Teaching Writing in the Age of AI: Asking Questions

This is the third post in a series exploring how teaching writing will change in the face of Artificial Intelligence large language models. The first two posts explored the kinds of writing that can and can’t be done with AI, and academic integrity.

In my book Practical Reading Strategies, I covered six reading strategies that are crucial for effective readers, and that can be explicitly taught to students. Strategy three, Questioning, is particularly relevant in the context of AI-generated text content.

Teaching critical reading skills is closely linked to effective writing instruction. Students need to be proficient readers, speakers, and thinkers to become good writers. In PRS, I encouraged teachers to shift their focus from asking questions to teaching students how to ask high-quality questions themselves.

AI-generated text content will continue to increase online, and it’s crucial to teach students how to ask quality questions when reading texts. As large language models like ChatGPT generate a vast amount of synthetic writing, the ability to ask the right questions is more important than ever.

This is an activity from PRS that combines Bloom’s taxonomy and Dalton and Smith’s work to scaffold questions of increasing complexity, which is an effective way to develop questioning.

Four Questions

Instructions for teachers

  1. Arrange students in pairs or groups of three.
  2. Explain the four types of questions as follows:
    a. Knowledge and comprehension questions ask for information, description, explanation and understanding
    b. Application questions ask us to show or illustrate knowledge
    c. Analysis questions ask us to examine, compare and analyse
    d. Synthesising and evaluating questions ask us to design, imagine, argue and justify
  3. Provide the students with useful verbs and examples of the question types.
  4. Instruct students to work together to write one of each level of question for a text/extract they have recently studied.
Question typeUseful VerbsExample Questions
Knowledge and comprehensionTell List Describe Find State Name ExplainWhat happens in the opening paragraph? Can you name the main character? True or false…? How many persuasive techniques does the author use in…? How would you describe the image? What do you think happens next?
ApplicationShow Illustrate Examine SolveFrom the information given, can you solve the following…? Can you group together any of the techniques used by the impact on the reader? Do you know another instance where…? Can you draw a picture of the scene where…? What questions would you ask the character?
AnalysisAnalyse Compare Contrast Investigate ExploreHow is this scene similar to…? Why did… occur? What are the differences between this character and…? Where is the turning point in this chapter? What was the underlying theme of…? What is the major problem with…? How is… different to…?
Synthesising and evaluatingCreate Invent Construct Design Imagine Justify Argue DiscussCan you design a… based on this text? What would happen if…? If you were in this situation, how would you deal with…? What do you think about…? How would you feel if…? Which side of the argument do you agree with, and why?
Worried about students using ChatGPT to write their Crafting Texts outcomes? Wondering how you might use AI in the classroom to support this kind of writing? Check out the upcoming PD Teaching Writing in the Age of AI

Applying ‘Four Questions’ to AI Writing

Applying these levels of questioning to AI writing gives students the tools to analyse and deconstruct these potentially biased texts. Importantly, it doesn’t actually matter if the writing is AI or human written – in fact, it can be a good exercise to temporarily withhold that information from students and see i they can work it out through questioning.

Here are some examples of questions at the various levels which could be applied to texts:

  1. Knowledge/Comprehension:
  • What is the source of this text?
  • Can you identify any factual errors in this text?
  • What is the main idea or message conveyed in this text?
  • How recent is the information in this text?
  • What type of audience is this text intended for?
  1. Application:
  • How does the language and tone of this text affect its credibility?
  • Can you find examples of biased or slanted language in this text?
  • What evidence in this text supports the “author’s” claims or arguments?
  • How does the information in this text apply to real-world situations?
  • Can you use the information in this text to solve a problem or answer a question?
  1. Analysis:
  • How does this text compare to other (human written?) sources on the same topic?
  • What assumptions or values underlie the arguments presented in this text?
  • What is the intended audience for this text, and how does that affect its content and message?
  • How does the “author” use evidence and reasoning to support their claims or arguments?
  • What are the potential consequences of accepting the claims or arguments presented in this text?
  1. Synthesis/Evaluation:
  • What conclusions can you draw from the evidence presented in this text?
  • How does this text contribute to or challenge existing knowledge on this topic?
  • What are the ethical implications of the arguments presented in this text?
  • Can you identify any limitations or weaknesses in the evidence presented in this text?
  • How does the information in this text relate to your own experiences or perspectives?

It is increasingly important for students to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to assess the accuracy, reliability, and bias of the information they encounter. As we have seen, the four levels of questioning can be a valuable tool for guiding this process, helping students to engage with the material in a deeper and more meaningful way. By teaching students how to ask high-quality questions of both AI- and human-written texts, we can empower them to become discerning and informed consumers of information in today’s rapidly changing world.

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2 responses to “Teaching Writing in the Age of AI: Asking Questions”

  1. […] Teaching Writing in the Age of AI: Asking Questions […]

  2. […] This is the fourth post in a series on Teaching Writing in the Age of AI. The first post provided an overview of some of the changes we’re facing as the number of AI writing tools increases. Post two covered conversations about academic integrity, and the third post offered some practical advice on teaching students to be critical readers and writers. […]

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