347. CATs and AI

Classroom assessment techniques, initially developed at a time when chalk-and-talk instruction was the norm, helped to shift the focus from teacher-centered to learner-centered instruction. In this episode, Todd Zakrajsek joins us to discuss how generative AI can enhance these techniques by providing more immediate feedback.

Todd is an Associate Research Professor and Associate Director of a Faculty Development Fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also the director of four Lilly conferences on evidence-based teaching and learning. Todd is the author of many superb books, and has published five books (so far) in the past five years. His most recent book is a 3rd edition of Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, with Thomas A. Angelo.

Show Notes


John: Classroom assessment techniques, initially developed at a time when chalk-and-talk instruction was the norm, helped to shift the focus from teacher-centered to learner-centered instruction. In this episode, we explore how generative AI can enhance these techniques by providing more immediate feedback.


John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.

Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…

John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer…

Rebecca: …and features guests doing important research and advocacy work to make higher education more inclusive and supportive of all learners.


Rebecca: Our guest today is Todd Zakrajsek. Todd is an Associate Research Professor and Associate Director of a Faculty Development Fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also the director of four Lilly conferences on evidence-based teaching and learning. Todd is the author of many superb books, and has published five books (so far) in the past five years. His most recent book is a 3rd edition of Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, with Thomas A. Angelo. Welcome back, Todd.

Todd: Thank you, Rebecca.

John: It’s nice talking to you again. It’s been a while. I think the last time was last summer.

Todd: Really? It seems like yesterday. Time goes by. It was last summer. You came to my office and recorded.

John: That’s right.

Todd: It was fun. You left me a really nice set of tea. Wooh.

John: And a mug.

Todd: Yes, I have a mug for the show. [LAUGHTER]

John: Speaking of teas, [LAUGHTER] today’s teas are:… Todd, are you drinking tea?

Todd: Every time I’ve been on this program I’ve been drinking tea and I’ve had some pretty exotic brands and blends but, I’m sorry, today I have water, the lightest of all teas.

Rebecca: It’s a very light tea. I have English Tea Time tea.

John: I have Lady Grey today.

Rebecca: That’s a good choice.

Todd: Alright, I think I came in third place.

John: We’ve invited you here today to discuss classroom assessment techniques. The first two editions to this book were written by Thomas de Angelo and K. Patricia Cross. In last week’s podcast, Tom joined us to discuss the origin of this book, where you joined as a contributor for the current third edition of this classic book. What was your reaction when you were first asked to join in this project?

Todd: Well, this is actually kind of a funny one, because it goes back to Linda Nilson and Teaching at its Best. And Linda was retiring, and the publisher, Jossey-Bass wanted to do a new edition of Teaching at its Best, and Linda says “Why don’t you see if you get Todd to do it and I will work with him on it and do it.” And we did it. And we got the book done a little bit early and on schedule, and it came out very, very well. So there’s a little plug for that book there. And it must have been about two months later, I had called them and said: “If you find another project like this, I love working with people like this.” And a couple of months later, I got a phone call and they said “We have another project we’d like to potentially have you work on” and I said: “Great, what is it?”… and they said: “Have you ever heard of the book Classroom Assessment Techniques?” And I held it together, and I said, “Well, yeah, yes, I have.” And they said, “Well, we thought it’d be helpful given what you do and what Tom does and everything, is maybe the two of you could work together on this book.” And so he talked a little bit about what there was and everything, and I hung up the phone and did a little happy dance because this book was one of the most influential books in my entire career. But the way the universe works is I ended up doing this one because of the work with Linda Nilson’s. And so that’s how I got started on this.

Rebecca: That’s amazing.

John: And, I agree, that is an excellent book as well. So you’ve got two classic books that you’ve worked on recently.

Todd: It’s really surreal, you know, a first-generation college student and every once awhile is kind of like I just can’t believe this is happening. But it was a really good project.

Rebecca: When did you first start using classroom assessment techniques in your classes? You mentioned that this book was influential.

