This week, the Secret Teacher explains the benefits of artificial intelligence when it comes to writing report cards.

When I started, I typed out each report card.

Even though you would often cover the same points and they would follow the same structure of current progress and next steps, young people aren’t stupid, and they’ll compare their report cards to those of their pals and see if it’s a copy-and-paste job. 

I try my best to avoid it for that reason. Also, I find it easier to make mistakes with the copy-and-paste strategy. You end up misgendering kids, or Bob becomes Olivia halfway through a paragraph. Parents don’t appreciate it either. 

One thing I did experiment with is AI, and ChatGPT. There are a few things you need to be mindful of. For instance, with GDPR, you can’t put anything confidential on AI or ChatGPT like a student’s full name. 

The Herald:
I use the dictation tool. I find that ChatGPT’s dictation is fantastic. If you dictate into your text messages for example, it won’t punctuate or it will be confused by a Scottish accent, whereas AI learns and gets used to your voice. 

So if I say – without naming one of my pupils – Will, and then for the next pupil I’m going to use female pronouns and I’ve already shown the template of how I want it to work, I’ll say ‘Pupil X has worked hard after a bit of a shaky start. 

‘Despite their absence due to illness, they’ve caught up really well. Their prelim results are as follows, and so in terms of next steps she really just needs to maybe consider reading more journalism to get used to the type of writing that’s used in exams and to improve her vocabulary, and maintain her studying and not slack off.’

ChatGPT will take that, interpret it and give it back to me. I’ll then review it and make any slight alterations. You still get a personalised, unique report card which is specific to that child because I’ve dictated it, but the workload and the time it takes is halved. 

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The archaic system that every school in Scotland uses to input the reports has very strict character counts and word counts, so you save a lot of time but you’re also not getting the exact same report card with a name changed. 

The dictation is good because it can pick up every nuance of what I’m saying. It can often infer tone. What is dictated perfectly is the prompt that goes into ChatGPT, so when it listens to what I say, it ends up with a massive paragraph which it then makes more concise and fits within the character count. 

I can say everything I have to say about this child, whilst referring to their prelims or whatever data I’ve got in front of me. 

It will take me two or three minutes to dictate a long report card. There will still be lots of ums and ahs, or I’ll say ‘pupil X got a C… no, I mean a B’ and ChatGPT will understand that and won’t mention the erroneous C. On paper, this might sound like it’s too convoluted and time-consuming, but it saves a lot of time because I’ve got dozens of senior pupils to write reports for and I want them all to be unique. 

Theoretically, I can have a class of 30 and get those reports done in an hour and a half, which is no time at all for a task that usually takes a few days amongst other commitments. 

At Parents Evening, it’s important that you ensure the parents received and understood the report card. 

The Herald:
For young people, whether they be in first year or sixth year, I will devote an entire chunk of a lesson to ensuring that they have read and engaged with their report card of written feedback on an essay, as it all happens via Google Classroom or a digital tool. The pupils then have to summarise it in their own words. 

You’re killing two birds with one stone, as that’s an essential skill that they need for an exam and it also helps me ensure that they’ve understood it and then, if they don’t understand it, that’s when we can have conversations about saying it another way. 

If you look at a lot of the educational writing out there, there’s a lot of anxiety about AI in education, and a lot of that understandably concerns things like plagiarism or the role of the teacher being replaced to some degree. 

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Those are all legitimate concerns, but used correctly AI can be a huge asset to education, mainly from an administrative point of view. That’s where it’s a godsend for me. I don’t think it should be making lessons for you, but when it comes to making the feedback process or writing report cards more efficient, there’s a lot to be explored. 

It’s still very much in its infancy, but I think five or 10 years from now it will be quite commonplace. You’ll probably find that local authorities will have licences with particular software to incorporate AI into the day-to-day job.