By: Julia Lang
October 3, 2023
As I welcomed my first-year students to class this semester, I posed a simple question: Who had used ChatGPT before? To my surprise, not a single hand went up. It became evident that many students had been discouraged or even barred from using ChatGPT in their previous educational experiences. Only one student in the class even had an account. This observation is not unique to my class; it reflects a broader trend on our campus. Many of my colleagues are either intimidated by Generative AI or actively banning its use in their classrooms.
I believe that resisting this evolving technology is a disservice to our students. As educators preparing students for the future of work, we have a duty to familiarize them with AI tools, which are likely to be a part of their workplace landscape (to facilitate this, I made a ChatGPT prompting guide for career educators).
In my life design classes, I support students in shaping their college experiences and preparing for life after graduation. Aligned with feminist pedagogy, my courses prioritize building community, respecting diverse experiences, and developing an understanding of identity. Instead of traditional lectures, my classroom is a series of mini discussions, with instructors serving as facilitators and co-learners instead of experts. Instead of a traditional competitive academic environment, our classroom has a culture of care, reciprocity, and support: students become “personal board members” to their peers, getting to know their classmates on a deep personal level, thereby equipped to help coach and guide their classmates in their evolving life design.
A core tenet of feminist pedagogy is to use technology to intentionally build communities and enhance learning. In my experience, using AI tools like ChatGPT does just this: these tools can supplement students’ imaginations as they design their futures while simultaneously teaching them how to ethically leverage the technology at their disposal. I say this while acknowledging the numerous concerns and limitations of AI, such as privacy issues, bias, and the potential for misinformation. Still, I believe that Generative AI can be a powerful tool to support feminist pedagogy, which seeks to create inclusive, reflective, and equitable learning spaces.
So, as you might imagine, on that first day of class, I welcomed my students into a different kind of learning environment, an environment built on respect, trust, and radical collaboration where students would continuously learn about and support each other’s life design while being given explicit permission to use the technology at their disposal to explore life’s numerous possibilities (see my AI syllabus statement for more information on AI parameters in my class).
Below are just some of the ways I think educators can leverage AI, particularly ChatGPT, to further the values and goals of feminist pedagogy in our work with students. Links in italics in purple are examples of ChatGPT prompts and responses I generated as examples for this post.
- Inclusivity: Generative AI can be a significant step toward equity, democratizing learning for all. It provides equitable access to knowledge and personalized coaching that used to only be available to more wealthy and privileged students while also potentially revolutionizing learning for students with disabilities by making information more accessible: it can summarize information, convert text into alternative formats, and be programmed to follow any provided accessibility guidelines. Information is available 24/7, allowing individuals to access information when it’s convenient for them, regardless of their personal circumstances.
- Student-Centered Learning: ChatGPT engages users in interactive conversations, allowing them to ask questions and seek guidance on specific topics, thereby promoting a student-centered approach where learners actively participate in their own development and decision-making.
- Humanizing Online Teaching/Learning: In online education, ChatGPT can act as a personal tutor or coach, reducing the sense of isolation that online learners may feel. It allows students to ask questions and seek guidance through natural language conversations.
- Intersectionality: ChatGPT can be programmed to provide advice and resources that consider the diverse experiences and needs of individuals from various backgrounds, aligning with the importance of intersectionality in feminist pedagogy.
- Critical Thinking: Feminist pedagogy places a strong emphasis on cultivating critical thinking skills, and AI serves as a potent instrument for nurturing this intellectual capability. While ChatGPT responses tend to be articulate and persuasive, they frequently contain inaccuracies. What better method exists for cultivating critical thinking than instructing students to scrutinize the biases and veracity of AI-generated content? Through this process, students acquire the invaluable skill of approaching all forms of technology with a discerning and critical mindset. This ability extends far beyond AI-generated content, empowering them to question the authenticity of information in a broader context, including instances of fake news. ChatGPT can also foster critical thinking by acting as a critic for any inputted work (full article I had it critique here). Students can also debate the platform on any given topic, fostering their own understanding while considering both sides of an argument.
- Collaboration and Peer Learning: AI can facilitate collaborative learning experiences as students work together to explore AI-generated content, share insights, and collectively navigate the challenges posed by AI. One of my favorite new methodologies is a variation of the classic think, pair, share activity where students think about a response to a prompt, share ideas with a peer, ask a question/do further research on ChatGPT, then share with a pair again and finally report out to the class.
The integration of AI into feminist pedagogy represents an exciting frontier in education, holding promise for enhancing the educational journey of all students and preparing students for the future and the future of work.
As we navigate the evolving landscape of education, I hope more educators will embrace technology as a partner in our commitment to feminist pedagogy, recognizing its capacity to amplify our efforts to create equitable, inclusive, and transformative learning environments.
Addendum: When I was invited to write a post for this blog, I had never overtly identified my work in the domain of feminist pedagogy, and this framework was new to me. I inserted a recent article I wrote making the case for ChatGPT as the ultimate educator’s toolkit and then asked ChatGPT how my article/argument aligned with feminist pedagogy. The response I received helped me see how my teaching philosophy actually is quite aligned with feminist pedagogy, and some of that language became the basis of this post. Once I drafted this article, I again inserted it into ChatGPT and asked how it could be improved/what angles might be missing, and was provided with some key additional points I would not have considered on my own. I encourage all educators to explore how AI can support your own work, starting with Teaching with AI, which includes a prompting guide for educators, while also exploring how custom instructions can better meet your needs as an educator. You are also welcome to view my ChatGPT Prompting Guide for Life Design and Career Educators.
Related Content: See Julia Lang’s annotated assignment titled, “Building an Authentic Introduction (using AI),” for her course, Taylor Your Life at Tulane University.