Todd: I taught my very first course in 1987-1988. This book came out, second edition, 1993. And I was using it pretty much the moment it came out. Somebody had pointed it out to me and I didn’t know anything about classroom assessment techniques, and then I started reading through it and picking some out. I thought it was genius. Much like periodically, what you’ll do is you look at something and think this is ridiculous that nobody started doing this before. In some respects, it’s not that hard, right? You ask people questions, and you find out if they’re learning. It just took Tom and Pat to come along and say, “Why don’t we come up with strategies to find out if they’re actually learning.” So I think it was really influential for me because it kind of struck that chord with me that I always believed we should be finding out how much students were learning instead of focusing on teaching. But that’s not what was going on at the time, everybody was focused on teaching-centered educational practices.

John: What do you find most valuable about these classroom assessment techniques?

Todd: It’s interesting, because there’s a couple different levels. The one that’s really valuable, of course, is you find out if students are learning. Secondarily, you can find out if you’re teaching well, and you can change your teaching practices based on what they’re learning and based on what’s going on. But I’ll tell you the real reason I think this is really, really valuable is it addresses equity issues very, very cleanly. We walk into classrooms with all kinds of preconceived notions and stereotypes and implicit biases. And it’s really, really easy to think that a student’s struggling for a certain reason, unless you ask them. And so, for several of these strategies, I think it’s great because I’ve had students that have been practically sleeping through every class and then I started doing the classroom assessment techniques and he had some of the best responses, this one student did. And I would just totally blown away that this person was just processing it to such a level and I had a preconceived notion based on where the person sat and how they dressed and how they acted in class. I didn’t think they knew anything or they didn’t think they were learning and they really were. So I think it’s huge for equity and overcoming some of the biases we have in our classrooms.

Rebecca: That’s a really good example to underscore the importance of that. We had the opportunity to ask Tom what his favorite classroom assessment techniques are. So I’m really looking forward to asking you the same question: what are your favorites?

Todd: I’m one who says over and over again, in education, that we should always be careful about absolutes. Like, there’s never a strategy that always works. There’s never a type of student that’s always the best. Any situation can change. So there’s like 55 CATs in there. And I listened to the program with Tom and I heard him say that he didn’t have his favorites. And then he quickly picked out his favorites, and I’m sure it’s the same with his daughters. [LAUGHTER] So I have three girls, you know, they changed the favorites, I would definitely go with the standards of the muddiest point minute paper, those two are the big ones. Everybody’s done a minute paper, probably at some point. The muddiest point I like, which was the adaptation. And if you haven’t heard this show with Tom, make sure you listen to that, because he explains that very well. I think I like exam wrappers where you go in and kind of have the students talk about the exam experience. But for me, there’s several CATs that are based specifically on assessments. And it’s the thing that we almost never ask students for, and it’s the thing they can give us the best feedback on. So it’s like, when you have group activities, it’s an assessment on how well the students perceived that the activity worked for them. So instead of me just saying, we did a great group project today, you ask the students: “Was this a good group project?” There’s assessments in there about learning interests, what types of things you’re interested in, your study strategies, exam strategy. So you can ask students those things. And I think those make great classroom assessment techniques, to find out the processes that you’re doing, and how the students are receiving those.

Rebecca: Those are good opportunities to respond in the moment in your class, but also probably plan in the future too, to know what to do next time around, perhaps.

Todd: Yeah, I think specifically for exams. And one of the favorite questions I’ve always had on exams, because the students would get to a point where, and I got this, because of one of the assessment techniques I’d use early on, is students always were frustrated that there was something on the test that they studied really, really hard for, and it wasn’t on there. The problem was, it wasn’t always the same. So the students all had different things they studied. So because of collecting that information, and finding out from the students as they were frustrated, I started adding a new question at the end of every exam worth the same as some of the other questions there, was: “Please describe in detail something that you study that I didn’t ask you about on this test.” And students immediately felt better about the exams, they were happier with the test, because they didn’t spend four hours memorizing something that they perceived wasn’t valued on the test, even though the real reason for all of this stuff is life, not the test. But again, that was one from just asking the students: “What do you like and not like about the test?”

John: That’s a really great application of a technique that I hadn’t thought about, I can see how students would feel that their voices are being heard with that type of thing.

Rebecca: …or that their efforts were validated.

Todd: They got their points for their studying, and it just really seriously changed the affect of the class.

John: In the last podcast we did with you last summer, we talked a little bit about how teaching has changed from the time when you and I both started teaching, and this book was written back around the time when you and I were both relatively new at this. What role do you think this book has played in that evolution of instructional practices?

