Instructional designers and the role of AI in the future of content development.
GUEST COLUMN | by Andrew Pass
As the founder of an educational content development company, I often think about the role that ChatGPT will play in the future of content development. In particular, I wanted to evaluate whether ChatGPT could alleviate the need for high quality instructional designers. Could it develop a quality lesson plan in which students developed the ability to distinguish the need for a comma from the need for a period?
‘I wanted to evaluate whether Chat-GPT could alleviate the need for high quality instructional designers.’
I began by entering the following prompt:
“a lesson plan in which students develop the ability to distinguish the need for commas from the need for periods”
Of course, within seconds, the tool produced an elaborate response. I found several points noteworthy.
Well-Structured and Organized — But…
First, the lesson plan was structured well and had sections for objectives, materials, an introduction, direct instruction, guided practice, independent practice, and a conclusion. It also contained content for a student handout. High quality instructional design can provide scaffolding, enabling students to move from learning something to doing it. The activities contained within these sections sought to do just that. However, as we will see, it is evident that the content was not created by a high quality instructional designer.
Second, according to the output, the lesson is defined for third through fifth graders. It defines a comma as a “punctuation mark that is used to separate words or groups of words in a sentence.” The introduction directs teachers to write this definition on the board. A nine-year-old would have a difficult time grasping the concept of “punctuation mark” and will definitely not grasp the full purpose of a comma from this definition. I still remember my fourth grade teacher explaining a comma as a quick pause and a period as a full stop. Lesson introductions are best when they actively engage students in the lesson. There is no activity for students when they watch a teacher write on the board.
Third, the lesson was more than a start. One component that I really liked was asking students to write sentences that require commas or periods on paper strips, but to omit the punctuation. Students would then swap their paper strips with other students and fill in the grammar. If students had mastered the objectives of the lesson and truly understood the purpose of commas and periods, this would be a great activity. But, it would be very difficult to truly develop mastery of commas and periods within one lesson, and there is nothing within this lesson that leaves me confident that they would have been able to do so.
A Foundation to Build A Stronger Lesson
In short, a strong teacher or instructional designer could use this output as a foundation upon which to build a stronger lesson. But, it could not be used without adaptations.
I strongly believe that the best instructional designers incorporate meaningful creativity within their lessons. This creativity supports students in engaging with the learning and, therefore, the mastery of the objectives. With this in mind, I entered another prompt into ChatGPT:
“a lesson plan in which students develop the ability to distinguish the need for commas from the need for periods as if it were a ride at Disney”
If you have to tell somebody that doing something they are currently doing is exciting and adventurous, it is likely not fun and adventurous. The conclusion of this lesson states, “Remind students that just like going on a ride at Disney, learning to use commas and periods correctly can be exciting and adventurous.” Indeed, this lesson was very similar to the first with the addition of telling students that grammar is as fun as going to Disney.
Actually, I entered this prompt into ChatGPT twice because I accidentally navigated away after the first time. Unfortunately, the tool does not return the same output every time the same prompt is entered. The first result instructed teachers to compare commas and periods to stop lights. This comparison was to be made as students sat in their seats.
As an educator, the comparison gave me an idea.
Students could walk or even skip around the classroom. Every few seconds, the teacher could call out “Comma” or “Period.” Upon hearing the word, students would stop for a moment or two, shorter for a comma than a period. This kinesthetic activity would help students understand the role of these punctuation marks. Immediately following this activity, students could sit down or even lay on the floor and complete an activity in which they marked commas and periods in the correct places in sentences. This would support them in transferring what they learned in the physical game to writing.
Fast Content, Irreplaceable Designers, and Working Together
Of course, this description of my work does not fully convey the content that ChatGPT produced or the work that an instructional designer would have to do in completing the development of a high quality lesson.
However, it does demonstrate three important points.
First, ChatGPT can produce content faster than a human ever could.
Second, this content will not replace the need for a true instructional designer.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the instructional designer and artificial intelligence can learn from one another, creating a symbiosis, instead of exclusivity.
Andrew Pass is the founder of A Pass Educational Group, LLC. A Pass partners with organizations to develop customized content. Learn more at www.apasseducation.com