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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

ChatGPT writes better than most students: What next?


Is writing over?


The ability to write clearly and cogently has been seen as "a gatekeeper, a metric for intelligence, a teachable skill," writes Daniel Herman, who teaches humanities at a private school. OpenAI's ChatGPT, which can write a competent essay in response to any prompt, could mark the end of writing assignments.


Most high school students don't enjoy writing. He tells them that "basic competence in writing is an absolutely essential skill — whether it’s for college admissions, writing a cover letter when applying for a job, or just writing an email to your boss."


But the bot can write a decent admissions essay and a usable cover letter, he learned. Future students won't need to learn grammar, punctuation or sentence structure, and most aren't interested in going much farther.

If most contemporary writing pedagogy is necessarily focused on helping students master the basics, what happens when a computer can do it for us? Is this moment more like the invention of the calculator, saving me from the tedium of long division, or more like the invention of the player piano, robbing us of what can be communicated only through human emotion?

College teaching will be transformed, writes Stephen Marche, a former English professor. The undergraduate essay "is the way we teach children how to research, think, and write." But that's over now.

Kevin Bryan, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, tweeted in astonishment about OpenAI’s new chatbot last week: “You can no longer give take-home exams/homework … Even on specific questions that involve combining knowledge across domains, the OpenAI chat is frankly better than the average MBA at this point.”

In a commentary published in the Harvard Crimson, Chat GPT argues that the bot is a valuable tool.

Using ChatGPT for written assignments does not mean that students are taking shortcuts or avoiding the hard work of learning. In fact, it can help students develop their writing skills and deepen their understanding of the subject matter. By providing suggestions and ideas, ChatGPT can serve as a virtual writing coach, guiding students as they craft their own original work.

The Crimson staff say the bot generated the op-ed. It was not edited by humans.


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5 Comments


Guest
Dec 12, 2022

I agree with Guest#9870, this is nothing new. I would argue that you don't even have to limit it to classroom exams. Just tell students: "When you hand in this essay, just know that I will verbally quiz you on what you've written in class. If you can't show an understanding of it, you'll be required to recreate it in an exam-like situation. If you can't do that, you flunk."

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Guest
Dec 11, 2022

Clicking through to the editorial, it's adequate for a sixth grade argumentative essay (would not fly with me, but it is C+ work) and embarrassing for a college student.


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Guest
Dec 13, 2022
Replying to

Maybe there was a time when average sixth graders wrote that well, but that time is not now. This is at the very least not particularly selective college-level work, and probably higher than that.

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Guest
Dec 11, 2022

Have you read the autogenerated ChatGPT 'essays' Marc Andreessen is putting on his Twitter feed? Clean grammar and assertions with flimsy or nonexistent logic rather than actual critical thinking.

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Guest
Dec 11, 2022

For several years, college students have been able to go to websites to not only solve a calculus/differential equations problem but to see every step that a homework solution would require. That is why most math professors no longer assign homework and depend upon in class exams. How is this any different? The in class essay will become more important much like the in class math exam.

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