Todd: Well, first of all, I do want to acknowledge and help people just really understand the difference between 1993 and 2023. Some of the things we took out of the book was “display your results on an overhead projector,” there was no mention of the internet anywhere in that book, because the internet wasn’t here yet. Just stop and think about that for a second. So it was a very different time. A lot of heavy lectures. I mean, a lot of times people were lecturing, there were other activities, or other strategies, there was group work and role plays and those types of things. But primarily people are lecturing, because that’s just what people did, primarily. And so the role that this played, I would say, I don’t know if I’ve ever said this before. I think this book had a bigger influence on higher education than any other single book that’s out that I know of. There are some really, really good books out there. But this fundamentally changed the game. Because what it did was it started asking students about their learning, which means it started to really shift the focus from teaching to learning. This did happen to come along, by the way, if you really look at dates, the whole concept of really pushing active learning in higher education, at least in the United States, really took off in the mid- and late-1990s. So 1996 to 1998, we started seeing people like Richard Hake, do some huge studies about this. American Association of Higher Education was changing their themes from taking teaching seriously to taking learning seriously, all of those things happened about three to five years after this book came out. So I think this was the impetus for a huge, huge aspect of the whole push for moving from teaching to learning. I think it had that big of an impact.

Rebecca: In recent months ChatGPT has hit the news everywhere. We’ve heard all kinds of reports in higher education journals and things. accreditation organizations are talking about AI. And many faculty members are also talking about potential harms of AI or other see benefits. What do you think the impact of AI tools will be on higher education practices? …speaking of evolution… [LAUGHTER]

Todd: I don’t have the statistic right in front of me, but there was one I did a presentation just recently on how long it took to get to a million users. And they were talking about some things like Netflix and other things of taking two and a half years, and then six months and stuff. And I believe ChatGPT was five days. So it’s pretty incredible. So Rebecca, I love the question. I think this is a huge issue. The two biggest things that I heard out of the gate was: number one is how are we going to ever have students do their own work again? It was all academic integrity all over the place. And I couldn’t help but talk to a couple of people who were really freaking out about it and I said, “You should really read some of the research about academic integrity already and the proportion of students who are doing things that they shouldn’t be doing, so to speak, there.” And so that was it… academic integrity. And number two was like, “What kind of assignments should we do now? How do we structure assignments to be meaningful?” And I find this fascinating, because they weren’t talking about the learning process. And I still, to this very moment, I’m just starting to hear it now, but I have not heard much of anything about how can we use generative AI to influence the learning process in a positive way. And so I think that’s the huge thing we need to be looking at. So I guess the people who do know me, know me as the individual who writes a lot about helping students to learn and teaching tips in the classrooms kind of things. I think from a cognitive psychologist’s point of view, we can look at some of the foundational things like: we know that repetition is really good, we know that the process of explaining something really helps because it’s a chance for you to practice at retrieving information. We know spaced recall is really good. And there’s all these things out there that can kind of do that. But I’ll tell you, and I’m coming right back to the CATs, but ChatGPT and some of the other generative AI has some phenomenal opportunities. We know that teaching this is good. So I opened up by ChatGPT 4 the other day, and I was practicing and I typed in: I need to learn about metacognition, would it be okay if I taught you metacognition, and then you tell me how good of a teacher I am. And the chatGPT says, “Yeah, this will be fun. So let’s get started.” And I said, “Okay,” and so I explained metacognition. And ChatGPT asked me some questions like, “Well, what does this mean? And what does that mean? …and I acted just like I was teaching somebody. And then when I was all done, I said, “If I were a teacher, right now, how would you grade me?” And I did not get a good grade [LAUGHTER] which was kind of disconcerting there. But I said, “Why did I not get a good grade on this? And then it explained a section that I had completely forgotten, because I was doing this off the top of my head to try it. So I went back and explained that. And then ChatGPT says, “That’s much better.” I think that’s phenomenal. Another one, I will not get into details, but I typed in, or I gave it the prompt… it’s all about the prompts folks… “That I just learned in my introductory psychology class at a medium-sized, midwestern university. I’m a C-level student who’s worked really hard, and what I just learned were about persuasive techniques. Could we pretend we’re on a car lot, and I’m a salesperson, and you’re going to buy a new car, and you think you want to buy it today, but you’re not going to rush into anything.” And ChatGPT says, “This sounds like fun. Tell me about your best selling model.” [LAUGHTER] And I proceeded to explain all these things. And the scariest one is I said, “This Ford van right here has excellent ratings for safety.” And it said, “That’s particularly important for someone with a loved one and two furry friends.” So the learning possibilities are all over the place for this thing. And so for classroom assessment techniques, this is great, because we can actually teach students some strategies, how in the classroom, how to assess whether they’re learning. We can replicate these and have them do them with AI. So we could use AI to do things we couldn’t do before. But we can also do it to model things for students that they can do on their own. So I think there’s some really, really interesting possibilities coming along.

