Navigating the Disruptive Waters of AI in Education
This article was written and edited entirely by ChatGPT following prompts by the editor.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly becoming a topic of significant interest in education circles, and for good reason. In recent weeks, OpenAI's language model ChatGPT has generated significant interest in this field. ChatGPT is a powerful tool that can be used to generate highly coherent and human-like text like this article.
One of the most exciting opportunities that AI presents for education is the ability to personalise learning by analysing the vast amount of student achievement data that schools generate and hold. With the help of AI, teachers can now create tailored learning plans for each individual student based on their strengths, weaknesses, and progress data. This can lead to a more engaging and effective learning experience for all students, while also freeing up valuable teacher time. Another application of AI in education is the ability to automatically mark written student responses and provide feedback on them.
As AI continues to become more integrated into the classroom, the role of the teacher is likely to evolve. While it is impossible to predict the exact future of AI in education, we can imagine a few scenarios. One potential outcome is that AI will take on more administrative and data-related tasks, allowing teachers to focus on the more human aspects of teaching, such as mentoring and building relationships with students. Another possibility is that AI will provide additional support in the form of personalised feedback and instruction, allowing teachers to better differentiate instruction for their students.
One of the significant concerns with the integration of AI in education is the possibility of cheating. To mitigate this issue, some educational institutions have already reintroduced paper-based exams. Others are considering to conduct oral examinations after assignments have been submitted, which allows teachers to assess a student's understanding of the material in real-time.
It is also worth mentioning that teacher training and awareness of the cheating possibilities with AI are key. Educators can be trained in the recognition of patterns of plagiarism and given methods to increase the security of their assessments.
As governing bodies of independent schools, it is important to be aware of the potential impact of AI on education and start engaging with it. In light of the advances in AI, several questions should be considered:
By asking these questions and others, governing bodies can help their schools make the most of the disruption that AI may bring to education.
Education will always place a strong emphasis on the development of critical thinking, creativity, and the ability to reason. These skills will be vital in the age of AI, and they are best nurtured by human teachers. With the right approach, the integration of AI in education can help to ensure that students are well-prepared for the future and ready to thrive in a rapidly changing world.
School Improvement and Governance
One of the main responsibilities of an independent school’s board is to ensure the school is achieving its educational mission. This achievement may be described, for example, in terms of academic results, student engagement and wellbeing metrics, post-school pathways, overall admission demand or parent and student satisfaction. Typically, school boards hold the principal accountable for such outcomes, but to what extent is the board’s own performance correlated to achieving these educational outcomes? Can the way a board governs have an impact?
There are several ways to conceptualise how an effective board may affect educational performance:
An interesting 2021 study across independent schools in Victoria by Loh et.al. (2021) questioned what board characteristics might impact the educational performance of schools. It found that board diversity, certain board practices, and a principal’s influence over the board’s decisions are correlated not only with the financial but also the academic performance of the school.
Key insights of the study:
The study encourages boards to continue a focus on board diversity and board member engagement, continuously reflecting on their independence of thought in relation to the principal and seeking out professional development opportunities to increase its effectiveness.
 Loh, C. M., Unda, L., Gong, Z., & Benati, K. (2021). Board effectiveness and school performance: a study of Australian independent schools. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 32(4), 650-673.
New Cyber Security Governance Principles
Recent director sentiment index results show that cyber security is the number one issue keeping Australian directors up at night. The cyber-attacks on Optus and Medibank highlight how all directors need to be vigilant in their oversight of cyber security risks, including how schools are protecting personal and sensitive information about their parents, students, and employees.
The AICD has collaborated with the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre to produce a set of Cyber Security Governance Principles which are summarised below. This guidance has been informed by extensive consultation with government, industry experts and the director community.
The principles provide a clear framework for board oversight of cyber security risk. They include several questions for directors to ask of management, and a set of governance red flags to watch out for across five key areas. It is hoped the principles will be of value to school boards and directors, and that they will build greater cyber resilience across the sector.
Snapshot of Cyber Security Governance Principles
Potential Red Flags
1. Set clear roles and responsibilities
2. Develop, implement, and evolve a comprehensive cyber strategy
3. Embed cyber security in existing risk management practices
4. Promote a culture of cyber resilience
5. Plan for a significant cyber security incident
Some key questions for directors
In today's fast-paced and ever-changing world, complaints management plays a vital role in ensuring the smooth functioning and success of any organisation. As complex entities, educational institutions are no exception to this rule and are bound to encounter complaints from stakeholders. However, if managed correctly, these complaints can serve as valuable opportunities for growth and improvement and even increase customer satisfaction and enhance reputation.
