Classroom Technology What the Research Says

How Widespread Will AI Be in Classrooms This Year? Teachers Offer Some Clues

By Sarah D. Sparks — August 21, 2023 2 min read
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A burgeoning number of teachers plan to use generative artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT in their classrooms by the end of the coming school year. But they need more help to learn how to do it well.

Nearly 4 in 10 teachers expect to use AI in their classrooms by the end of the 2023-24 school year. Less than half as many say they are prepared to use the tools.

That’s the bottom line of the newly released Teacher Confidence Report, part of a series of national teacher surveys conducted this May and June by the education publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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“This is a time, because of the disruptions, that transformation has been accelerated. … We have a series of tools that are being considered like the industrial revolution,” said Francie Alexander, the senior vice president of research at HMH. With regard to AI, “I think [educators] all understood it enough to be asked about it, but the study revealed that … the high majority have not yet integrated it into their classrooms.”

Only 1 in 10 teachers said they had used AI in the classroom in the past school year. Of educators who have used AI, fewer than 6 in 10 surveyed found the tools helpful. The report is the first of three to be released this fall, based on a representative sample of 1,000 K-12 teachers and more than 200 administrators.

Those results are mostly in line with other pulse checks of artificial intelligence in education, which find many teachers unprepared for technology they see as inevitable in the classroom. While districts have used AI-based testing and logistics programs for years, last school year saw the release of free AI tools ChatGPT-3 and DALL-EE, which sparked an explosion in the number of teachers and students experimenting with the technology. The chat app, for example, scans the internet to generate a wide variety of writing, from synopses of research to model Individualized Education Programs.

But the majority of teachers are still unclear about how to use AI tools effectively and safely. The HMH survey found teachers see the most promise for AI in developing worksheets, lesson plans, and writing prompts.

“We have a patchwork of policies on AI … that [teachers] can use it for you, but not with your students; that they can use this device, but not that,” Alexander said. “For the 90 percent of teachers who aren’t using [AI], I think it’s because of the patchwork of policies, concerns about ethical considerations and data privacy, and those kinds of security issues.”

The new school year is the first since 2020 that overall educator confidence has risen on the HMH survey; 42 percent of educators report feeling at least somewhat positive about their profession. That’s up 2 percentage points from the last school year, but it’s worth noting that confidence is still below pre-pandemic levels, and in the nine years the survey has been given, there has never been a majority of educators confident in the profession.

The survey will release two additional reports on the survey, on teacher well-being and student mental health, later this fall.

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