John: And one interesting one is if you ask ChatGPT for your biography, you may very well turn out to be a car dealer in the Midwest.

Todd: You know what, I’m just gonna jump in there and say that is totally true when ChatGPT was about six months old, because I did it. I said, “Write a letter of recommendation for Todd Zakrajsek… and you probably saw this, why you even mentioned it… and I think it had 19 things I counted in there and this term of hallucinations, but 17 of the 19 things were wrong, including where I went to school where I worked and everything else. That was when ChatGPT was a baby. I asked it the same thing just recently, and it was scary, how close it just nailed everything. But yeah, it was for a while.

John: It’s improved quite a bit, but one of the nice things about it is our students come in with really diverse backgrounds and we can provide supportive materials for students when they have some gaps in their prior learning. But, ChatGPT offers the possibility of having something that’s completely personalized to their needs, so that they can ask questions that are specific to the issues that they’re having trouble with, and not what we might have guessed they’d be having trouble with. So, it’s something I’ve encouraged my students to use in my intro economics course, and they appreciated the fact that they were encouraged to use it,

Todd: I think that individualized instruction is going to take on a whole new level. And so I think that’s going to go crazy. But I will say this, and I think it’s extremely important. I’ve been in higher education for 40 years, I have never seen a bigger possibility for an equity gap to be the widest chasm it could ever be. I think we got equity problems that are down the road. And if we don’t pay attention, it’s going to be awful, because I believe that generative AI is going to be a huge learning aid, and it’s going to help us with lots of things, for the people who have it available to them, they will skyrocket and be able to do stuff; the people who don’t have it available… reliable internet, a good computer, or some kind of a device, a safe place to sleep at night… those individuals are not going to be on that tract and they’re gonna get separated. Right now, there’s a couple of grade differences between people who are privileged and not in some classes. That could widen so much. So I think, everybody, we just got to really be careful about how to make sure that this was as equitable as possible for everybody.

Rebecca: Higher ed leadership at various colleges and universities are certainly dancing around the idea of AI and what kinds of policies and procedures to put into place. What would you advocate for? What would you encourage faculty members to advocate for to really make sure that equity is addressed?

Todd: I think one of the very first things we need to do is teach students how to use it properly. Because one thing we know about learning is, the more you know about something, the easier it is to learn something related to that topic, whatever the thing is, and what that means is that learning is not linear, it’s curvilinear. The more you know, the easier it is to learn something, which means you’re going to know more quickly, and as you know more quickly, you’re going to be able to learn more quickly. And this is why people struggle at the beginning with things and then all of a sudden they take off. So if some students know how to use the systems, and some don’t, that’s where we’re going to run into some huge issues. So I think one of the things we can do is teach students how to use it to help you, and when to be careful that it’s not going to help you. The movie Wall-E is a great thing to be keeping in mind. If you haven’t seen the movie Wall-E, it’s a plug for the movie Wall-E, it came out a long time ago, but that concept of the humans that had everything done for them ended up becoming just blobs that laid in chairs all the time, and I think our brains basically do that. If students use AI to do their work, they’re not going to develop critical thinking skills. If students use AI to help them to practice at retrieval and spaced out practice and do those things, they could become very good. So I think schools need to be careful about helping students to understand how this can really help them. That’s the first thing. Then there’s the obvious, helping people to have access to technology, we could have labs open, we could have laptops that we can loan to people, reliable internet, we could have rooms that we keep open 24 hours a day, keep them 24/7 there. Some libraries during exam time, they don’t close for like four or five days. We could have rooms in the library that people can come and have safe spaces to study and work, reliable transportation is going to be an issue, we’re just gonna have to work out how do we address those issues. It’s gonna be a challenge, but we need to be thinking about it.

