Reading and grading students’ writing assignments can be one of teachers’ most time-consuming tasks, but a new artificial intelligence tool that’s being launched Friday is designed to lighten their workload considerably.
The grading tool would be most useful for teachers in upper elementary through high school whose students are producing more written work. —TyAnthony Davis
The tool is Enlighten AI, and it’s a virtual teaching assistant that can grade students’ work in the same fashion as their teacher would, but in a fraction of the time, said cofounder TyAnthony Davis, a Fresno native and Bullard High graduate.
“It’s truly a tool born out of necessity,” he told GV Wire this week. “Grading and feedback is one of those things for teachers that no matter how many years we are in the profession, we still have to do it and it always takes too long and we end up actually just not being able to do that essential component of teaching. A lot of essays and student work just gets thrown away.”
Davis, who is founder and chief operating officer at Vox Collegiate, a charter middle school in south Los Angeles, said he tested the tool last year with his students at the school.
Eighth graders were struggling with their writing, so Davis embarked with them on a four-week “boot camp,” where they would write an essay every week and get three or four paragraphs of grading and analysis the following Monday.
Davis said he customized the grading tool to reflect his voice and responses and then entered the students’ work into Enlighten AI. What previously would have taken 10 to 15 hours of work was reduced to a few hours, which meant that students got feedback on their writing more quickly, he said.
The grading tool would be most useful for teachers in upper elementary through high school whose students are producing more written work, he said.
Teachers can use Enlighten AI for free. For now, it’s only available on the Google Classroom platform, but Enlighten AI developers are working on adapting it to other platforms such as Microsoft Teams.
Impact on Students
After just four weeks of more intensive writing assignments, Davis said his students’ writing scores on state standardized testing rose by 70%.
Students were more excited about improving their writing when the feedback was more immediate, he said.
“One of the things that kind of shocked me in the spring was how the students responded to getting feedback that was so thorough and getting it back so quickly,” Davis said. “They then wanted to produce more work.
“And because it became a part of our relationship, it showed how much I valued what they were writing. And there was a mutual investment in the output, which then their response rate on assignments went up significantly. I’m not having to chase as many students down because they’re excited to hear what I have to say about what they wrote and to even observe their own growth over time.”
Enlighten AI is not intended to replace teachers, Davis said. They are still responsible for reading their students’ assignments and reviewing the AI grading before presenting it to students, but won’t have to spend as much time on it as before, he said.
How It Works
To customize the app for their lessons, teachers need to input one student’s work with grading and comments, and then the AI grading assistant takes over from there. Teachers can continue to customize the app for specific outcomes in assignments, he said.
Davis said he has heard of some teachers who are already trying to use AI tools to assist with their work, but one of the best known, ChatGPT, isn’t completely effective.
“There are some folks right now who are just trying to generally use ChatGPT, but … you’re kind of throwing something out there to the AI world and hoping you get something that fits back. We know that that’s not best teaching practice and so (Enlighten AI is) built in a way where the teacher’s actual pedagogical focus stays at the center.”
About 100 teachers around the country have been piloting Enlighten AI, and so far the response has been positive, Davis said.