Study reveals gender-based differences in teachers’ perspectives on AI in education

In a recent study, researchers discovered interesting gender-based nuances in teachers’ perspectives on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in education. The findings highlight how male and female teachers perceive the role of AI in the classroom. The published report reveals that female teachers in the study tended to prioritize rule-based (deontological) perspectives, while their male counterparts expressed a greater concern for the consequences of AI. This suggests that gender plays a significant role in shaping teachers’ attitudes towards AI in education.

Additionally, the study highlighted the importance of self-efficacy and anxiety in teachers’ views on AI. Educators who felt more confident and less anxious about using AI showed a stronger inclination towards rule-based and outcome-based perspectives. The researchers emphasized that teachers’ confidence in utilizing AI technologies and their ability to manage any associated anxieties are crucial factors in their decision-making process.

The study, conducted by the USC Center for Generative AI and Society, included 248 K-12 educators from public, charter, and private schools across 41 states in the United States. The report serves as an invitation to educators, policymakers, technologists, and learners to explore the potential of generative AI in shaping the future of education. As the field continues to evolve, it is essential to embrace and enhance the use of generative AI as a powerful educational tool.

Drawing from the field of philosophy, the study applied the “trolley problem” thought experiment to the context of education. This moral dilemma presents the question of whether it is morally acceptable to sacrifice one individual to save a greater number. In the realm of education, teachers must grapple with the decision of when, where, and how to incorporate generative AI into the classroom, balancing rule-based and outcome-based perspectives.

Lead researcher, Aguilar, concluded that teachers are actively engaging with the moral challenges posed by AI and are calling for the adoption of an ethical framework for its use in education. The study further emphasizes the need for educators to explore AI system values and ensure fairness for students.

The USC Center for Generative AI and Society, established in March 2023, aims to investigate the transformative impact of AI on various aspects of culture, education, media, and society. Co-directed by William Swartout and Holly Willis, the center focuses on the intersection of AI with education, media, and culture.

Swartout, who leads the education effort, suggests that rather than banning generative AI from the classroom, it is crucial to rethink the educational process and leverage AI to enhance education. For example, generative AI could be utilized to assist students in brainstorming topics or critiquing their essays, thereby improving critical thinking skills. Swartout emphasizes the importance of evaluating the process of creating an essay rather than solely grading the final product, as a means to address concerns about cheating.

The report also includes research contributions from Gale Sinatra, Changzhao Wang, Eric Bui, and Benjamin Nye. Sinatra and Wang, alongside Bui and Nye, highlight the need to ensure that AI technologies are employed to augment human capabilities rather than replace them, preserving the relational and emotional aspects of teaching and learning.