How to cheat on your final paper: Assigning AI for student writing

AI and Society 38 (4):1395-1405 (2023)
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Abstract

This paper shares results from a pedagogical experiment that assigns undergraduates to “cheat” on a final class essay by requiring their use of text-generating AI software. For this assignment, students harvested content from an installation of GPT-2, then wove that content into their final essay. At the end, students offered a “revealed” version of the essay as well as their own reflections on the experiment. In this assignment, students were specifically asked to confront the oncoming availability of AI as a writing tool. What are the ethics of using AI this way? What counts as plagiarism? What are the conditions, if any, we should place on AI assistance for student writing? And how might working with AI change the way we think about writing, authenticity, and creativity? While students (and sometimes GPT-2) offered thoughtful reflections on these initial questions, actually composing with GPT-2 opened their perspectives more broadly on the ethics and practice of writing with AI. In this paper, I share how students experienced those issues, connect their insights to broader conversations in the humanities about writing and communication, and explain their relevance for the ethical use and evaluation of language models.

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