Tuesday, July 9, 2024

AI-Positive Pedagogy: Navigating the Great Disruption

AI has disrupted the educational landscape. This disruption threatens the established sequence of skill development, from simple to mid-range to higher-level skills, by eroding traditional curriculum principles, particularly in the realm of student activities and assessment. As a profession, we face a critical decision: limit AI use or develop an AI-positive pedagogy.

While limiting AI use may seem tempting, it is ultimately unfeasible and fails to prepare students for the AI-infused world they will live in. Attempting to enforce strict limitations on AI use is not only impractical but also fails to acknowledge the potential benefits that AI can bring to education.

The only plausible path forward is to adapt a new pedagogy to harness the power of AI for the benefit of our students. This involves a shift towards authentic, discipline-specific assessments that mirror real-world applications of AI within various fields. By focusing on how AI is used in different disciplines, educators can create assessments that evaluate students' ability to effectively utilize AI tools in relevant contexts.

AI-positive pedagogy emphasizes the cultivation of higher-order thinking skills, such as prompt engineering and discerning thinking. Prompt engineering involves crafting effective queries and instructions for AI systems, while discerning thinking emphasizes the critical evaluation of AI-generated information and the ability to make informed decisions by combining AI insights with human judgment. These meta-AI skills are crucial for students to navigate and thrive in an AI-populated world.

AI-positive pedagogy should prepare students to work effectively in environments where human and artificial intelligence coexist and complement each other. By fostering skills in collaborating with AI systems, understanding the strengths of both human and artificial intelligence, and developing strategies for distributed problem-solving, educators can equip students to succeed in the AI-infused workplace.

The shift towards AI-positive pedagogy is well-rooted in past pedagogy and curriculum theory. Educators have long prioritized conceptual and higher-level skills over mechanical and procedural knowledge. The disruption caused by AI may serve as a catalyst for educators to finally achieve what they have been striving for over the past century. As we embrace AI-positive pedagogy, it is essential to re-evaluate the assumption that all effort leads to learning. Cognitive Load Theory suggests that learning can be optimized by managing the three types of cognitive load: intrinsic (inherent complexity of the learning material), extraneous (caused by ineffective instructional design), and germane (effort required to process and construct mental schemas). In the context of AI-positive pedagogy, this involves using AI tools to provide appropriate support and scaffolding as learners progress from lower-level to higher-level skills, while minimizing extraneous load and promoting germane load. Not all loss of effort by students is bad. If we are honest, much of learning work is extraneous, busy, or compliance/submission work anyway. By investigating the limits and structure of leapfrogging - skipping over mid-range skills to move from basic literacies and numeracies to creative, theoretical, and critical thinking - educators can harness the power of AI to accelerate student growth.

To develop a robust AI-positive pedagogy, educators and cognitive psychologists must collaborate to investigate how students interact with and perceive AI tools - alone or under teacher's guidance. This research should focus on understanding the mental models students develop when engaging with AI, and how these models differ from those associated with other educational tools. By exploring students' cognitive processes, researchers can identify the unique challenges and opportunities presented by AI in the learning environment.

It is also crucial to examine the emotional and motivational factors that influence students' engagement with AI tools. Understanding how students' attitudes, beliefs, and self-efficacy impact their willingness to adopt and effectively use AI in their learning can inform the design of AI-positive pedagogical strategies.

In addition to investigating student cognition and affect, researchers should also explore the social and cultural dimensions of AI use in education. This includes examining how AI tools can be leveraged to promote collaborative learning, foster inclusive learning environments, and bridge educational inequities.

To build a comprehensive AI-positive pedagogy, researchers and educators must also develop and validate practices for integrating AI into various disciplines and educational contexts. This involves creating guidelines for the use of AI in education, as well as establishing professional development programs to support educators in effectively implementing AI-positive pedagogical strategies.

The development of an evidence-based AI-positive pedagogy requires a concerted effort from the educational community. By investing in basic research, collaboration, and innovation, we can harness the potential of AI to transform education and empower students to thrive in an AI-infused world.

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