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Everybody is talking about ChatGPT: Should educators be excited or apprehensive?

Written By: Lynsey Meakin
8 min read


ChatGPT, or Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer, is a natural language processing (NLP) artificial intelligence (AI) system, a machine-learning system that has been trained on a massive dataset of text from the internet, including books, articles, and websites (Bessette, 2023). As a large language model (LLM), ChatGPT uses machine learning algorithms to analyse this data and learn the patterns and characteristics of how words and phrases relate to each other to enable it to process and generate new content (Fitzpatrick et al, 2023). ChatGPT makes predictions about how to string words together, putting one word in front of another based on statistical probability. Like an enhanced predictive text, or the autocomplete function of a search engine (Floridi, 2023), ChatGPT produces and refines statistical models for processing and generating natural language and does so in coherent and contextually appropriate responses and replies to prompts in a conversational way (Rospigliosi, 2023).

The advent of this algorithmic writing technology capable of producing text with minimal input has the potential to cause massive disruption to educational practice and there are concerns about quality, accuracy, bias and intellectual integrity. Equally, however, this is an invitation for educators to rethink their teaching, learning, and assessment methods and strategies. It is the responsibility of educators to help students navigate the ethics, features, and limitations of these communication tools.

Artificial intelligence in education (AIEd) opens new opportunities, potentials, and challenges in educational practices. This article investigates the potential of ChatGPT for use and implementation in their course work by Higher Education students on Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and Initial Teacher Education (ITE) courses with the potential for them to be able to extend this to their own pupils.


The challenges

  1. Incorrect, inaccurate or misinformation

The responses generated by ChatGPT may not always be factually correct, accurate or reliable, as ChatGPT will make up information, answers or references when it does not know how to reply. These are called ‘hallucinations’. AI hallucinations occur when the AI generates content that cannot be grounded in any of its training data or provided source content (Fitzpatrick et al., 2023, p. 35).

Inaccuracies could also be the result of a failure to filter relevant information or being unable to distinguish between credible and less-credible sources.

  1. Prejudiced, stereotypical or biased

Prejudices and stereotypes present in the set of text data used to build ChatGPT could be replicated. AI models are trained on datasets that reflect historical and societal prejudices, and so have the potential to perpetuate those biases in their predictions (Eke 2023; Fitzpatrick et al, 2023).

Issues like availability, selection and confirmation biases, can be reproduced and so there is a distinct need for student teachers to fact-check and verify ChatGPT results (Alvero, 2023).

  1. No understanding of the physical world

ChatGPT imitates existing language but has no understanding of the physical world or of the content or context of the prompts or the queries (Alvero, 2023). The user will put in a query or prompt and the algorithm that has programmed ChatGPT will take that set of words, access its enormous set of training data, and determine what the most likely word is to come next, and then after that. For example, a trainee teacher using ChatGPT asked for a lesson plan for teaching the concept of ‘photosynthesis’ to secondary school students, and ChatGPT creates a lesson plan relying on technology like virtual reality headsets and holographic projectors, not considering practical classroom constraints or availability of resources.

ChatGPT does not understand the query and will not source relevant documents or appropriate sources of information. Thus, although the responses seem authentic and authoritative, ChatGPT cannot fully understand the context and meaning of the text and cannot self-evaluate its outputs (Grobe, 2023).

  1. Over-reliance on ChatGPT

Another challenge is the risk that student teachers – or their pupils – may become too reliant on ChatGPT, because the model simplifies the acquisition of answers or information. This could amplify laziness and counteract the learners’ interest to conduct their own investigations and come to their own conclusions or solutions, which in turn could hinder their critical thinking and problem-solving skills (Kasneci et al, 2023).

  1. Academic integrity

Concerns have been raised around academic integrity (Stokel-Walker, 2022). For example, if student teachers use ChatGPT to generate essays or other forms of written texts that are then passed off as original work. This challenge is heightened by the fact that it can be hard to detect using traditional anti-plagiarism software because ChatGPT generates a brand-new answer for questions asked (Eke, 2023).

There are currently no requirements of transparency or that the work is watermarked or tagged as synthetic, which is problematic to educators who may not recognise work as AI generated. In addition, although there is currently much work going into identifying AI generated text, it is difficult to determine when a written submission has been created by a chatbot and this could lead to ethical concerns about the use of machine-generated content (Fitzpatrick et al., 2023).

To overcome these challenges, it is important for student teachers to use – and indeed to show their own pupils how to use – ChatGPT and other generative AI tools responsibly and with caution. They should critically evaluate the accuracy and relevance of the responses generated and use these tools as a supplement to their own knowledge and understanding, rather than a replacement for it.



ChatGPT and other generative AI tools offer several opportunities for ITT/E students to enhance their learning and academic performance and to share with their own pupils.

  1. Learning aid or study tool

ChatGPT can be used in research and writing tasks, as well as in the development of problem-solving skills. Examples include generating summaries and outlines of texts, helping student teachers to quickly understand the main points of a text and to organise their thoughts for writing. As a tool, ChatGPT can efficiently format and organise the content and so optimise time and effort in producing, revising and editing texts.

