Teaching Writing with Generative AI

Updated August 2023
Writing has always been a technology for thinking and communicating. With each evolution of this technology, who was permitted to speak, what was said, how it was said, who could be reached, and how the message was delivered shifted. Just as the act of writing shifted with changes in writing technologies, the teaching of writing changed as well, and now the emergence of generative Artificial Intelligence presents us with the most recent opportunities and challenges. There are many free AIs available that may be productively integrated into the writing process (for some examples, see this list of 33 free AIs). It’s important to remember that writing to learn remains central to engaged learning and cognitive development, and this vital intellectual activity cannot be replaced with generative AI. Further, helping students to develop strong writing skills so they can join disciplinary conversations and participate actively and critically in civic and professional life remains central to Elon’s Mission Statement.

Please see below for Generative AI Programming, Considerations for Teaching Writing with Generative AI, and access to a Moodle site with faculty/staff materials developed from their “AI Engagement Grants.”

In addition, watch the video of “How AIs ‘Write’: Explained Like You’re Five” given by Computer Science professor Dr. Shannon Duvall, the Center for Writing Excellence’s Technology Fellow.

Generative AI Spring 2024 Programming

Please see the WAU Faculty/Staff Professional Development webpage for this information.

Generative AI Fall 2023 Programming

“How AIs Write: Explained Like You’re Five”

Led by Dr. Shannon Duvall, Prof. of Computer Science and CWE Technology Fellow. Dr. Duvall will explain what Generative AI Software (like ChatGPT or Bard) is and how they work in a way that is clear, accessible, and lots of fun. Understanding the benefits and limitations of this generative technology is foundational to considering how we may want to integrate it into our pedagogy. Time will be reserved for questions. The same workshop will be offered two different times:
Thursday 9/7, 4:30-5:40, Belk Library 113; snacks served so please register
Wednesday 9/13, 12:30-1:40pm, Belk Library 113; lunch served, please register

“Ask a Computer Scientist”

Informal times to meet and discuss your AI pedagogy and research questions or ideas with Dr. Shannon Duvall, Prof. of Computer Science and CWE Technology Fellow.
Friday 9/15, 3:30-4:30; Tuesday 10/10, 4:30-5:30; Wednesday 11/15, 4:00-5:00. The Oak House.

“ChatGPT and Prompt Engineering”

Co-led by Dr. Shannon Duvall, Prof. of Computer Science and CWE Technology Fellow, Dr. Mustafa Akben, Asst. Prof. of Management, and Dr. Paula Rosinski. Have you ever heard the saying, “garbage in, garbage out”?  Prompt engineering is the skill of crafting inputs to generative AI software that will maximize the likelihood of getting the output that you need.  In this workshop, we give basic principles of prompt engineering for both using language-based AI and also teaching our students this valuable new skill. Monday 10/23, 4:30-5:45. Location t.b.a. Snacks served, please register.

“CWE AI Engagement Grant Recipients Panel Discussions”

In November, faculty from across campus will share results from their summer AI research. They’ll discuss topics such as how AI is impacting their disciplines and alumni professions and share ways they’ve already integrated or plan to integrate AI into their classes. Presenters and dates t.b.a.

Explore annotated bibliographies and classroom activities submitted by faculty and staff who earned a “CWE AI Engagement Grant”

To access these materials, self-enroll in the Moodle site named “Center for Writing Excellence AI Engagement Grant Materials.”

Considerations for Teaching Writing with Generative AI

#1: Continue teaching writing as a process and using best practices in writing instruction
#2: Develop and clearly communicate generative AI expectations and guidelines for writing assignments
#3: Experiment with integrating generative AI into different parts of the writing process
#4: When students are allowed to use generative AI for writing assignments
#5: Attend to the equitable and inclusive use of generative AI in the writing process
#6: Critique the limitations of AI text-generators as writing technologies
#7: Research how generative AI might be changing your discipline and the professional writing of your alumni and consider adjusting the types of writing you assign accordingly
#8: Explore resources & other Elon program supporting AI

#1: Continue teaching writing as a process and using best practices in writing instruction

Decades of research into best practices in writing instruction remain relevant and should continue to be central to your writing pedagogy. Focusing on writing as a process (and not only as a final product), scaffolding writing assignments, and integrating best practices not only support students in learning content and developing as writers, but they also discourage the misuse of generative AI. Continue to integrate best practices into your writing pedagogy by:

