Appendix B: Courses that develop writing as a skill

Back to the Report: Generative Artificial Intelligence for Education and Pedagogy

When teaching writing skills and courses in which writing assignments form a key component of the learning objectives, GAI offers both opportunities and concerns. GAI may help students generate and improve outlines, find and evaluate sources, provide equal access to editing suggestions, and build student confidence as they learn to critically evaluate both their own writing and that produced by GAI. However, GAI can also undermine the ability of students to learn fundamental writing skills, such as basic grammar rules, sentence structure, and paragraph coherence, as well as mislead them with fake or biased content. While faculty may choose to prohibit the use of GAI in a course, we would encourage faculty to consider how incorporating some use of GAI, via specific guidelines, supervision, and dialogue, into in-class activities and certain assessments can offer unique and important pedagogical opportunities.


Generative AI tools offer significant opportunities for assisting students with the writing process, from generating outlines to evaluating one’s own draft or other written materials; by identifying and evaluating key points for logic, flow, and evidence; to a host of editing capabilities. This technology not only offers a potentially more efficient means of engaging in planning, drafting, and editing, but also a customized and adaptable mechanism for offering personalized feedback to students, helping them to reflect on their writing choices, and to build and improve upon foundational writing skills. Further, these tools can assist faculty in responding to the needs of individual students, offering tailored suggestions, prompts, and resources based on students’ strengths and weaknesses.

An essential part of most writing pedagogy and practice involves peer editing. Using GAI as a peer editor can address two problems that typically arise with peer editing: (1) It removes the social comparisons that can keep peers from asking for and offering effective feedback, and (2) It provides access to a “competent” editor that puts in equal effort towards offering suggestions. Students’ assessment and application of the feedback that GAI tools can generate may be best maximized, however, when students further analyze the generated suggestions for their efficacy in consultation with faculty. Incorporating dialogue about writing choices, which writing-intensive courses can do through mandatory faculty-student conferences, may both further enhance students’ critical thinking and writing skills, as well as ensure that students do not passively over rely on feedback that may not be beneficial, either in the short- or long-term.

Ultimately, a guided approach to using GAI in writing courses can help students develop keener awareness of what makes for effective–as well as ethical–writing choices, and ideally, to spur greater confidence in their own writing abilities, independent of technological assistance.


While the opportunities for GAI in the writing process are considerable, the concerns are significant. Using AI for generating text or peer editing raises concerns about academic integrity, plagiarism, authenticity, and the need for human judgment in the writing process.

Beyond the critical ethical considerations at stake, GAI tools offer other concerns that may detract from student learning outcomes in writing courses. Namely, GAI may discourage creativity and original thought in student writing, potentially leading to homogenized output. If GAI output is relied upon solely without additional student analysis, reflection, and modification, students may not learn how to write effectively for a given audience, prioritize content and structure their writing, or learn how to make critical choices to strengthen their written arguments. Moreover, if used as a peer editor, GAI may have difficulty understanding the nuanced requirements of writing assignments, leading to less precise or relevant suggestions.

In addition, students–especially the very students who may feel most hesitant about their writing skills and interacting directly with faculty–may become overly dependent on GAI tools, potentially to the detriment of building foundational critical thinking and writing skills. Use of these tools may further mask challenges that students are experiencing with developing skills, which can become difficult to address later on. Finally, overreliance on GAI tools may also lead to decreased direct interaction between instructors and students, potentially impacting the quality of guidance and mentorship, which is essential in writing-intensive courses.


At the specific writing-intensive class-level, we suggest that faculty engage in a thoughtful discussion with their students and employ a guided use of GAI that can:

  1. Emphasize what constitutes effective and ethical uses and applications of GAI, and thus allow for building of students’ critical thinking and writing skills in being able to discern the limitations of the tools in practice;
  2. Teach students the importance of analyzing and evaluating information independently of GAI tools, and how its use can inhibit students’ ability to build both foundational and advanced writing skills; and
  3. Clarify why developing certain foundational and advanced writing skills, along with good academic integrity practices, is fundamental to their academic and personal growth.
  4. Prepare students to ethically use these tools in the workforce.

Case Studies

We offer several sample assignments that can be used in writing intensive courses. In addition to the below examples, the Knight Institute offers suggestions on how faculty might use GAI to help students complete research papers for their First-Year Writing Seminar courses.

Sample Editing Assignments

1. Editing Skills – pre-work for class discussion, in-class activity

Provide students with a paragraph of text that is relevant to your course, such as a particularly complex paragraph from a scholarly journal article or from a primary source.

Ask students to:

  1. Edit the paragraph on their own, using a prompt that makes sense for your course (e.g, make this paragraph more concise, strengthen the argument in this paragraph, explain the concept in this paragraph).
  2. Students run the original paragraph through GAI and ask it to do the same thing that students did in the first step.
  3. Have students review their editing choices as compared to the editing choices made by GAI and submit a final revised paragraph.
  4. Students complete a written or in-class reflection on why they included their final edits and how they were able to improve on what GAI provided.

