Hands-On with AI: Navigating AI for workload and professional development 

By Thomas Freeney, ASCL Leadership Development Manager 

In recent years, the adoption of AI in various industries has been rapid and transformative. However, the education sector has been slower to adapt due to financial risks and concerns about the impact on learning outcomes. With the advent of freely accessible AI tools, educators now have the opportunity to explore the potential benefits of AI for managing workload and enhancing professional development. 

We often hear from members who are experiencing issues with workload and a sense of being out of the loop with developments. These two issues feed into one another, as high work demands prevent exploration and trialling of tools. In a departure from the norm, I invite you to work alongside me as I show you how AI can begin to chip away at workload and direct your development. It can be daunting to try in the first instance, so I have given some examples and commentary below. 

Getting started with AI tools in education 
For this section, we recommend using ChatGPT as its free model allows for some exciting tools. Open it in a new window, make an account if needed (free will work for this), and come back when you’re ready. If your school uses Google, you may already have access to Gemini Pro. If this is the case, you can follow along as described or you can learn more about it at one of our Google for Education days

Recruitment and retention with AI 
Let’s start with a meaty topic: recruitment and retention. There are so many routes to go down here, but let’s start small. In the prompt box type, “write me a person specification for a secondary music teacher.” 

You will see the desirable and essential traits begin to pop up. With AI, it is only going to give as good a response as your prompt, so more detail can help. Unsurprisingly, chatbots like this work best when you 'chat' to them. Keep adding to the prompts and asking for improvements.

Try again, but this time copy and paste your setting's ethos into the prompt like this: “write me a person specification for a secondary music teacher in a setting with the ethos [paste yours in here].” 

The more information you give, the better equipped the tool is to support. You can even paste in an old version of a document and ask the AI to match the format and style.

A word of caution with AI: make sure you ask the tool to add in factors related to equality, diversity, and inclusion. You may have seen physical attributes generated with your first prompt that would exclude disabled candidates. You can counter this by adding, “ensure the person specification is inclusive of all protected characteristics and that applicants will be treated fairly.” Without this, the tool may base the response on standard and often exclusionary templates. Even with the addition to the prompt, you should always check that the output matches your policies and does not discriminate. 

Optimising your curriculum with AI 
So, AI can save you a bit of time on the admin, but what about creative work? Say you want to add elements of wellbeing across all subjects and embed them into the curriculum. Identifying ways to do this and when to do this could take you hours, or… it could take minutes. 

More powerful tools can now read through documents and provide guidance based on them. Free models often limit this to once per day. Download a national curriculum document (or use your own) for a subject and add it to the prompt bar, then ask, “based on the curriculum document provided, identify where staff could introduce discussion or work related to wellbeing and mental health.” This will give you a starting point and a myriad of ideas to choose from, cutting workload and saving time. To make sure they are sound, you may wish to evidence the approaches. Ask it to, “provide robust evidence for each of the suggestions provided from the field of adolescent wellbeing, provide full references.” Previously, compiling such a list would have taken days of research; now it takes minutes.

WARNING: check the references to see they align, as this has been a failing of these tools in the past (some models make them up entirely). 

Personalising your professional development with AI 
So far, you have seen how the tool can save time with admin and planning/implementation; now is the time to get personal. In the prompt section, add the following: your role, your tenure, your aims for the next term, and the things you are struggling with or would welcome guidance on. Once you have finished this mini reflection, ask, “what tools, CPD or learning should I undertake to meet my goals and overcome my barriers.” When you get the results, ASCL Professional Development is on hand to support. 

If you are interested in any of these applications or dubious about their safety and efficacy, please join us at one of our new AI workshops being held around the UK  and beginning in Manchester on 4 June. Dates and locations for all workshops are available here

Thomas Freeney is ASCL's Leadership Development Manager.
Posted: 28/05/2024 16:12:52