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High School Cheating Increase from ChatGPT? Research Finds Not So Much

Stanford researchers say the frequency of students cheating on assignments remained 鈥榮urprisingly鈥 stagnant in fall 2023.

Meghan Gallagher/成人抖阴

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The rise of AI chatbot tools caused panic among high school teachers and administrators nationwide 鈥 but researchers say the frequency of students cheating on assignments remained 鈥渟urprisingly鈥 stagnant.

According to from Stanford University, about 60 to 70 percent of high school students surveyed in the fall of 2023 have engaged in cheating behavior 鈥 the same number prior to the debut of ChatGPT in the fall of 2022.

鈥淚 thought that we would see higher numbers in the fall so it was a little surprising to me,鈥 said Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford鈥檚 Graduate School of Education who surveyed students across 40 high schools through an she co-founded.

Victor Lee, an associate professor at Stanford鈥檚 Graduate School of Education who helped oversee the research with Pope, said high school students are 鈥渦nderwhelmed鈥 by AI chatbot tools.

鈥淚t just sounds very sterile and vanilla to them,鈥 Lee said. 鈥淭hey may have heard about it, but the media a lot of kids are using are quite different than the ones adults and working professionals are attuned to.鈥

A conducted by the in the fall of 2023 found nearly one-third of students aged 13 to 17 have never heard of ChatGPT and another 44 percent have only heard 鈥渁 little鈥 about it. 

From those who were familiar with ChatGPT, the vast majority 鈥 about 81 percent 鈥 said they had not used it to help with school work.

鈥淢any teens are using a variety of technology鈥but] among those who鈥檝e heard at least a little about ChatGPT, shares of them still aren鈥檛 sure how they feel about it,鈥 said Colleen McClain, a research associate at the Pew Research Center.

Here are four things to know about the effects AI chatbot tools have had on high school cheating:

1. High school students who weren鈥檛 cheating before aren鈥檛 cheating now.

According to the , surveys of more than 70,000 high schools from 2002 to 2015 found about 64 percent of students cheated on a test 鈥 a similar outcome to Stanford鈥檚 findings after the rise of AI chatbot tools.

Pope said what surprises educators and parents the most is how common cheating has been.

鈥淲e know from our research that when students do cheat, it鈥檚 typically for reasons that have very little to do with their access to technology,鈥 Pope told .

鈥淲hen a student is less engaged, when they feel like they don’t belong or are not respected or valued in their community, when they鈥檙e stressed and highly sleep deprived 鈥 these are things that tend to correlate with cheating,鈥 Pope said. 

Lee said this number will 鈥渃onsistently stay there unless schools engage in certain steps to be thoughtful about what climate they’re creating that motivates cheating.鈥

This includes tapping into the topics students are already interested in and developing useful skills based on how they naturally enjoy learning.

鈥淎 lot of the time, the AI students encounter is via Snapchat because they have a chatbot built into it,鈥 Lee said. 鈥淎nd students aren鈥檛 turning to Google as their primary search, they turn to YouTube鈥or] video-based searches rather than text-based.鈥

2. ChatGPT awareness is higher among White, wealthier and older students.

Pew found about 72 percent of white students had at least some knowledge of ChatGPT compared to 56 percent of Black students.

In addition, more than 75 percent of students in households with an annual income of $75,000 or more had some knowledge of ChatGPT compared to 41 percent of students in households with annual incomes under $30,000.

Data courtesy of the Pew Research Center. (Chart: Meghan Gallagher/成人抖阴)

McClain pointed to the 鈥渄igital divide鈥 as an explanation for Pew鈥檚 survey findings.

鈥淭he pattern here is quite striking,鈥 McClain said. 鈥淚t certainly speaks to the fact that not every teen is equally likely to have heard about these tools and used them.鈥

She added how awareness of ChatGPT was seen more in older students 鈥 particularly those in 11th and 12th grade.

鈥淓ven among those who heard at least a little about ChatGPT鈥young] teens may still be figuring out how they feel about it,鈥 McClain said.

3. High school students have adopted a 鈥済ood faith鈥 approach to AI chatbot tools.

Pew found only 20 percent of students aged 13 to 17 said ChatGPT was acceptable to write essays compared to 57 percent who said it was not.

But, nearly 70 percent said it was acceptable to research new topics compared to 13 percent who said it was not.

Data courtesy of the Pew Research Center. (Chart: Meghan Gallagher/成人抖阴)

The Stanford researchers found similar outcomes.

At four high schools surveyed this fall 2023, about 9 to 16 percent of students used AI chatbot tools to write essays and about 55 to 77 percent used it to generate an idea for a paper, project or assignment.

Data courtesy of Stanford鈥檚 Graduate School of Education. (Chart: Meghan Gallagher/成人抖阴)

鈥淭he vast majority don鈥檛 want AI to do all the work for them so they鈥檙e coming into this with sort of a good faith effort,鈥 Lee said.

鈥淲hen I鈥檝e had conversations with educators, they sort of breathe a sigh of relief and think 鈥榦h okay let鈥檚 think about some of the cool things we could do鈥 and that鈥檚 exciting,鈥 Lee added.

4. Prohibiting AI chatbot tools won鈥檛 solve the systemic issues of why students cheat.

For Pope, finding comfort around AI chatbot tools starts with educators and parents including their students into the conversation.

鈥淚f you’re going to come up with a classroom or home policy, you want to have the students present, speaking up and telling you what they think will be the most useful and appropriate uses of AI,鈥 Pope said.

Lee said addressing AI chatbot tool usage in high schools is just the 鈥渢ip of a much larger iceberg.鈥

鈥淧art of why we get concerned is because students feel pretty disenfranchised from the boring assignments, tedious homework and essays in these weird written formats that they don鈥檛 feel will provide them any long term need or use,鈥 Lee said.

鈥淚 don鈥檛 see us as saying AI is the best thing since sliced bread, but I also don鈥檛 think of us as saying AI is going to destroy humanity,鈥 Lee added.

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