Faculty Club / Technology & AI / Grading with AI: An Ethical How-To Guide for Teachers

Grading with AI: An Ethical How-To Guide for Teachers

In this piece, learn how to use generative AI tools in ethical ways to enhance and speed up your grading practices.

Image Source: iStock

Like any transition in life, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in education is both scary and full of possibilities. While some educators fear that AI will undermine academic integrity and critical thinking, others like Stephanie Speicher and Anne Arendt are adapting quickly and using AI tools to enhance their teaching

If we focus on the cheating part of it, it diminishes the opportunity the technology provides. A lot of faculty are in that head space, but I found it exciting to have this tool at MY disposal. I thought, “This is going to revolutionize my time!”

Stephanie Speicher, PhD

Educators who adopt a future-focused mindset can challenge student thinking and prepare them for the modern workforce. Even more exciting is the potential for AI to streamline educator workloads. 

Grading can sometimes feel tedious, but what if AI could serve as your teaching assistant, writing partner, and data gatherer? In this piece, we’ll explore ways you can use AI when grading student work and providing feedback. Keeping ethical considerations in mind, we’ll offer practical tips and tools to get you started.

Benefits of Grading with AI

A major advantage of AI-assisted grading is its potential to save educators time, especially in large classes. Grading a mountain of assignments is overwhelming, and you may find it difficult to provide timely, consistent, and valuable feedback.

AI tools can process and evaluate assignments at a much faster rate. This efficiency doesn’t replace the human eye, but it allows you to look at student work more holistically, observe patterns among classes, and focus your time on personalized student support.

I use generative AI tools to help me create paragraphs for student feedback in areas such as the use of proper citation, adequate depth, and addressing required prompts. I also use tools like Quillbot to summarize or rephrase, so I have additional options that I can modify to suit my assessment and speaking style.

Anne Arendt, PhD

While AI tools can harbor bias when populating information, they can also prevent human bias when grading. Results from one study found that teachers were almost 5 percent more likely to rate white students’ writing as at or above grade level compared to identical writing from Black students. 

While you may think, “I would never do this,” the truth is that all humans have some amount of implicit bias. Using AI to assist you when grading could make your grading practices more equitable by providing an objective set of eyes.

5 Tips for Grading Ethically with AI 

When deciding whether AI-assisted grading is right for you, ask yourself if using AI tools will hinder or strengthen the learning outcomes of students. Then, determine whether everyone agrees. 

The first question to ask is what role the AI tool is playing in evaluation and feedback. Is it the role that was intended? Is that a role all stakeholders would agree is appropriate?

Anne Arendt, PhD

The tips below can help you use AI to your benefit, while keeping ethics front and center.

1. Be Transparent with Students

Transparency is key when incorporating AI into your grading process. Placing a detailed AI statement in your course syllabus is a good place to start. Explain to students that you’re using AI as a tool to aid in grading, not as a substitute for your own evaluation. 

Emphasize that using AI tools when grading helps you provide more comprehensive and timely feedback, and that you believe it’s a valuable enhancement to the learning experience. 

It’s also important to welcome student feedback on your shift in grading practice. Students should feel safe reaching out to you with questions about the use of AI or the feedback they receive.

Here’s a sample statement of how to address AI use in your syllabus:

In this course, AI is encouraged with certain tasks and with attribution: You can choose to use AI tools to help brainstorm assignments or projects or to revise existing work you have written. 

As the instructor, I will use AI to assist in:

  • Evaluating student work against predefined rubrics.
  • Finding common strengths or areas needing growth among students.
  • Providing timely, specific feedback to students. 

When using AI for grading purposes, rest assured that I review all student work as well as all the feedback I deliver. If you have questions or concerns about the assistance of AI in my grading practices, I welcome you to speak with me individually. Additionally, you are ALWAYS welcome to ask for a second evaluation or a one-on-one discussion of graded work.

2. Grade Against a Rubric

Using a rubric adds consistency to your grading practice and offers clear expectations for students. When using AI tools for grading, input the rubric first and ask AI to measure success against the defined criteria.

You can add another level of transparency to your course by teaching students how to self-assess their work using AI. This approach empowers students to take charge of their learning and can improve student confidence before final submission.

