Feedback matters | Why write?

2 min readSep 11, 2020

“A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human? The headline in the Guardian caught my attention. Click bait?

I read it and the comments by the robot’s editor. Not bad. If one of my students had handed that in when I was still teaching, I would probably have given it an A.

Check for yourself. Read the article here.

It raised many questions. If an AI can produce this quality of text, why do we keep insisting on learners of all ages having to write written assignments? Will it even be a necessary 21st century skill to write? How will it change education and what we have to learn? Can a Ph.d. student submit a thesis without producing any text him/herself?

How about providing feedback on the text, marking and grading it? Why not have another AI do that? It can probably do it faster and more systematically than any instructor. Envisioned AIs sending texts to other AIs, and humans being redundant.

Couldn’t Urkund (Ouriginal) or Turnitin catch it with their plagiarism control systems? Well, the text is original, basically written by an AI ghost writer. So far the only way to catch that is to profile the writing style of every student over a long stretch of time and check if the writing style is consistent. But can’t the AI just learn to mimic that writing style? History has proven that a technological development will always be beaten by new technological development.

We have to ask ourselves, “Why write?” Most likely an AI is yet another chapter of the evolution that has happened in writing in general and in eduction in particular.

We still have to be able to recognize “good text”, suggest improvements, restructure. Having produced text yourself, is one of the best ways of learning that 21st century skill.

And of course students of all ages must write texts, tonnes of them, because “to write is to learn”.

Writing is one of the most effective ways of learning. You read the curriculum, discuss it in class, but it is when you have to produce your own texts that learning really sinks in. Focus on that and less on how the final text documents learning. Think formative — not summative!

That is why we write. At least in education. Don’t replace the instructor as feedback provider with an AI. You would take instructors out of the learning process of the student. Use an AI for the final grading.

It is in the learning process feedback matters most, not after.