Cheating fears about chatbots were overblown, new research suggests


Last December, when high school and college students began testing a new artificial intelligence chatbot called ChatGPT to craft writing assignments, fears of mass cheating spread across the United States.

To prevent bot-enabled plagiarism, some large public school districts, including those in the Angels, seattle and NY – quickly blocked ChatGPT on laptops and school Wi-Fi.

But the alarm may have been overblown, at least in high schools.

According to new research from Stanford University, the popularization of AI chatbots has not increased overall cheating rates in schools. In surveys this year at more than 40 U.S. high schools, between 60 and 70 percent of students said they had cheated recently, about the same percentage as in previous years, according to Stanford Education. the researchers said.

“There was panic that these AI models would allow a whole new way of doing something that could be construed as cheating,” he said. Denise Papasenior professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education who has surveyed high school students for more than a decade through a non-profit educational organization she co-founded. But “we're just not seeing the change in the data.”

ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI in San Francisco, began capturing the public's imagination late last year with its ability to fabricate human-like essays and emails. Almost immediately, proponents of classroom technology began promising that AI tools like ChatGPT would revolutionize education. And critics began to warn that such tools, which liberally make things up, would enable widespread cheating and amplify misinformation in schools.

Now the Stanford investigationalong with a recent report from the Pew Research Center, they challenge the notion that AI chatbots are revolutionizing public schools.

Many teens know little about ChatGPT, Pew found. And most say they have never used it for schoolwork.

Of course, those trends could change as more high school students become familiar with AI tools.

This fall, the Pew Research Center surveyed more than 1,400 American teens, ages 13 to 17, about their knowledge, use, and opinions of ChatGPT. The results may seem contradictory, given the plethora of panicked headlines last spring.

Nearly a third of teens said they had heard “nothing at all” about the chatbot, according to the Pew surveyheld from September 26 to October 23, 2023. Another 44 percent said they had heard “a little” about it.

Only 23 percent said they had heard a lot about ChatGPT. (The Pew survey did not ask teens about other AI chatbots like Google's Bard or OpenAI's GPT-4.)

Responses varied by race and household income. About 72 percent of white teens said they had heard of the chatbot compared to about 56 percent of black teens, Pew said.

About 75 percent of teens in households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more said they had heard of ChatGPT, Pew found, compared to just 41 percent of teens in households with annual incomes of less than $30,000.

Pew also asked teens if they had ever used ChatGPT to help them with their schoolwork. Only a small minority (13 percent) said yes.

The Pew survey results suggest that ChatGPT, at least for now, has not become the disruptive phenomenon in schools that its advocates and critics predict. Among the subset of teens who said they had heard of the chatbot, the vast majority (81 percent) said they had not used it to help with their schoolwork.

“Most teens have some level of knowledge about ChatGPT,” said Jeffrey Gottfried, associate director of research at Pew. “But this is not the majority of teenagers who are still incorporating it into their schoolwork.”

Cheating has long been rampant in schools. In surveys of more than 70,000 high school students between 2002 and 2015, 64 percent said they had cheated on a test. And 58 percent said they had plagiarized.

Since the introduction of ChatGPT in 2022, the overall frequency of high school students reporting that they recently cheated has not increased, according to Stanford researchers.

The new research does not shed light on how often college students may employ chatbots as cheating robots. The Stanford and Pew researchers did not survey college students about their use of AI tools.

This year, Stanford researchers added survey questions that specifically asked high school students about their use of AI chatbots. This fall, between 12 and 28 percent of students at four East Coast and West Coast high schools said they had used an AI tool or digital device, such as ChatGPT or a smartphone, in the last month as unauthorized help during a test or school assignment. or task.

Among high school students who said they had used an AI chatbot, between 55 and 77 percent said they had used it to generate an idea for a job, project, or assignment; between 19 and 49 percent said they had used it to edit or complete part of an article; and about 9 to 16 percent said they had used it to write an entire article or other assignment, the Stanford researchers found.

The findings could help shift discussions about chatbots in schools to focus less on fear of cheating and more on helping students learn to understand, use and think critically about new AI tools, the researchers said. .

“There are other ways to think about AI, not just as this uncontrollable temptation that undermines everything,” he said. Victor R. Lee, an associate professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education who researches AI learning experiences and led the recent cheating research with Dr. Pope. “There are many more things that could and should be talked about in schools.”

While schools are still developing acceptable usage rules for AI tools, students are developing nuanced views on using ChatGPT for schoolwork.

Only 20 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 said they thought it was acceptable for students to use ChatGPT to write essays, Pew found. But almost 70 percent said it was acceptable for students to use the AI ​​chatbot to research new topics.

This doesn't mean that students aren't trying to pass off chatbot-generated texts as their own schoolwork.

Christine Meade, an Advanced Placement history teacher at a high school in Vallejo, California, said chatbot cheating was widespread among 12th graders last spring. She even caught some using AI chatbots on their smartwatches during school exams.

But this year, after he told his students they could use ChatGPT and Bard for certain research projects, the situation “completely changed,” he said.

“I had a group of students in my AP history class who used chatbots to generate a list of events that happened right after the Civil War, in the 1880s,” Ms. Meade said. “It was pretty accurate, except for the event in the 1980s during the Reagan administration.”

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