John: The use of classroom assessment techniques has been growing steadily since they were first introduced. And each time there’s been new educational technology, it seems to have led to an increased use of those. During that time, we’ve seen the introduction of relatively low-cost computers, computer networks, the internet, mobile computers, and so forth. How do you think the availability of generative AI will affect the use and value of classroom assessment techniques.

Todd: I think there’s a couple things that’s going to really, really change. I think for classroom assessment techniques, number one is we’re going to be able to individualize a little bit more. So we can tailor… we don’t have to ask the same question of all the students, we don’t have to look for all the same type of responses. So we can think about it a little more creatively in how we can use it, almost like an individualized instruction toward classroom assessment. Probably the biggest thing, though, overall, is it’s going to allow us to just process data in numbers and levels we’ve never seen before, and particularly free responses. In the past, we’ve often ask closed-ended questions just because if you’ve got a class with 400 students, you can say: “On a scale of one to five, to what extent did today’s lecture help you to understand something?” And the students can pick a number, we could drop that into an excel sheet, or anything, and come up with a number very quickly. We can now say on a muddiest point, “What are you still struggling with?” Take 400 responses, dump them into a generative AI program and have it spit out five things within 30 seconds:” Here are the five things your students are struggling with.” So I think it’s going to allow us to do more qualitative types of things very quickly. And I totally get that this is not hardcore qualitative research with good analysis of the data. But for what I need in the classroom, I think we’re gonna be able to get those responses very quickly and in real time. So what that means is, we’re actually going to be able to ask something like a muddiest point at halfway through the class, and then I could have the students do a quick think-pair-share, while I analyze the information and a matter of three minutes later, they come out of the think-pair-share, to talk a little bit about what they talked about. And then I could say, I see that you’re still struggling with these concepts, so let’s revisit these things before they ever leave the room. That’s never been possible before.

John: When I’ve been teaching classes of two to 400 students, I’ve used the free response option and word cloud. But the word cloud is just highlighting individual words, the ability to do analysis in more detail is going to be incredible. And I think most providers of response software are working on introducing AI, and some of it is expected to be available fairly soon.

Todd: Oh, there’s some great stuff come check GPT and some terribly scary stuff at the same time. By the way before I forget this, because I have to tell you this because I have ADD, that’s one of my favorite phrases.ChatGPT 5,, one of the things I read about that’s going to be coming up fairly soon is the ability for it to launch his own AI’s as needed. That’s the one that we’ve been waiting for, and thinking, “Hmmm, that’ll be interesting.” But yeah, I think that the ability to read through and look through the information is just going to be a game changer. And online synchronous/asynchronous, face-to-face in all environments. We could look at stuff in asynchronous environments in ways we haven’t before as well. I could look at different ways that students are responding, I could ask classroom assessment techniques. In fact, they’re in the book. We have several of them… ways to use CATs in asynchronous environments, and AI is changing how we’re doing it.

Rebecca: Can you give an example of how that’s happening in asynchronous environments?

Todd: In terms of asynchronous environments, everybody likes to go to discussion boards, but quite frankly, discussion boards are boring. We could have students generate something like the script for a commercial. And after they do that, I could have the CAT that comes in to say, “To what extent was this helpful in the learning process for you?” And the student, as they’re developing this thing and as submitting it they could also submit, right along with it, their CAT that comes with it, and then I could be reading the CATs as they come in one by one right behind each one of them. And so the concept, there, would be kind of a real time CAT analysis that’s not waiting until there’s a whole group and then looking at the group. Because typically, when we think about these CATs, it’s like, the 400 students fill out a muddiest point and we analyze the 400 students. We don’t need to do that. In an asynchronous environment, we can have these CATs coming in and we can be analyzing them as they come in. And we could even add them to the previous ones, to group them if we wanted to. But the bigger one is, I can find out how the students are doing as they’re doing. So that’s probably one way to look at it.

Rebecca: One of the things that you mentioned in an in-person or a synchronous setting was being able to analyze results mid class. And that’s in part because a lot of our students have mobile devices and technology that they bring with them that they haven’t had before. Do you see other ways that these mobile devices are also changing the way instructors might implement CATs?