An updated Australian Standard AS 10002:2022 Guidelines for Complaint Management in Organisations was released last year to improve guidance on the design, implementation, operation, maintenance, and improvement of a complaint management system.
One of the updates included clarification on the specific roles that governing bodies should play in the complaints management system. It states that the governing body should be responsible for:
Other additions to the Standard come under the umbrella of social media and its increasing relevance. A note has been added clarifying that ‘There is no expectation that organisations seek to identify complaints made on third party social media accounts or channels’. However, to increase the accessibility of complaints processes thought should be given to the use of social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter, text messaging or apps. If such channels are supported, organisations should clarify what policies in relation to data collection are being used.
Independent schools are required to have, and implement written complaints management processes as per section 7 of the Education (Accreditation of Non-State Schools) Regulation 2017. However, except for the requirement to include principles of procedural fairness, the regulation provides limited guidance as to the content of the processes.
Schools desiring to implement best practice complaints processes may find it beneficial to use the Standard’s four guiding principles (enabling complaints; managing complaints; managing the parties; accountability, learning and prevention) as a framework for reviewing its complaints policy and processes. ISQ can also assist schools by conducting reviews of their written and enacted complaints processes.
Board Chair Interview
Chair, Suncoast Christian College Board
Chair and Board Member since December 2017
What excites you about your school?
I am excited about the difference Suncoast makes in children's lives. I speak also of my own experience having had four children educated at Suncoast Christian College. The College was a great influence on shaping their character, friendships, the people they are today and their faith in Jesus.
I am also excited about the influence the College is having on many families who want the caring and nurturing environment that the teaching staff provide. Our school is open to all and supports, nurtures, guides and develops students to reach their greatest potential. Whilst the academic results are important, it is the journey travelled for each student that we're most interested in.
What prompted you to become a board member?
I fell into the role as a long-term member of the church’s Committee of Management, having been aware of the operations of the College through this involvement. I was of course also connected to the College with my four children having all been educated there, with two of them lifers.
When a vacancy came up, my background in corporate governance at a training and a career development and delivery level provided me with the opportunity to contribute my skill sets in governance and leadership to support the College move into its next phase.
How can boards add maximum value to their school?
Firstly, I see the board as providing an umbrella for the organisation. In today’s schools, there are so many elements that require really good governance. We are attentive to the legislation and regulation that a modern school must respond to, and we provide leadership around setting the school’s risk profile. We ensure that matters such as child protection practices are top notch and we set the school’s strategic direction to grow and develop. Secondly, we add value by ensuring that the principal, the leadership team, and the entire College staff can be successful. That includes providing them with leadership, confidence, relevant budget approvals, and sometimes scrutiny on risk or finance, but above all, with the support so they can do their jobs successfully.
What is your advice for leading a board?
Leadership comes down to personal styles but the board chair helps facilitate conversations and ensures each board member can have their say and feel part of the governance process, utilising and applying their skills. A well-developed board should have a diversity of both gender and skill sets so we not only reflect our community but also have the required skill sets to deal with the many complex issues that will come across our table. The chair's role is to create unity, utilise members' skills, and manage the meetings well, even if the topics are not always exciting. It is about sticking to the strategic priorities of the day and making timely decisions that support the school to function effectively.
Which strategic issues should be on school board agendas in 2023?
There are several issues, and they are complex. I will start with vision and mission. It is important to be clear on this as we strive to deliver on our mission. As I mentioned above, for us it is about the journey and maximising the potential of students.
The post-COVID-19 world is challenging in so many ways. Now it is about trying to create a sense of normality again after considerable disruption, and a part of that is to re-affirm what we stand for and what the value of our education is.
We are all in the same boat when it comes to the financial headwinds regarding interest rates and the rising costs of everything at the moment. For private schools, that is going to challenge parents' ability to continue investing in their children and so we have to be careful to continue to communicate to parents and guardians that the value proposition our school provides is worth the investment.
Finally, the current issues around human rights and discrimination are indicative of a dynamic compliance landscape which has changed significantly since I have been the board chair and showing no signs of slowing down. This creates enormous work for boards to continuously respond to shifting regulations. We need to be attentive, aware, and responsive to our reporting obligations and changing regulatory frameworks, so that we can be proactive to manage the changing dynamics within the context of our faith-based ethos, and not simply reactive.