How Jewish Studies Teachers Can Use ChatGPT, Part #1
By now, most educators have heard of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence tool that can write human-like texts on what seems to be a limitless set of topics, including topics studied in limudei kodesh. It can answer multiple choice and True/False questions and complete various types of essay prompts. As a result, teachers justifiably fear that students will simply use ChatGPT to complete their work.
What I learned is that although ChatGPT is a potential threat to teaching, it also may improve teaching by compelling educators to create assignments that promote more advanced thinking. That’s because artificial intelligence has more difficulty responding to assignments that require original thought, high level analysis, critical thinking, creativity, or a reflection on how a text, event, or experience impacts the user personally. One way to ensure students don’t rely on ChatGPT is to design prompts that center around the highest levels of cognitive sophistication in Bloom’s taxonomy.
I asked ChatGPT to generate some general guidelines and specific examples of assignments that are more impervious to using ChatGPT. Below are the machine-generated responses:
To ensure that students are not relying on ChatGPT, Jewish Studies teachers can assign the following types of assignments:
- Reflective writing: Teachers can assign reflective writing assignments where students are asked to think deeply about their experiences, beliefs, and opinions.
- Critical Analysis: Teachers can assign critical analysis assignments that require students to read and analyze primary source materials and provide their own interpretation of the text.
- Creative Writing: Teachers can assign creative writing assignments that require students to use their imagination and creativity.
- Research-based writing: Teachers can assign research-based writing assignments that require students to gather information from multiple sources and present it in their own words.
- Personal narratives: Teachers can assign personal narratives where students are asked to write about their life experiences in their own words.
- Debates and discussions: Teachers can assign debates and discussions where students are asked to engage in critical thinking and discussion on a particular topic.
- Ethical Dilemmas: Teachers can assign ethical dilemma assignments where students are asked to analyze and evaluate a situation from multiple perspectives.
One example of a good assignment in a Tanach class that students would find difficult to use ChatGPT to complete would be to ask students to analyze a specific passage from the Tanach, identify the themes and motifs, and connect it to a contemporary issue or event. The teacher could ask students to write a reflection paper explaining their analysis and thoughts.
A specific example of a good assignment in a Halacha class where students will find it difficult to use ChatGPT to complete is to ask them to research and write a paper on a contemporary Halachic issue. For instance, they could research the Halachic implications of organ donation, assisted reproductive technologies, or the use of modern technology in the observance of Shabbat. The assignment should require students to use primary source materials such as Responsa literature and secondary sources like articles and books written by contemporary Halachic authorities.
One example of a good assignment in a Jewish history class that would be difficult for students to use ChatGPT to complete would be an in-depth case study analysis of a specific event in Jewish history. The teacher could assign a specific event, such as the life and impact of a particular Jewish leader or the story of a Jewish community’s migration, and ask students to thoroughly research the event and present their findings in the form of a well-structured essay, including their own thoughts and reflections on the topic. To make it challenging for students to use ChatGPT, the teacher could include questions that would require a human’s perspective and emotional connection to the topic, such as “What did this event mean to the Jewish people at the time?” or “How does this event connect to the larger story of Jewish history?”
I, mortal Lee Buckman, see the merits of these assignments in that they require students to engage deeply, critically, and creatively with the material. Nevertheless, I would like to offer some alternatives to these machine-generated assignments that real limudei kodesh educators formulated. That will be the subject of my next blog. In the meantime, we welcome your experiences and advice along the way.