Whether or not you’re grading against a rubric, you should always allow students to request reevaluation of their work. Particularly when using AI tools, it’s important that students know you care. Any time a student has questions or concerns about a graded submission, invite them to request a manual reevaluation or additional help during student/office hours. 

3. Ensure Quality of Feedback—Every Time

While AI can be a valuable tool, it’s not without flaws. You must review and edit AI-generated feedback to ensure that it’s both accurate and relevant. You must also be aware of potential biases within AI systems. One way to mitigate AI bias is to test specific prompts ahead of time and input your own evaluative measures. 

For example, instead of asking the AI tool to “Determine whether this essay is well written,” you can input your rubric and say, “Evaluate this essay using the rubric provided. Determine strengths and areas for improvement based on the rubric points.” 

4. Focus on Feedback Over Letter Grades

While AI tools can help you analyze patterns in student assignments, asking AI to assign letter grades is not recommended. Traditional grading is highly subjective and AI tools lack the ability to assess skill mastery.

Instead, use AI to help you produce qualitative feedback. Alternative grading methods are an equitable way to prioritize feedback over letter grades. When you adopt inclusive grading approaches, students can assist in creating rubrics or assignments. 

5. Run it By Your Colleagues

If you’re still feeling unsure of whether grading with AI is ethical, one safeguard tactic is to open a dialogue with colleagues. This might mean bringing AI-assisted grading up in a meeting with other educators or asking your department head about their thoughts.

Some questions to address with others may include:

  • Does AI-assisted grading align with our institution’s policies and expectations?
  • Is grading with AI equitable? How can it prevent and/or deepen inequities in the classroom?
  • Do the benefits of grading with AI outweigh any ethical considerations?

These questions won’t have one right answer, but your colleagues’ comments can help you gauge whether it feels appropriate to use AI in your academic setting. Other questions to ask yourself include: 1) Will grading with AI help me better serve my students?  2) Will grading with AI elevate or diminish student learning?

AI Tools for Grading: A ChatGPT Use Case

There are various AI tools you can use for grading, but ChatGPT is one of the most cost-effective and accessible options. ChatGPT can assess student work against rubrics or other criteria. It can also analyze patterns among student work.

If you’re new to grading with AI, here’s an example of how using ChatGPT might look:

Example Prompt:

“Assess the strength of student arguments based on the following essay assignment: [Discuss themes in the novel Catcher in the Rye and explain how those themes are perpetuated in today’s society.]

The evaluative criteria include: [Strength and cohesion of the argument, evidence used to support the argument, and references to the text.]

Here are student essays to evaluate: [Enter student work here.]”

You can start by entering one student essay and seeing what results ChatGPT offers. In this example, we used this sample for the first student essay.

Here’s what ChatGPT provided:

*Click the images below to take a closer look.*

As you can see, the evaluation is very detailed! You can use this method to provide in-depth, constructive feedback for students. You can also ask ChatGPT to show similarities and differences among student work.

For the second student essay, we used this sample. We then asked ChatGPT the following: “Do you see any patterns between these two student responses?”

Here’s what ChatGPT provided:

*Click the images below to take a closer look.*

This is just one use case of AI-assisted grading. Other options with paid features include GradeScope by TurnItIn, which can sort student answers into groups and then grade whole groups at once. Another interesting option is TeachFX, which uses voice AI to measure student engagement, the equity of voice, and the discourse patterns in virtual or in-person classrooms.

Balance Technology and Pedagogy

Grading with AI can be a game-changer for educators who embrace it. AI tools have the potential to save you time, improve the quality of student feedback, and reduce implicit grading bias. When using AI tools in any teaching capacity, just remember to remain ethical and transparent. 

Using AI tools benefits me in a number of ways in the wording of my assessment feedback. The tools don’t do the grading for me, they help me in crafting the responses I give to my own assessments and grading.

Anne Arendt, PhD

AI tools will continue to transform the way we teach and learn. When you strike the right balance between technology and pedagogy, both you and your students can reap the benefits of this evolving innovation.

About the Author

Morgan Westling is an Associate Content Specialist at Course Hero. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Portland and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from The University of the South. She lives in Portland, Oregon, and has been writing for over 7 years. Find more of her work at www.morganwestling.com.

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