ChatGPT can also serve as a helpful learning aid, providing the student teacher with practical strategies, tips, and guidance related to classroom management for their future role as an educator.

  1. Facilitate communication and collaboration

ChatGPT can provide a discussion structure, real-time feedback and personalised guidance to students and so facilitate group discussions and debates, which can help to improve student engagement and participation. For example, ChatGPT can serve as a collaborative partner, helping the student teacher brainstorm ideas, provide explanations, and suggest tools to enhance group communication and productivity. The student teacher interacts with ChatGPT to gather information that can be shared with their group, fostering effective collaboration and ensuring that everyone’s contributions are heard and valued.

  1. Language translation

ChatGPT can also be used for language translation, allowing student teachers to communicate with peers – or their pupils – from different cultures and backgrounds, enhancing global awareness and intercultural competence. For language learners, ChatGPT can serve as a conversation partner, allowing learners to practice their speaking and listening skills in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

  1. Remote learning

Another opportunity offered by ChatGPT is its use to enable remote learning, especially when students are unable to attend classes. ChatGPT can provide quick and accurate answers to questions that student teachers may have about a topic they are studying but do not necessarily have resources for. ChatGPT can help explain difficult concepts by breaking them down into simpler terms and can generate study materials, such as flashcards or quizzes, to help student teachers to review material they have learned.

  1. Empower students

ChatGPT can be used to provide starting points, outline arguments or generate points for consideration. Student teachers will need to have definite ideas and arguments they want to make, and ChatGPT can be useful in helping these students to develop their own writing skills and to think more critically about the ideas and arguments they are presenting. ChatGPT offers much value in the writing process, but it is the student teachers who will cite and analyse evidence, create logical links between claims, and check the validity and accuracy of the responses provided.

Furthermore, ITT/E students can challenge and clarify information by asking ChatGPT to respond to follow-up questions, encouraging integration with existing knowledge and promoting a deeper understanding of multiple meanings and concepts (Rospigliosi, 2023). This is another skill that student teachers can share with their own pupils.


Implications for the classroom

The use of ChatGPT and other GAI by student teachers has significant implications for pedagogy, curricula and assessment and their own future role as educators.

Pedagogy – ChatGPT can transform the way students interact with educational content because of its ability to process and generate human-like responses, engaging with students in a personalised and conversational manner, and providing them with immediate feedback and guidance.

By providing student teachers with information and resources on a particular topic, ChatGPT can assist in developing their research and critical thinking skills (Kasneci et al, 2023). ChatGPT could further serve to democratise knowledge sharing as it can receive and output text in multiple languages, providing translations of reading passages or re-writing classic text to accommodate specific learner needs, such as learning difficulties, and is beneficial for non-native speakers studying in English (Hosseini et al, 2023). Student teachers could find this supportive tool invaluable. ChatGPT can also adapt to individual students’ needs to provide personalized learning experiences, another benefit to student teachers learning to create an inclusive classroom and accommodate individual learner needs.

Curricular – ChatGPT can provide access to vast amounts of data that can be analysed to identify patterns and trends in student learning. This data can be used to design and implement more effective curricula that meet the diverse needs of students and ChatGPT’s ability to generate personalised responses and provide immediate feedback can also enhance the delivery of curricula, allowing for a more dynamic and responsive learning experience.

Assessment – Concern about the use of ChatGPT by students to write their essays and assignments for them means that assessment methods must be revised. ChatGPT itself can assist here by enabling the development of more sophisticated and effective assessment tools, including supporting the development of more accurate and comprehensive assessment methods that can capture a wider range of student learning outcomes and be catered towards individual learner needs. Examples could include the use of case studies and made-up scenarios.

These implications highlight the need for educational institutions to consider how they are going to address the use of ChatGPT and other GAI by student teachers. ChatGPT generated the following response:

  • Educate students on the appropriate use of ChatGPT, including its limitations and the importance of responsible use.
  • Provide guidance on how to effectively integrate ChatGPT into the learning process, including best practices for incorporating ChatGPT-generated content into assignments and assessments.
  • Ensure that the use of ChatGPT does not compromise academic integrity, and provide clear guidelines on what constitutes plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct.
  • Regularly evaluate the use of ChatGPT to assess its impact on student learning outcomes and to identify areas for improvement.



With ChatGPT, we need to explore its capabilities, appreciate its limitations, and consider its endless possibilities.

The use of ChatGPT and similar tools by student teachers does raise a number of challenges and concerns, but these can be mitigated by student teachers being made aware of these limitations and being allowed to take responsibility for fact and accuracy checking.

ChatGPT and other AI chatbots have the potential to offer a range of benefits for higher education, including increased student engagement, collaboration, and accessibility.

The use of large language models like ChatGPT can be integrated into the curriculum to enhance teacher learning. Effective and efficient use should be taught, and students should be encouraged to utilise these tools in a responsible and ethical manner.

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