Marking coursework will become “a virtually impossible task” in the age of ChatGPT and make exams more vital than ever, education experts have said.
OpenAI’s chatbot has taken the internet by storm since launching late last year, amassing more than 100 million monthly active users and attracting a multibillion-dollar investment from Microsoft.
It is a so-called large language model, trained on enormous amounts of data and capable of generating human-like responses to given prompts – including writing essays and solving problems.
New York schools and universities in Japan are among the places where ChatGPT has been banned over fears students could ask it to do their work for them, and UK exam boards have advised pupils are made to do some coursework “under direct supervision” so they can’t use it.
Ofqual’s chief regulator Jo Saxton said ChatGPT has made traditional exam conditions “more important than ever”.
And in a new report, education think tank EDSK said the accessibility of ever-improving AI systems had made coursework “less accurate and trustworthy” for grading students’ work.
It said: “Plagiarism has always been a risk to some extent, especially for coursework-style tasks, but establishing for certain whether a student produced the work that they submitted has now become a virtually impossible task for teachers, leaders, and exam boards.”
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The warnings from Ofqual and EDSK come following growing debate over the value of exams in recent years.
A review by the Independent Assessment Commission said exams needed “fundamental changes” following the COVID pandemic, which heavily impacted the grading system.
It argued that “arbitrary” assessments at age 16 should be scrapped.
The Tony Blair Institute went further, saying GCSEs and A-levels should be ditched entirely and replaced with a system that better prepares youngsters for work.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said while exams were a “key component of any system of assessment”, there was currently too much reliance on them.
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EDSK director Tom Richmond, a former adviser at the Department for Education (DfE), said ChatGPT had “fatally undermined the case for expanding the use of coursework”.
“It would lead to widespread malpractice and significantly reduce the fairness of the final grades,” he added.
The think tank has recommended students taking classroom-based courses take an extra subject in Year 12 that is examined entirely through an oral assessment.
It also suggests that the extended project qualification (EPQ), which is a dissertation-style qualification completed alongside A-levels, should be made compulsory.
A DfE spokesperson said exams remained “the best and fairest form of assessment”.