Gerardo Blanco, Associate Professor & Academic Director at Boston College’s Center for International Higher Education, brought a unique perspective to the Online Education Dialogue 2023. His focus on the evaluation of student learning in the context of AI and higher education provided a thought-provoking angle for the discussion.

In his keynote speech, Blanco outlined several key points:

  1. Authentic Assessment: Blanco emphasized the need to assess not only students’ knowledge but also their abilities. He stated, “We need to assess not only what students know but what they can do with what they know.” This claim underscores the shift in assessment focus brought about by AI, from knowledge memorization to knowledge application.
  2. High-Level Thinking: Blanco highlighted the importance of adjusting the direction of assessment towards high-level thinking. He suggested, “The focus of assessment should be on high-level thinking skills rather than repeated information recording.” This perspective invites a shift in assessment strategies, aligning with the broader trend in education towards fostering critical and creative thinking skills in students.
  3. AI’s Role in Assessment: Blanco emphasized the need for every college, every department, and every faculty member in every university to consider how to use AI in a more appropriate way for assessment in their respective areas. He acknowledged the potential of AI applications like ChatGPT in improving English writing and suggested, “traditional language polishing companies might need to redefine their roles in light of these developments.”
  4. AI Hallucination and Critical Thinking: Blanco touched on the issue of AI hallucination and the importance of critical thinking or higher-order thinking. He argued, “Higher-order thinking, which often includes critical thinking and creative thinking, is an area where AI cannot replace humans.” This claim, backed by his understanding of the limitations of AI, underscores the enduring value of human critical thinking skills in the era of AI.

During the panel discussion, Blanco further elaborated on his views on AI and assessment. He argued against efforts to ban the use of AI in education, calling them “useless” and “self-defeating.” Instead, he suggested, “There is potential in AI for promoting student learning, which should be the focus of educators.”

In response to a question about how to better educate or empower students with better critical thinking, Blanco suggested breaking critical thinking into its components and focusing on how students arrive at a particular conclusion. He stated, “We need to focus on the process of critical thinking, not just the final outcome.” This approach emphasizes the process of critical thinking, underscoring its importance in student learning.

Blanco’s insights into the role of AI in assessment and the importance of critical thinking provide a valuable perspective for educators and policymakers navigating the AI-driven transformation of higher education. His emphasis on authentic assessment and the application of knowledge, as well as his forward-looking stance on the potential of AI in education, offer a thought-provoking lens through which to view the future of higher education in the AI era.

In response to Blanco’s insightful remarks, I (Enoch Wong) found myself particularly drawn to his emphasis on the role of assessment as a feedback loop that enables growth and development. This resonated with me, as I believe that learning is about asking the right questions rather than merely providing the right answers. This perspective opens up numerous areas for future discussion and exploration.

Blanco’s emphasis on critical thinking was another point that struck me. It was a theme that many other speakers also highlighted, indicating its significance in the context of AI and higher education. This led me to pose two key questions to Blanco: How can we better educate or empower students with better critical thinking? And what are the practical steps being taken at Boston College to foster critical thinking among students? These questions were not merely rhetorical; they were intended to delve deeper into the practical implications of Blanco’s arguments and to explore how his theoretical insights could be translated into concrete educational practices.

The ongoing debate about the use of AI tools like ChatGPT in education was another topic that I found myself drawn to. I pointed out that some universities have outright banned these tools, and I was curious about Blanco’s stance on this issue. I asked him to share his reasoning and thought process on this matter, emphasizing the importance of understanding the potential benefits and challenges of integrating AI into education. This question was intended to provoke a deeper reflection on the ethical and practical implications of AI in education, a topic that is often overlooked in discussions about the technological aspects of AI.

In response to Blanco’s insights on how to integrate AI to enhance student learning, I expressed my appreciation. I agreed with his perspective that AI should be seen as a tool to enable students to learn better, rather than something to be avoided. This perspective aligns with my own belief that technology should be harnessed to enhance human capabilities, rather than replace them.

As we continue to explore the role of AI in higher education, I believe it is crucial to keep these discussions grounded in the realities of classroom practice and student learning. Blanco’s insights have provided a valuable starting point for this exploration, but there is still much to be done. How can we ensure that AI tools are used responsibly and ethically in education? How can we leverage these tools to enhance critical thinking and other essential skills among students? These are questions that require ongoing reflection and dialogue among educators, researchers, and policymakers. (And of course, I hope readers like yourself can be a part of this exciting conversation! Comment below and like me know what you think.)

In conclusion, my engagement with Blanco’s insights during the Online Education Dialogue was marked by a deep appreciation for his nuanced understanding of the role of AI in higher education and a shared commitment to fostering critical thinking and ethical responsibility among students. I believe that our exchange of ideas has enriched the dialogue and opened up new avenues for exploration and discussion.

As we continue to navigate the complexities of integrating AI into higher education, I invite you to reflect on these insights and join the conversation. How do you see the role of critical thinking in the age of AI? How can we leverage AI tools like ChatGPT to enhance student learning without compromising academic integrity? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and continuing this important conversation.

Note: “OED Host Reflect” is a series where the OED Host (Enoch Wong, Senior Advisor of Online Education and International Cooperation at Tsinghua University) summarizes messages delivered by speakers during the OED while attempting to make additional contributions to further discussion around the topic. Moreover, the views and opinions expressed in this program are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities they represent. Last but not least, you are most welcome to watch the replay of OED at:

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