Todd: The way you just mentioned, though, I can’t think of many other than the concept of as an information gathering device. I will say, just because I happened to read this study just a little bit ago here, the devices are very interesting, in a sense that we’ve seen high schoolers tend to have the same amount of time they spent with their peers was very consistent until about 2012. And in 2012, the numbers started dropping off pretty quickly. And then COVID dropped it even faster, but the slope was already there. And the point here is that people are turning their attention to devices so much that they’re not talking to each other exhibited by when you see two people at a restaurant having dinner, and each one of them are on their device. There’s all kinds of psychology about how those things happen. But the overarching thing that’s the issue is that we’re having students at levels we’ve never seen before disengaged in the classroom, even when we’re trying to do CATs and engage. And part of that is because of the devices. So one of the things that’s kind of interesting about this is when you say: “Okay, everybody gets your devices out, and now we’re going to use them for a CAT.” And then we stick with that and how we use that data makes a big difference of whether they stick with it or go back to what they were doing. Strategically, it’s really helpful to use those devices to engage the students.

John: One concern with generative AI is many of the types of assessments we’ve used before can be answered very nicely by generative AI. What might we do to reduce the likelihood that students will use generative AI as a substitute for learning?

Todd: I think it’s really, really important to talk to students about the long-term implications. I know this is not going to be for everybody. I totally get that. But one thing I’d say to students is: “I don’t understand why anybody would run, why would anybody go jogging? You can just get in your car and get there faster.” So if you kind of pitch that to them, that idea is for most of the students, if there are any kind of health-related fields, or if they want to have a cardiac system later in life, exercise is just one of the most important things you can do for your body, by the way, in terms of that getting 150 minutes per week, and just higher respiration. If you take that away, it is bad for the human body. And so the response is the same thing is true of this. Just talking to the students. If you use generative AI to answer your homework problems, to develop the quizzes, to write a poem, and I’ve done all of these in workshops, where I’ve said to people, I can do this real quickly. I don’t care who’s in this room, I can ask you to write a short story. And I will crush you with generative AI. The problem is that, if I do that, I don’t learn how to think for myself. And so I think the biggest thing we can do for students, number one is to build community in the classroom, to number two, to tell them what this all means, and then number three, ask them, ask them, how it’s helping them, ask them how it’s hurting them, how they believe these things are working. And those are classroom assessment techniques, we can use these assessment techniques to find out to the extent that they’re doing this. While I’m on my little diatribe, we will never be at this spot again in our lives. We have just developed something that can totally short circuit cognitive processing and critical thinking. But we did it with people who have critical thinking skills and cognitive processing. So we developed something because earlier in our lives, we had to learn in the ways of joggers, we had to develop our systems. And now we can talk about the automobiles that would move as faster. The students coming along are going to step right into those automobiles, right into the AI, and if they’re never told that it’s important to go out jogging, they’re not going to develop the systems that are going to be needed later. And so again, just think about this for a second, we’ve developed a system using a system that may disappear if we’re not careful. And so I think that’s where we can change it. So it boils down to community, why we’re using it, and then assessment questions of how it can be used, and where it’s good and bad.

Rebecca: I think students really enjoy having conversations about AI and exploring how it’s useful and not. I have had activities in my class where we intentionally used AI to see what it was like and when it would be useful and also analyze where maybe they tried to use it and it was totally not helpful, and why it wasn’t. And they really appreciated those kinds of conversations and learned a lot from those.

Todd: I think the students do. And we could pick different spots in history. You go back to Socrates and his whole belief that if you write things down, it weakens the mind. It makes sense. If you have to learn it, you’re going to be much stronger than if you write it down. But I can’t imagine right now teaching without students writing things down. And Samuel Johnson came along several 100 years ago and said, “There’s ready availability of books. With books all around, why would we really need to teach this stuff, they can just go get a book.” I can’t imagine teaching without books right now. So these things that everybody got scared about, or thought that just going to change just became integrated. And when the internet came about, we talked about this a while back, in the sense that many of us were teaching before the internet actually showed up. But when it showed up the people who were teaching were freaked out. “How am I supposed to teach when the students can go and get anything they want off their computer?” And now I can’t imagine teaching without the internet. I believe five years from now people are going to say I can’t imagine teaching without writing things down, without using some kinds of print format, without using the internet, and without using generative AI. I don’t even know how I would teach without it. What that’s going to need is the same stuff we’ve done in the past, that’s how do you teach well with the Internet? How do you teach well with generative AI?

