Faculty partnered with the Department for Education and the National Institute of Teaching to explore how GenAI can support teachers and students.

We’ve all heard the saying that a great teacher can transform a child’s life. Stephen Hawking certainly believed this, once crediting his love of mathematics to a teacher who, in his words, ‘opened his eyes to it as a blueprint of the universe itself.’ 

Teachers are, after all, much more than educators. They are role models, mentors, and a vital support network for young people, equipping them with skills and knowledge for life.

Despite this, they don’t always have the time or resources to do what they do best. In addition to the many challenges they face, administrative tasks now consume a significant amount of their time. To put it in perspective, a recent government study found teachers are spending on average two hours a day completing admin-related tasks. Precious time they’d rather spend teaching.

Could generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) lighten the administrative load for teachers giving them more time to spend with students?

This is the core question we set out to answer in our two-day hackathon with the Department for Education this week. 

Hosted at our office in London, the event brought together government ministers, teachers, scientists, education leaders, and pupils from London schools to explore how GenAI can be used to support teachers and students.

The two days flew by, but we managed to cover a lot of ground and explore many promising ideas. Here are some of the key highlights and lessons learned:

Teach me and I’ll remember, involve me and I learn

One of the most inspiring moments of the two days was watching senior government ministers, Secretary of State Gillian Keegan and Education Minister Baroness Barran, sit down with the school children to explore the potential benefits of GenAI to support their learning.

It’s fair to say we were all blown away by how confident and open the children were in sharing their thoughts, feelings, and concerns about the technology. They really got us all thinking!

Exploring how GenAI can assist teachers

Using GenAI to close gaps and free up teachers’ time

Baroness Barran kicked off the second day of the event by sharing her enthusiasm for what GenAI can do to tackle, as she described, some of the ‘thorniest issues in education’, namely;

  • Closing the achievement gap for students from disadvantaged backgrounds or those with special educational needs.
  • Reducing the burden of labour-intensive, manual tasks.

Following these themes, we ran several sessions with teachers, education leaders, and ministers to identify areas where GenAI could deliver most value.

Here are some of the most promising areas we identified:

Using GenAI to better understand each student’s needs

Teachers have a lot of decisions to make every day. Many of these decisions require data, such as determining a student’s learning and intervention needs. But, unfortunately, as things stand, inputting and gathering that data is extremely tedious and time-consuming. 

What if teachers could use GenAI to do the heavy lifting and analyse that data in a more personalised context? In this way, they can better understand why student outcomes differ and identify what factors are involved so they can target interventions and learning strategies.

Using GenAI to generate targeted content for lessons

Teachers spend a lot of time creating lesson plans. And there is no one-size-fits-all approach. To be valuable, plans need to be targeted to the needs of every child and aligned with the national curriculum, which is a tall order to do manually. 

What if teachers could use GenAI to create lesson plans, homework exercises, personalised worksheets and assignments for students based on the curriculum and to support content covered in class? Additionally, it could also be used to assess the effectiveness of interventions and help teachers decide what to do next.

Using GenAI to monitor progress and improve outcomes

It is much easier to solve problems when they are identified early, and the same applies to teaching. If teachers can easily identify students who are struggling, they can target the right interventions early. But again, this is not easy to do manually. 

What if GenAI could help teachers map student progress over time? Identifying problems at an early stage and recommending interventions that will fix the problem fast, and close the learning gap for all children. As a result, teachers could predict outcomes and prevent them by identifying patterns across a wide group of students.

Using GenAI to reduce the burden of admin

On top of teaching, teachers need to communicate regularly with students, carers, parents and other teachers. The school newsletter in particular can be a valuable way to keep everyone informed but it can take an enormous amount of time and effort to prepare. 

What if GenAI could support schools and teachers to create newsletters with ease? Turning them from a chore to a tool to differentiate the school. It could be a quick win to give teachers more time to spend with students while still showcasing all their great work.

Exploring how GenAI can assist students

In a practical workshop, our data scientists worked with school students to explore the benefits and limitations of GenAI.

Here are some of the top ideas the group came up with to boost their learning with GenAI:

  • Develop task outlines based on content covered in class
  • Identify relevant revision resources and supporting materials
  • Create a language buddy to improve skills and gain confidence in modern foreign languages
  • Brainstorm assignment ideas and explore different angles to take
  • Dig deeper into a topic your teacher has discussed in class
  • Analyse exam specifications and provide examples

We were thrilled to work and collaborate with such an inspiring group of people, all committed to using AI to improve the experience of teachers and outcomes for students.

What’s next?

We believe teachers must be at the forefront of the AI revolution, guiding students to use it for independent thinking, not as a blind path to follow but with a critical eye on its limitations. 

We hope this Hackathon will be the start of many more exciting discussions to come in this space. As Gillian Keegan put it, “Seeing this innovation first-hand made me very excited about the future. If we get this right, the opportunities are huge for both teachers and students.”

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About the Author

Emily is an expert in delivering AI projects for government clients, specialising in Natural Language Processing, Large Language Models, and deployment in secure and sensitive environments. Emily also has eight years of experience in the Civil Service, including two years in No 10 as senior policy adviser to the Prime Minister, running a large strategy team for the Cabinet Secretary, and in the Department for Education, as an internal consultant for the department’s most important programme delivery challenges. 

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