Monday, January 29, 2024

Writing instructors, why are you surprised by AI?

Why do you look surprised?  Since the 1970s, there has been a shift in your field. This change was not about refining the minutiae of grammar or punctuation. Rather, it was a movement toward valuing the creative process in writing. Think of pioneers like Donald Graves, Lucy Calkins, and Peter Elbow. They were not merely toying with new ideas; they were fundamentally altering how writing is taught, influencing college-level instruction as well.

The advent of AI technology has accelerated a shift that was already underway. Historically, while there was vocal support for creative and critical thinking, the reality often leaned towards assessing grammar and spelling. It was simpler to grade based on these concrete elements. Judging originality and creativity posed greater challenges, especially when justifying grades during student appeals.

However, it is becoming clear that the reliance on traditional assessment is no longer sustainable. It is time to genuinely embrace what has been acknowledged for decades. The focus should shift more towards teaching originality, creativity, authenticity, discernment, and critical thinking. Ideas should be valued over mechanical accuracy.

A crucial aspect of this evolution is teaching students to write with AI assistance. This approach does not diminish writing standards. Instead, it raises the bar for the final product. Students should learn to use AI as a tool to enhance their writing, not as a substitute for critical thinking or creativity.

Dear writing instructors, the time has come to adapt. And you know how to do it better than anyone else. The gradual shift many of you have been working on, is now upon us. This is a moment for re-evaluating, rethinking, and embracing a new phase in education where AI complements and enhances the teaching of writing. The future is here, and it aligns with the trajectory you have been following.

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