It seems that cheating has been running rampant since our schools experienced the global pandemic – students have found easy online shortcuts to demonstrate their language learning. While 2020 and 2021 were understandably focused on navigating the emotional and physical toll of the pandemic – and rightfully so – some students began to rely heavily on tools like Google Translate for online submissions. This shift had a ripple effect. When we returned to in-person learning, we noticed a significant decline in language skills. Motivation in language learning also seemed to wane, with several university language programs sadly closing and a general decline in the importance placed on language learning.

Then, Generative AI emerges in 2022 and despite efforts to ignore it’s presence in our language classrooms, it is now staring at us – right in the eye.

70% of high school students have admitted to cheating and approximately 50% of students have used Generative AI (Source: Teen and Young Adults Perspectives on Generative AI, Common Sense), it is no wonder language teachers and educators in general, are concerned about the impact it will have on meaningful learning. With low motivation and the immediacy in turning to online tools – how can we get back on track?

I’ve heard folks comment that language teachers are “used to” cheating because of our past experiences with Google Translate and other tools that are readily available to language learners. However, Generative AI works differently – generating brand new content and following prompt cues, based on what the user teaches the LLM to do and with time, it will continue to be trained by all of its users -including our students. It will become better and better. Since AI detection tools do not work, we have to embrace that this technology exists and consider how we can harness it’s potential instead of fighting it.

Here are a few simple ways our students can use Generative AI using AI Tools for Teachers.

Conversational ChatBots: Students can engage with any LLM to practice their language skills, in real time and train the model to serve as a conversational practice partner. Essentially your chatbot can be programmed to be “anyone” (even someone famous or deceased!) and interact with students to assist them with the language skills.

Feedback on Writing: Students can submit their writing samples and gain helpful feedback on areas of growth and improvement.

Tutors: Here comes an incredibly knowledgeable tutor, without any cost to our students. Talk about game-changer with access and equity in mind for all of our students.

Brainstorming Buddy: If students feel stuck, they can ask their GPT for assistance. Perhaps they are stuck with how to craft an email or set up their weekly schedule, Generative AI is ready to help.

Content Creation: Students can use image or video generation tools, or helpful content creation tools to provide a starting point for themselves and then tailor the information to best fit their needs.

Our students can and have used Generative AI. It is much better to have open dialogue with students and determine acceptable use guidelines for your language classrooms, collaboratively. As a school community, it is important to build AI literacy amongst every stakeholder – parents included. (What’s next? previous blog post highlighting these ideas) I have designed a Generative AI Guide to assist school communities with AI literacy phases and frameworks for the classroom. You can download it for free by visiting my website.

We’ve established that Generative AI is here to stay. Understanding that we can not resist this new technology, how can assessments shift in a direction that requires students to use real-world skills and demonstrate their language abilities in different ways? The answer lies in getting creative and focusing on the unique aspects of language learning that Generative AI can not replicate.

Here are some assessment strategies that can showcase genuine language growth & proficiency:

  • Interactive tasks: Design assessments that require students to use their language skills in real-time situations. Role-playing scenarios (pick out of a hat “who” you are), debates, interactive presentations on current events, class games or group discussions on thought-provoking topics are all wonderful ways to gauge a student’s fluency and ability to think critically.
  • Open-ended questions: Say adiós to the multiple-choice format! Craft questions that require students to analyze information, synthesize ideas, and express their own opinions. *Provide sentence starters as needed for novice students.
  • Focus on the process: Assessment shouldn’t just be about the end. Incorporate activities that showcase a student’s journey of language growth. This can involve keeping reflective journal where they highlight and consider their own progress, self-assess their strengths and weaknesses, or create {digital} portfolios that document their growth over time. *Here is another blog post for your consideration, Meaningful Feedback is Critical for All.
  • Collaborative projects: Encourage teamwork! Have students work together on projects that require them to research, share ideas, and communicate effectively with each other. This not only assesses their language skills but also provides opportunities to collaborate and work together.
  • Integrate technology responsibly: Consider asking students to record themselves delivering presentations, screencasts, narrating a digital story or role-playing scenarios. These recordings can be reviewed for fluency, pronunciation, and overall language use.

By incorporating some of these strategies, we can design a more holistic approach in our assessments that goes beyond simply testing rote memorization of a language. Language educators will gain valuable insight into their students’ true language abilities and their progress towards fluency. Remember, the goal is to celebrate learning and growth in proficiency, not just grades. I recall a wise French teacher shared often with her students, “Are you a learner or a grade earner?” Embracing the power of this technology while fostering genuine communication skills in your students – welcome to the evolution of our language assessments in this age of Generative AI.

*If you are interested in joining a community dedicated to exploring this and many other topics related to Generative AI in language instruction, consider a membership to our AI Innovator Community for Language Educators. A yearly subscription includes monthly themed virtual workshops, access to several asynchronous courses dedicated to GenAI in the language classroom, a quarterly newsletter with the latest tips & insights and ongoing chats & collaboration amongst educators within the private AI Innovator space. There are also several GenAI courses available to begin or continue your journey in learning about Generative AI as a language educator! All part of the Team Lo Logramos mission!

*And! To learn more about AI Tools for Teachers, you can join this wonderful Facebook community! Kangaroos.ai recently highlighted this blog post on their website as well!