Why A.I will never replace teachers.

Why A.I cannot replace physical teachers and classrooms:

As a teacher and leader with nearly two decades of experience in UK schools, and I passing interest in the uses of A.I I have seen first hand how “online learning” and “remote education” failed to prepare students for life, not all. For some who have school based anxiety or find the transition into the busy classroom a challenge and stressor they really provided a viable alternative.

While students had access to countless online resources and tools meant to facilitate remote learning, none were able to properly educate students. Artificial intelligence and chatbots are no exception. Only human teachers in physical classrooms can give students the education they need – maybe not the knowledge but the broader contexts in which we learn to apply knowledge.

Human Teachers and Soft Skills (Humanity)

Human teachers are necessary to teach soft skills through direct, in-person interaction and guidance. Building skills like teamwork, critical thinking, and public speaking requires repetition and feedback that can only come from a trained educator. These interactions shape behavioural and emotional development in students as well – something AI cannot do.

True, deep learning can only be assessed without technology. To evaluate mastery, students must demonstrate skills in entirely new scenarios with no aids or scaffolds. AI can never provide an accurate assessment since it has no way of monitoring if students use other resources. It can mark a multiple choice test of facts perfectly.

While technology like AI can be useful to supplement and support education, it should never be viewed as a replacement for human teachers and physical classrooms. Student disengagement is already an issue, and further removing the human element from education will only worsen it.

Children being taught guitar by a robot AI generated art teaching schools
Further Removing the Human Element from Education will Worsen it (AI generated image)

AI may be useful for accessing prior work, self-paced online courses, or specific how-to guides. It also shows promise for holistic assessment of student learning to provide more well-rounded accountability and encourage teaching beyond testing. AI could allow for individualised engagement of students at their level.

However, human educators provide intangible benefits and support that AI never could. Teachers build relationships and learn from experience in psychology and working with children in a way that AI is not able.

Why A.I Can’t Teach

Only physical teachers in physical classrooms can properly educate kids, and here’s why:

  1. ⁠A.I. cannot teach students soft skills that only develop from direct experience interacting in person with other human beings over many, many iterations. This interaction requires deliberate, planned facilitation from a human being who is a skilled collaborator and communicator. The Human Connection.
  2. ⁠A.I. cannot teach behavioural/emotional development. Once again, this can only be done by a mature adult who has experience in child psychology.
  3. ⁠A.I. cannot teach students how to evaluate quality of information, and thus how to tell the difference between fake and real news. A.I. does not care about truth. It only performs operations on information fed into its algorithms, and has no way to teach and assess critical thinking about that information.
  4. ⁠There is no mechanism in A.I. to assess real learning. What I mean by this is that if I want to truly assess whether a student has mastered something, I must remove access to all scaffolds, differentiation, resources, etc, and then ask the student to apply a learned skill to a new, never-before-seen context. This entails removing access to a computer. A.I. will never know if a student looked at their phone, had a cheat sheet with them, etc, when completing a task on a computer.
  5. ⁠In person schools provide a lot more than just classrooms. As the cost of living crises widens the gap between children, schools are increasingly social support centres that provide food, shelter, clothing, and resources for entire communities, not just the students who go there.
  6. Mental Health – I truly believe mobile phones and social media have had an unmeasured and extensive negative impact on children’s mental health. We don’t yet know the impact of AI on this.

The Potential of AI in Learning

The gold standard of assessment of learning would be a brain scan that could evaluate mastery on a very complete level. But that is science fiction, and is not physically possible. A lesser but physically possible scenario would be students spending a full day at end of term demonstrating what they have learned by interacting individually with a panel of curriculum experts to get a very complete picture. Not economically feasible. So we could use sampling through carefully designed adaptive AI assessment. This can determine level of mastery of specific skills with reasonable accuracy.

AI Expert Assessment Panels

AI based assessment has the possibility to create the equivalent of being assessed by a panel of experts. A very thorough and deep assessment of learning. That in turn encourages the teacher to go beyond the rote and testable.

Students learn best when engaged. It takes a highly skilled teacher to adapt their planned learning to engage an entire class. Differentiated learning is very difficult to achieve. Like a good teaching assistant AI has the possibility to engage students individually or in small groups. It could bring the class to a level where all students can participate meaningfully in whole class debates or discussions. Providing individualised support or real time interpretation of questions.

Artificial Intelligence is still that, artificial. A.I is going to be a very powerful force in education and will be used to cut costs, replacing TA’s filling in shortage subjects, generating lesson plans. Maybe even supporting “tutors” to deliver lessons.

Why A.I will never replace teachers.

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