ChatGPT Enhances Student-Led Inquiry

Imagine a scenario where students engage in passionate debates and encounter obstacles in their original inquiries. However, disagreements arise, and learners are eager for solutions.

Now, picture students turning to ChatGPT to overcome these hurdles in their thinking. How can ChatGPT be utilized as a valuable tool? Allow me to share three ways in which ChatGPT can be harnessed to support student-led inquiry.

1. Simulating Scenarios

Demonstrating to students that ChatGPT can simulate real-world scenarios provides them with an additional problem-solving approach. Students can utilize strategies and ideas presented by ChatGPT’s simulations and apply them to their own learning context.

For instance, consider this ChatGPT prompt designed to involve students in a project (such as creating a newspaper, book, or another product). I share the educational framework I use with my students and provide a detailed account of the decisions students make within the project or inquiry. I position students as practitioners, such as scientists, editors, writers, or historians, and outline the problem they are facing. Furthermore, I provide role details, such as assigning a student as the lead historian or science lab manager.

Next, I inform students that we are interested in understanding how real-life professionals would handle a disagreement. I ask ChatGPT to “simulate a scenario where two such professionals disagree, making the response as realistic as possible.” I emphasize that students would like to utilize some of the strategies from the simulation to address problems in their own project.

This simulation prompt can be adapted across various subjects. For example, I successfully prompted ChatGPT to simulate a disagreement about chemical application for a science project.

2. Empowering Critical Thinking

I believe in involving students in the process of thinking critically about how to gather information and develop strategies to address problems within their learning context. By scaffolding this process, students are able to independently leverage ChatGPT for problem-solving. I utilize the “I do, we do, you do” teaching strategy.

Here’s an example: I begin by brainstorming one or two problems that may arise during an inquiry in front of the class (I do). Then, students engage in a group brainstorming session to identify potential problems in a project or inquiry (we do). I build on their ideas, and together we may come up with a situation like this: Student A strongly disagrees that student B should use certain chemicals in a science experiment.

I present the prompt to the students and break down its specifics, sometimes providing a printed version for group analysis. Then, I demonstrate how to use ChatGPT to simulate a scenario. As a class, we select one of the problems generated by the students and utilize ChatGPT to create a simulated scenario. After practicing the process, students attempt to generate their own simulations and scenarios using new prompts. Eventually, they share their solutions on a Padlet or a shared Word document.

It’s important to note that inaccuracies generated by ChatGPT can serve as learning opportunities for both students and teachers. I encourage students to share possible errors that require further examination and create a section on Padlet or a shared Word document for this purpose. Educators can guide the examination with questions such as: How do we determine if ChatGPT’s response is faulty? Why did these issues arise? Can they be rectified?

When students read ChatGPT’s responses and identify inaccuracies, they further develop their critical reading skills and understand that ChatGPT is a tool rather than a substitute for human expertise.

3. Programming an Expert

In project-based learning (PBL), visits from experts fuel inquiry. Experts provide students with firsthand insights into the topic of study. Interestingly, ChatGPT can also offer students an expert experience when prompted.

For example, students can prompt ChatGPT to act as a mentor. They can type their questions into ChatGPT and read the simulated mentor’s responses. I have successfully employed this prompt.

To structure this type of prompt, I ask ChatGPT to impersonate a historian, literature professor, biologist, author, chemist, or another type of mentor. I inform ChatGPT that students will be asking questions and that it should strive to provide unbiased factual responses. Additionally, I specify that students will be focusing on a particular topic, such as World War II, Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” or Newton’s law of gravity.

I explain that the goal is for ChatGPT to act as an expert on the given topic, enhancing students’ understanding of the lesson’s objective or goal.

Supporting Students’ AI Exploration

Strategically using ChatGPT to provide solutions, resolve disagreements, and enhance students’ critical thinking skills during simulations makes ChatGPT a valuable classroom tool.

By practicing the strategies outlined above, students gain the confidence to make decisions during student-led inquiries with the assistance of AI. They learn how to view ChatGPT as a supportive mentor that fosters their ideas and addresses their questions.

AI is an evolving innovation in education. By empowering students with these strategies, we can help them explore the vastness and capabilities of AI. AI extends beyond being a mere fact generator. Students can utilize the skills gained from this article and other AI experiences to experiment and explore the possibilities within this ever-evolving AI landscape.

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