John: It’s an exciting time to be in the midst of all these changes. And it’s going to be interesting to see how we all answer those questions as we move forward.

Todd: It is, but before we wrap up, because I can tell that tone, [LAUGHTER] I want to put a general call out that there are several people who are saying: “I wish I could retire right now” or “This is a great time to retire.” The statement I really want to make is this is a hideous time to retire if you’re really good at what you’re doing. Because we have never needed humans with really good critical thinking skills as much as we do now, maybe we will later, but to date I don’t believe we ever have. And for some of the people who are saying “I just don’t want to teach anymore. This is awful…” we might need you more than we’ve ever needed you, so I don’t like this concept of the mass exodus of certain people.

Rebecca: It’s an important point.

John: One other thing I will add is Paul Samuelson once said, in describing the way in which models of the economy evolved, that “funeral by funeral, the science makes progress.” So there is the counter argument there too, that people who are very tied into the old ways of teaching do need to either adapt or perhaps they’ll be replaced by people who are more willing to try new alternatives.

Todd: Do I smell a little Kuhn in there? The revolution of science. Ah yes.

Rebecca: And we always wrap up by asking: “What’s next?”

Todd: I’m trying to keep busy. I’m kind of on a roll right now. And I want to tell you, I’ve been writing books and the only reason I’m unhappy about ChatGPT and gen-AI come along is people are going to assume that I’m using them so that I can crank stuff out. But thus far, I have not used any of this generative AI to write any of these last books that I’ve done, these five books in the last five years or something, and enjoyed working with Tom on this one. But I got another one coming out in about four months. I just turned in the final pages for that And it’s the Essentials of the New Science of Learning: the power of learning in harmony with your brain. That book should be out in a couple of months. And so the what’s next after that, I am working on a book right now for helping with neurodivergent learners. We’ve joked around in the past, I’ve got ADHD is about as bad as it gets. If it were a competition, I could come in probably close to first place, and also on the autism spectrum just a little bit too. And when I started sitting down with some of my colleagues who also have ADHD and autism spectrum, it occurred to me, we don’t talk to students enough about these things. And I think the challenge of that is that the students believe that they’re alone, and they’re not sure they can do things. And I was talking to a student fairly recently that said, “I now believe I have a shot, here you are with a PhD, you’ve written books, if you’ve got ADHD, as bad as you claim you do, maybe I can do something.” And then that’s when I really really was getting serious about we need to help folks out. And the topic I’ve been playing around with a little bit in a couple of workshops is The Ones Too Often Left Behind as the title I’m using. And it’s the students that aren’t built for the system that we developed. And so I think that we need to treat some folks out there a little differently. And I think we can really build up the pool of intelligent folks by helping to teach the people who just learn in a different way.

Rebecca: It’s really important work to have models and put models out in front of students because they need to see themselves in whatever discipline, field, etc., that they want to pursue. I’m excited to hear more about that.

John: And when will these books be out? You mentioned the timeframe for one of them.

Todd: The Essentials for the New Science of Learning should be out in September. And then the other one, if everything goes well, is probably looking at a February date that it would probably be available.

Rebecca: Well, it sounds like we’ll be talking to you soon then, Todd.

Todd: We may be. When you got ADHD pretty bad, you just can’t really predict when that books gonna be. But yeah, I’d love to chat with you when it does finally emerge.

John: And what are you going to do next week?

Todd: You know what? You gave me a great idea. I think we should do a book on procrastinating people with ADHD. [LAUGHTER]

John: It’s always great talking to you. And we’re looking forward to each of these projects coming to fruition and we will be talking to you about each of them, we’re hoping.

Todd: I appreciate the opportunity to come and chat with you. I think you two do a phenomenal job with your interviews and the programs that you pull together on really good topics and I just am honored to be one of the guests.

John: Thank you.

Rebecca: Yeah, thanks. We always enjoy talking to you.


John: If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. To continue the conversation, join us on our Tea for Teaching Facebook page.

Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.

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