2. Revise for new audience & reflect – graded assignment Turn a two-page proposal into a one-page proposal for a new audience.

Ask students to:

  1. Using an assignment that students wrote earlier in the semester, identify a new audience and rewrite their assignment for this new audience (e.g., proposal was originally written for the manager and will now be rewritten for a vice president; proposal was originally written for a scientific audience and now needs to be rewritten for a lay-person).
  2. Use GAI to help shorten the original proposal.
  3. Critically analyze how GAI shortened the work, paying attention to what the new audience knows and needs to know.
  4. Using edits suggested by GAI and their own critical thinking, shorten the original proposal to one page.
  5. Utilize document design features (e.g., headings, sub-headings, bulleted lists or tables) to make the writing easy for the new audience to read quickly.
  6. Students write a reflection on how and why they modified their original proposal for the new audience, including how they were able to improve on what GAI provided.

3. Reverse outlining to strengthen structure and evidence–in-class or for outside of class

Ask students to:

  1. Use GAI to generate a reverse outline of a written draft: have it identify what the main focus/claim of each paragraph is, and what supporting evidence is within that paragraph.
  2. Reviewing what GAI has generated, students then consider whether the main claim that was identified for each paragraph is the one that they intended to be the topic of that paragraph. Further, does the evidence that GAI identified sufficiently support that claim?
  3. In subsequent written reflection (and/or in class discussion), students should assess what they found to be effective about the process in helping them pinpoint issues with structure, logic, and evidence. Students should also reflect on where GAI was limited or misguided in assisting them with reverse outlining.

Similar to assignment 1, students might first produce a reverse outline on their own, and then compare/contrast what they created with that from GAI, further reflecting on those differences.

4. GAI as a peer editor — in-class activity or homework outside of class

Peer editing can be a valuable tool to help students learn to edit their own and others’ work, as well as learn how to respond effectively to feedback.

Ask students to:

  1. Ask GAI to offer constructive feedback on their writing, with specific suggestions for where and how to make improvements in grammar, logic, and flow (tailor this prompt to your desired outcomes).
  2. Students review the GAI feedback and make edits to their original work.
  3. Students respond to several reflection prompts including:
    • Which suggestions did you find to be effective? Not effective? Why?
    • As you review the feedback, did GAI help you notice patterns in the kinds of suggestions that you received? If so, identify and reflect on these patterns: were you previously aware of these patterns? Do you feel that GAI pointed out all of the different areas in which you have concern, or did it miss some?
    • How do you intend to apply the feedback you found effective in future writing?

Content creation assignments

1. Generate an outline for a written report

Ask students to:

  1. Use GAI to assist them in generating an outline for their report.
  2. Emphasize that GAI should be used as a tool for inspiration and guidance, rather than relying solely on its suggestions.
  3. Students modify and improve their outline, then evaluate it based on their logical structure, coherence, and adherence to the assignment requirements.
  4. In-class discussion or written reflection: Students critically analyze the usefulness of AI in the writing process.

2. Summarize arguments and produce themes

Ask students to:

  1. Use GAI to summarize a meeting transcript into key themes (e.g., congressional meetings, central banker transcripts, corporate earnings reports).
  2. Students produce a memo that prioritizes the themes and adds contextual information on power dynamics or other relevant background information.
  3. In-class discussion or written reflection: Students critically analyze the usefulness of AI in the writing process.

3. Brainstorm ideas

Ask students to:

  1. Use GAI to brainstorm ideas for an assignment that is relevant to the course (e.g., topics for a research paper, research study ideas, new business ideas, marketing taglines) .
  2. Students evaluate the ideas based on the established criteria for the assignment.
  3. Students further develop their preferred idea and complete the assignment.
  4. In-class discussion or written reflection: Students critically analyze the usefulness of AI in the brainstorming process.

4. Assess validity of sources for accuracy and bias

Ask students to:

  1. Use GAI to find sources for an assignment relevant to the course.
  2. Students review sources, evaluating the usefulness and relevance to the assignment.
  3. Students conduct a similar search using library resources.
  4. Students produce an annotated bibliography that assesses the quality, relevance, and reliability of GAI and library sources.
  5. In-class discussion or written reflection: Students critically analyze the usefulness of AI to find reliable and unbiased sources.

Classroom discussion assignments

1. Compare/Contrast

Ask students to:

  1. Use GAI to generate content on a particular topic that is relevant to the course (e.g., academic writing vs. business writing, Greek civilization vs. Roman civilization, differential calculus vs. integral calculus).
  2. Assign a reading or book chapter on the same content.
  3. In-class discussion or written reflection: Students critically analyze what GAI got correct, incorrect, or missed completely.

2. Pro/Con debate

Ask students to:

  1. Use GAI to generate pro and con arguments for a debate that is relevant to the course.
  2. Review course material and readings to augment and strengthen these arguments.
  3. Come to class prepared to engage in a debate with their classmates.
  4. After the debate, discuss which arguments were strongest and why.
  5. In-class discussion or written reflection: Students critically analyze what makes a more effective argument.

Back to the Report: Generative Artificial Intelligence for Education and Pedagogy