Can AI replace Teachers?

Artificial Intelligence is here. It is already changing our lives in interesting ways and is expected to disrupt our lives even further. Education is not an exception in this tectonic shift. This article explores some of the opportunities and challenges from the perspective of teachers.  

The purpose of education is to inculcate values while improving cognitive and thinking abilities. Life skills were at the core while technical skill development and knowledge were the biproducts. Over the years, the purpose of education got distorted and has become the enabler for earning livelihood. Values and thinking abilities have taken a back seat, along with life skills. This has created a major problem in the societies around the world, creating intelligent and literate people who do more harm than good for the society.  

The role of the teacher has also changed dramatically from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side. Teacher has become a learning facilitator rather than a source of knowledge, more focused on sense making. This is a critical role as any knowledge or skill becomes effective based on the context and the purpose for which it is used. This is where the values and contextual understanding become important. The teacher plays a critical role to validate these aspects so that the learner builds a competency and utilizes knowledge for the right reasons and purposes.     

When AI enters this picture, it is still playing an enhanced role of a traditional teacher, bringing vast amounts of knowledge to the table and making it available to the learner at the click of a button. However, does AI help in ethical decision making? Can AI guide us based on values and ethics? What is the role of emotions and feelings which are at the core of our decision-making process? 

There are three levels of learner engagement necessary for better learning outcomes- cognitive, behavioural, and emotional. It is very difficult for any AI system to go beyond cognitive engagement and help with emotional and behavioural engagement. AI systems are already being used to provide such support to children in the form of toys to talk to them and nudge towards certain behaviours. However, such solutions can only make people more isolated and lose human touch and engagement with fellow human beings.  

Another challenge is the way an AI system is trained to build its capability. It is based on the quality and the kind of data used for the training. This can skew the way AI develops its abilities and hence may not be able to provide a wholistic picture or the contextual nuances necessary for appropriate decision-making. As a wiseman said, a computer will never make a mistake, as it just follows the instructions it is programmed to follow. This brings back the focus to humans who are creating these AI systems, their motivations and values. 

Another issue is the difference between the facts and the interpretation of them in a context. These interpretations are highly contextual and are driven by the assumptions. Unless we validate these assumptions, we can not be sure about the validity of the decisions. Does an AI system provide decisions based on facts or the interpretation? Can it assume certain inputs and then provide them as the preconditions to the suggested decisions? These are some critical facts that need to be understood before deciding to replace teachers with AI.    

Looking at these challenges, we can conclude that teachers still have a role to play in the process of education. With the responsibility of providing information and facts delegated to the information systems and AI, teachers can now focus on their real job, nurturing and building the character and values of the learners. They should be more focused on student engagement. Pushing their boundaries to develop their cognitive abilities and exposing them to different contexts would be the focus.  

The modern learning happens in three ways- instructor guided, algorithm guided, and peer guided. The segregation of the content into these three components becomes important. This reduces the load on teachers, while encouraging independent learning. Another aspect is the way learning is adapted to suit the learner needs. Generic approach is the traditional way, where the same content is provided to everyone in the same sequence. Macro-adaptive approach considers individual goals and objectives. Micro-adaptive approach considers real-time progress and performance.  AI can be helpful in such advanced facilitation of learning through macro and micro adaptations.  

The new age learners are more interested to know WHY rather than WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHO, and HOW. This pushes the teachers to think more about the causation, bringing analysis and synthesis into the learning process. This poses a challenge to the teachers following traditional pedagogy. Teacher training should shift gears and start focusing on these aspects, integrating the information systems into the classroom. They need to learn how to use AI for improving the learning effectiveness. Teachers should focus more on building the thinking processes rather than rote learning models. The assessments should shift in nature, focusing more on application of knowledge.   

In conclusion, while AI cannot replace the teachers, an adaptation of AI capabilities for redefining teachers’ role and improving learning effectiveness, is an immense opportunity and need of the hour, for improving the learning outcomes and realizing the true purpose of education.

About the Author  

Flt. Lt. Sridhar is a Startup Ecosystem Builder, Keynote Speaker, Author, Researcher, and Entrepreneur. Sridhar’s mission is to help Entrepreneurs and startups achieve incredible success through exponential growth. He brings insights and lessons from three decades of hands-on startup and business leadership experience in various verticals. Sridhar uses six different thinking processes, including systems thinking and design thinking, and helps entrepreneurs create breakthrough solutions through his unique coaching process. Sridhar launched and ran four businesses. He is a certified Startup Mentor from the Confederation of Indian Industries. 

Add a comment & Rating

View Comments