pollute that with assessment. Students take intellectual risks because they know it is safe, and they dig deeper into their ideas in writing, which I grade meticulously. 

In a ChatGPT world, we have to think differently. You can’t rely on a paper as the sole evidence that a student can generate, articulate, support, and revise an original idea about a text. And, to do so isn’t just inviting cheating—it’s shortchanging your students’ development of the communication skills they need to thrive as humans in a tech-centric world. Students today need feedback about the process, not the product—and fundamentally, discussion is a key part of the process by which students arrive at their product (often: a five-paragraph-double-spaced-one-inch-margin-MLA-headed response paper). 

How to do it 

  1. Reframe this as an opportunity to improve at teaching and celebrating a fundamental human capacitythe art and science of live, sentient conversationnot as a war on robots or the degradation of writing. By getting more systematic about how you approach class discussion as a skill-building exercise, you are actually empowering students to develop their most deeply human skills. This is not a flight from something, this is an opportunity to run towards what matters most—and meet the complex…
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Liza Garonzik

Liza Garonzik is the Founder of R.E.A.L. Discussion, a program that trains faculty to (re)teach Gen-Z students the discussion skills they need for success in learning — and real life. Her work is informed by an interdisciplinary research base and experience as a student, teacher, administrator, and trustee in diverse independent schools. Get in touch at [email protected] — there's little she loves more than a great conversation!