GAI Statement

ELSO Position Statement on Generative AI, Language Learning, and Writing

 The English Language Support Office (ELSO) recognizes generative artificial intelligence (GAI) (e.g. ChatGPT, Bard, etc.) as a powerful tool, one that is being increasingly used by writers and language learners to assist with pre-writing, word choice, drafting, revising, and editing. GAI tools may be used in ways that benefit language development and writing development, though they need to be used with caution.

GAI tools may be particularly appealing to writers who use English as an additional language (EAL). These writers face pressure to produce academic writing that complies with the standards of Standard Written English and to use rhetorical approaches favored in U.S. academic writing. To meet these challenges, EAL writers have long used a wide variety of online resources, programs that translate, paraphrase, summarize, identify appropriate synonyms, provide definitions of words, provide sample sentences that show words used in context, and edit for grammar, usage, and style. GAI can perform all of these functions within a single platform, making it an especially attractive tool.

However, unlike platforms available in the past, use of GAI comes with considerable risks. GAI can produce chunks of text and even entire papers (“synthetic writing”), raising ethical concerns related to authorship. GAI can revise an entire text to erase “accented English,” raising questions about the value of voice, self-expression, and accented writing. Some GAI platforms have been built on a corpus of illegally scraped copyrighted texts, raising questions about the ethics of using such a tool. Some GAI platforms are not transparent about how they utilize text supplied by users, how they collect data about users, and what they do with this data, raising concerns about privacy. And GAI has been shown to “hallucinate,” fabricating information and references.

While these risks apply to all writers who use them, EAL writers face an additional risk. The fact that GAI is blurring the line between human and synthetic writing, making that line sometimes indistinguishable to readers, is causing some faculty and organizations to outright ban it, while others have vague or unstated policies. EAL writers’ usage of GAI can be easier to detect by readers, as their writing is accented in ways that are easily visible, making their use of GAI even more visible. Usage of GAI can thus put EAL writers at greater risk for charges of academic dishonesty.

 Because of GAI’s potential benefits, ELSO is incorporating pedagogical approaches for use of GAI in our teaching and tutoring, while taking the following cautionary steps. 

To protect student privacy, ELSO faculty and tutors are:

  • Not requiring students to use GAI for any class activity or tutoring session, as GAI tracks user data
  • Advising students to turn off the default in GAI that adds their content to its repository
  • Requiring that tutors who use GAI during a session or to prepare for a session turn off the default in GAI that adds their content to its repository

To guide students in protecting themselves from charges of academic dishonesty, ELSO faculty and tutors are:

  • Exploring with students the lines between human-produced text and synthetic text
  • Advising students to document their use of GAI during the writing process
  • Encouraging students to talk with their professors and PIs before using GAI for any purpose when writing a paper for a course, thesis/dissertation, or publication, and to clarify during this conversation which uses of GAI are acceptable and unacceptable in this context
  • Raising student awareness of GAI-related policies set by programs, professional organizations, publishers, and journals

To explore use of GAI in supporting language learning and writing development, ELSO faculty and tutors are:

  • Exploring with students ways to use GAI to support reading comprehension (e.g. enhance vocabulary learning, use GAI to paraphrase and summarize passages from texts [after turning off the default that adds content to the GAI’s repository])
  • Exploring with students ways to use GAI while pre-writing (e.g. provide samples of genres that may be used as a reference, assist with development of an outline, provide templates for unfamiliar genres, facilitate brainstorming)
  • Exploring with students ways to use GAI while revising and editing (e.g. raise awareness of patterns of grammar and punctuation errors, raise awareness of usage and style preferred by U.S. academic readers, raise awareness of genre conventions)
  • Exploring with students ways to critically review information provided by GAI (as we know that GAI “hallucinates,” fabricating information and references)
  • Exploring with students situations when synthetic writing may be appropriate and effective and when human writing is more appropriate and effective

To clarify ELSO’s stance on GAI, ELSO faculty are including the following statement on syllabi for courses that include writing:

Generative AI: Generative AI tools (e.g. ChatGPT, AI-enhanced Grammarly) are powerful and are being increasingly used by writers to assist with brainstorming, identifying appropriate vocabulary, and editing. Use of these tools is also leading writers to grapple with questions related to style and voice (e.g., how can writers preserve their individual style/voice when using these tools?), ethics (e.g., when is it acceptable to use these tools and when is it not?), privacy (e.g., how do these tools protect our privacy?), and skill development (e.g., how can these tools be used to promote learning rather than hamper it?). In ELSO courses, we explore with students the affordances and limitations of these new and quickly changing tools. 

In conclusion, ELSO can play an instrumental role in exploring with students GAI as tool for language learning and writing. In fact, we see it as our ethical obligation to address GAI in our classrooms and tutoring sessions, given how ubiquitous GAI tools are becoming across academic and professional settings and the risks associated with their use. ELSO creates safe spaces for students to explore, ask questions, and talk about risks associated with choices we make as writers, including the use of GAI tools.

GAI is changing quickly, and ELSO faculty will continue to watch its development, test emerging GAI tools for their capacity for promoting language learning and supporting the writing process, and pay attention to research and scholarly conversations on these tools, so that we can continue to refine our practices and update this document.

To cite this document:

English Language Support Office. (2024). ELSO position statement on generative AI, language learning, and writing. Cornell University.