This article explores Basingstoke College of Technology‘s innovative use of AI in supporting teachers. It highlights the significant time savings in planning and administration tasks, allowing teachers to focus more on teaching and developing essential human skills in students.
The college’s journey includes creating an AI Ethics Group, implementing controlled AI prototypes for planning and student learning, and introducing tools like Google Bard and Teachermatic. The article underscores the positive impact on teacher wellbeing and workload, the evolution of assessment methods, and the importance of developing ‘human skills’ alongside technological proficiency.
Teachers at Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT) who have used AI to help with their planning since June 2023 have saved an average of 5.1 hours a week to focus more on teaching and helping learners build the human skills that are needed now more than ever.
On our Inset Day in February, we had a Panel Discussion about AI with Teachers on the stage alongside Ben, a student digital leader who is the latest in a long line of talented learners who help our teaching and learning team explore new and emerging edtech for work experience. Teachers shared what was happening with ChatGPT in particular, and then Ben openly discussed how his peers were using ChatGPT for essay writing and that he wanted to know how we as teachers were responding to this.
Ben’s candour and curiosity about how we as educators are going to respond to AI led to heated yet constructive debate among the audience, pushing us to critically reassess the urgency of this alien force. I went into staff rooms to talk about it and quickly realised that in order for us to better understand this superpower and (eventually) use it in our lessons, we needed to first create reason and time for teachers to be able to do this. In our era where the profession is losing talented educators, largely due to overwhelming workloads, our focus became clear.
- FEBRUARY – We created an ‘AI Ethics Group’ where Teaching and Learning, IT Systems, and GDPR teams meet monthly to discuss what we should do and if it aligns with our college strategy
- MARCH/ APRIL/ MAY – Learning Technologists ran controlled Planning prototypes with teachers using AI which were implemented in selected areas
- JUNE – Controlled Student prototype in selected areas to enhance referencing and creativity
- JULY – Teachers were given training, encouragement and support using Sequence of Learning Prompts and other purposeful Prompts to help their planning and administration tasks. Guiding principles of using AI intentionally and deliberately communicated consistently allowing the teaching experts make decisions within this framework
- AUGUST – Teaching and Learning team wrote an AI Misuse Policy @ BCoT, which was implemented across all subjects
- SEPTEMBER – All Curriculum teams had “Rethinking Assessment in a Post-AI World” training and to ensure that we pivoted to more authentic forms of assessment beyond the essay by default
- OCTOBER/ NOVEMBER – Staff CPD sessions on AI ran each week where follow up Learning Coach and Learning Technologist Support was made available Online and In-person
- DECEMBER – Controlled Assessment Feedback and Learner Report writing prototypes launched using AI in selected areas
The highest impact decision was to embrace AI (in particular Google Bard and Teachermatic) as a personal assistant, a support mechanism to help with planning and resource creation. The introduction of these two tools along with a comprehensive library of prompts to guide our staff and students in effectively utilising Al have helped lesson planning, quizzes, analogy makers, flashcards, resource creation, and new ideas. Sequences of Learning have been created, enhanced, and (many) completed in record time.
Giving teachers back time is the priority.
AI can alleviate teachers’ workload.
“Current data from the Further Education and Training sector indicate a critical link between teacher wellbeing and workload, with many educators facing challenges that adversely affect their professional and personal lives” (Education and Training Foundation, 2021).
Chris Swain is one of our brilliant Chef Lecturers in a strong and dynamic Hospitality team. However, Chris’ upbeat and positive demeanour is knocked annually when dealing with the admin of planning. Chris’ strengths (like so many FE colleagues) lie in his craft, passion, and work mentoring the learners to develop skills. Also, it’s noteworthy that Chris was now balancing the dual roles of a new father to baby twins and a being dedicated teacher, while confronting the daunting task of crafting a year’s sequence of learning after it had got away from his attention.
I worked with him and we used ChatGPT to translate and transform his notes, menus, and half-formed ideas into a comprehensive curriculum that infused knowledge, skills, and behaviours along with creative starters and plenaries – taking a task that typically spans weeks into 2.5 hours. Chris was a happy man and had the gift of time – time to be an even more engaged teacher in his kitchen classes and a more rested and present father and husband at home.
If Ben the Student Digital Leader got us thinking, it was Chris who helped us see how AI can help us now by using it to help with workload because from that teachers can focus on enhancing the quality of education and the learning experience. After really struggling with my relationship to technology over the last couple of years – I could now see, clearly, how we will use technology to continue enhancing learning, but also to provide much-needed space for self-care, reducing burnout and ensuring educators remain not only effective teaching, inspiring, and forging deep connections with students, but also content and fulfilled in their roles.
We are trying.
If the government has funds to help educators across the UK embrace AI in Education then I would suggest that by prioritising the support of Teachers to use AI for admin, planning, and resource creation is a good place to start because it unlocks so much more.
