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One in four teachers say AI tools like ChatGPT are harming primary and secondary education more than helping them

Students at Stonewall Elementary in Lexington, Kentucky, try to figure out whether the text was written by fellow students or generated by the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT during a classroom exercise on Feb. 6, 2023.  (Timothy D. Easley/AP)
Students at Stonewall Elementary in Lexington, Kentucky, try to figure out whether the text was written by fellow students or generated by the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT during a classroom exercise on Feb. 6, 2023. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)

As some teachers adopt artificial intelligence (AI) tools in their work, a majority are unsure or see downsides to the widespread use of AI tools in K-12 education, according to a Pew Research survey Center that was conducted in the fall of 2023.

A quarter of public K-12 teachers say using AI tools in K-12 education does more harm than good. About a third (32%) say there is a roughly equal mix of benefit and harm, while only 6% say it does more good than harm. Another 35% say they are not sure.

A pie chart showing that many teachers are unsure about using AI tools in primary and secondary education.

The Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to better understand public K-12 teachers’ opinions about the use of artificial intelligence tools in K-12 education. To do this, we surveyed 2,531 U.S. public K-12 teachers from October 17 to November 14, 2023. The teachers are members of RAND’s American Teacher Panel, a nationally representative panel of K-12 public school teachers recruited through MDR Education. Survey data are weighted by state and national characteristics of teachers to ensure they are representative of the target population.

We also used data from a separate survey of 1,453 US teens conducted from September 26 to October 23, 2023. Ipsos recruited the teens through their parents, who were part of the KnowledgePanel. The survey was weighted to be representative of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 who live with their parents, based on age, gender, race and ethnicity, household income and other categories.

The study of teens was reviewed and approved by an external institutional review board (IRB), Advarra, an independent expert committee that specializes in helping protect the rights of research participants. More information about the research among teenagers can be found here.

Here are the questions we asked teachers and teens, along with the answers, and the methodology for the teacher survey and teen survey.

How teachers’ views vary by school level

Secondary school teachers are more likely than primary and secondary school teachers to have a negative opinion about AI tools in education.

A bar chart showing that secondary school teachers are more likely than other teachers to rate AI in primary and secondary education negatively.

About a third of high school teachers (35%) say these tools do more harm than good. About a quarter of secondary school teachers (24%) and 19% of primary school teachers say the same.

Fewer than one in ten teachers at all levels say these tools do more good than harm.

About 47% of primary school teachers say they are unsure about the impact of AI tools in primary education. That’s much higher than the share of middle and high school teachers who say this.

Teenagers’ experiences and views on ChatGPT

We asked in a separate survey American teenagers about their experiences and views on ChatGPT, a generative AI tool, in their schoolwork.

A bar chart shows that 19% of teens who know ChatGPT say they have used it for schoolwork.

Of teens who have heard of ChatGPT, 19% say they have used it to help them with schoolwork. This is more common in teenagers in higher grades. About a quarter of 11th and 12th graders who have heard of ChatGPT (24%) say they have used it in their schoolwork, compared to 17% of 9th and 10th graders and 12% of 7th and 8th graders.

Teens’ opinions on whether using ChatGPT is acceptable depends on what it is used for. Among teens who have heard of ChatGPT:

  • 69% say it is acceptable to use it to research new topics.
  • 39% say it is acceptable to use it to solve math problems.
  • 20% say it is acceptable to use it to write essays.

Shares ranging from 18% to 24% are unsure whether it is acceptable to use ChatGPT in each of these situations.

Overall, two-thirds of US teens say they have heard of ChatGPT. That includes 23% who have heard a lot about it and 44% who have heard little about it. About a third (32%) say they have not heard about ChatGPT at all.

Note: These are the questions we asked teachers and teens, along with the answers, and the methodology for the teacher survey and teen survey.