Tristan Harris’s sentiment that technology should be a ‘tailwind’ to our intentions, not a ‘headwind’ (Harris, 2020) seems relevant.
By giving Teachers 1-1 help (not just having them attend one-off large webinars) from people they know and trust we can help them automate administrative tasks so teachers can redirect their energy towards our sector wide collective clear intentions for personalised, meaningful, creative and interactive learning experiences.
“Effective strategies to mitigate teacher workload in the Further Education sector are crucial. Our research suggests that targeted interventions can lead to significant improvements in workload management, thereby enhancing teacher retention” (Association of Colleges, 2020).
We can free teachers up from admin that diminishes their energy and focus on helping craft learning experiences that develop “abilities that help navigate the uncertainty and complexity of our times, such as critical thinking, adaptiveness, global citizenship, resilience, and creativity.” (UNESCO IESALC, 2023).
I observed Chris teaching last week in the kitchen as his class worked hard as a team to prepare a christmas dinner for guests against the clock in a vibrant real-world scenario – it was great. If the use of AI gives him even a little bit of the extra energy he needs to be his best self as a confident conductor of communication, collaboration, adaptability, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence in his kitchen, I’m convinced (but always sceptical) of its power. While the specialised practical application of cooking skills were evident in Chris’ learners it was the way he developed their human side that filled my heart the most and reminded me of “the importance of non-technical skills” as he provided support and encouragement and praise while they developed their abilities such as “communication, the ability to learn and cultural and social intelligence, are only becoming more important and have true longevity.” (Pearson, 2022). Evenings and weekends back for teachers is the aim. Safeguarding teacher wellbeing is the Northstar.
At the time of writing, we are now moving to answer Ben the Student Digital Leader’s question more directly, e.g. what are we doing as educators to provide more authentic assessment opportunities
Assessment methodologies have evolved this term as a consequence of seeing how good Snapchat’s MyAI is at answering most essay questions, and we have seen a large transition from traditional essays to more innovative formats such as podcasts, blogs, witness statements, viva voces, transcribed reflective diaries, and real-world projects.
Assessment feedback however is an area we are treading carefully around – we need guidance to establish guardrails and ensure a responsible and deliberate approach. The comprehensive 3-tick process of all edtech we use, involving Teaching and Learning, IT Systems, and the GDPR team, has meant we have not allowed this, yet. That said, we are currently conducting controlled prototypes again between teachers and the teaching and learning team to see if we can enhance and personalise feedback for a course while abiding by our own guidance. More to follow.
AI is being embraced as an enabler of richer human interactions, more innovative teaching methods, and has potential to help towards a more balanced work-life for our educators. Our pledge at BCoT remains steadfast: to persistently explore and harness the potential of AI in ways that respect our values, bolster teacher wellbeing, and culminate in a more enriched, empowering educational experience for everyone.
Next steps for us will be continuing our commitment to digital literacy beyond the confines of the classroom by helping our students navigate the AI landscape in their everyday lives, especially through platforms like Snapchat. We have a duty to educate our students about the ethical and practical nuances of AI usage, ensuring they become discerning digital citizens needed in the future workplace as identified in all sector reports.
If we see across all expert horizon scanning that “the findings show human skills are the power skills most in demand.” (Pearson, 2022), and that “we face an impending shortage of workers with collaboration and communication skills across all sectors.” (Pearson, 2022) we have to prioritise the development of ‘human skills’, and recognise their critical role alongside intentional technological proficiency.
At BCoT we continue to prioritise the development of these ‘human skills’, recognising their critical role alongside technological proficiency. By empowering our educators with AI tools that handle administrative tasks, we are trying our best to free them to focus on nurturing these power skills in students, skills that are critical for success in almost any field. This continual attempt to strategically reallocate teacher time is not just about efficiency; it’s about enabling educators to impart the kind of wisdom and capabilities that machines cannot, nurturing a generation of learners equipped for the complexities of what comes next.
By Scott Hayden, Head of Teaching, Learning, and Digital, BCoT College
Scott is a contributor to the AI in Education site.
Scott serves as the Head of Teaching, Learning, and Digital at Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT), where he leads a technologically adept team primarily composed of former students. This team specialises in digitally enriching educational practices and has received multiple accolades, including the 2018 TES FE Award for ‘Outstanding use of Technology’ and the Wellbeing at Work award at the Hampshire Inspire Awards 2023.
In addition to overseeing Education & Training courses, Scott manages the college’s Learning Coaches, focusing on observation-based staff development, targeted continuous professional development (CPD), and empathetic coaching.
Certified as a Google for Education Champion and a National Teaching Awards Silver Winner, he also serves as a National Advisor for EdTech UK. His team has empowered over 100 educational institutions through the DfE’s EdTech Demonstrator Programme from 2020 to 2022.
Scott is also an active member of AI in Education, a cross-sector initiative announced in May 2023, aimed at exploring the potential of artificial intelligence in educational settings.