  • Designing meaningful writing assignments with specific audiences, purposes, and rhetorical situations and that encourage learning content and developing specific writing skills
  • Focusing on writing as a process by building in, for longer assignments, brainstorming, researching, writing multiple drafts, peer-response, and revising; focusing on writing
  • Asking students to write in a range of genres, especially those connected to specific disciplines
  • Incorporating different ways of writing into your classes,  including informal, low-stakes writing; reflective writing; longer, high-stakes writing; and multimedia writing

#2: Develop and clearly communicate generative AI expectations and guidelines for writing assignments

  • Be transparent with students about your writing assignment expectations about the use of generative AI.
  • Add a clear “Acceptable Generative AI Use” statement to your syllabus and to individual writing assignments. Many example statements can be found online. This “AI Syllabus Language” heuristic helps you think through the stance you’d like to take with AI in your policy and provides a heuristic for developing your own AI Policy.
  • You might have a generic statement for your syllabus, and then more detailed statements for each of your writing assignments. Or you might have one detailed statement for your syllabus that you repeat for each writing assignment.
  • Your “Acceptable Generative AI Use” statement might be different for different writing assignments.
  • Your “Acceptable Generative AI Use” statement might range from never permitting the use of AI to permitting it in specific instances. For example class policies for classes across the curriculum and heuristics that can help you create your own policy, see “Classroom Policies for AI Generative Tools” and “AI Syllabus Language Heuristic.”
  • Explain your “Acceptable Generative AI Use” statement to your students and how it will apply to the writing assignment.
  • Explain the consequences if a student violates your “Acceptable Generative AI Use” policy.

    Rethinking Plagiarism and Cheating

    It’s time to rethink “plagiarism” and “cheating” https://ditchthattextbook.com/ai/

  • Consider your stance, and your discipline’s approach, toward plagiarism and generative AI when developing your “Acceptable Generative AI Use Policy.” As this infographic asks, “Which of these you consider ‘cheating’? Which of these is relevant to our students’’ future? Which of these would you use in your work as an adult?” (Ditch that Textbook)

#3: Experiment with integrating generative AI into different parts of the writing process

Writing technologies are always changing, which in turn alter how we write. In each suggestion below, students are required to engage in critical thinking about the writing situation in order to use generative AI. Each suggestion also requires students to consider how their prompt elicits different outputs (i.e., they engage “prompt engineering,” which is a kind of critical thinking). Here are some types of example prompts students might ask different AIs during different parts of the writing process:


  • Ask for interesting research on X or that combine X, Y, Z
  • Broaden or narrow research questions
  • Identify gaps in the field
  • Ask what an audience would find persuasive (content, genre, media)


  • Try specialized research AIs like Elicit
  • Identify the top 10 or most important articles on a topic
  • Generate summaries and synthesize them
  • Summarize methodologies from articles


  • Generate an outline and critique the output’s strengths, weaknesses
  • Use an AI-generated outline to write your own draft
  • Compare a student written draft with an AI output draft
  • Ask which topics are important to include for X audience
  • Generate an AI draft section, then student revises it for different genres, audiences, purposes

Revising and editing

  • Submit your draft, ask an AI to identify its strengths/weaknesses using X criteria
  • Submit your drat, ask an AI to suggest edits for tone, style, etc. according to the needs of the rhetorical situation
  • Ask for specific kinds of feedback

#4: When students are allowed to use generative AI for writing assignments

  • Teach students to use it critically, ethically, and responsibly, just like with other writing technologies (Wikipedia, search engines, Word autocorrect, etc.).
  • Discuss how AI outputs should never be used entirely as they are and without revision, but rather as starting points in the Human-AI Loop (content is created not just by the AI statistical probability, or just by a human, but rather by a human revising AI outputs given the rhetorical situation)
  • Experiment and practice using the AIs together as a class as part of the writing process
  • Critique the generative AI outputs together as a class. For example, in what ways is the output effective or ineffective? appropriate in content, style, or form? appeals to or fails to appeal to a specific audience?
  • Critique the benefits and limitations of using generative AI in the writing process
  • Ask students to write a reflection when they’ve used generative AI for writing assignments. For example, which AI did they use? in what ways were the outputs effective, ineffective? how did they revise the output (the Human-AI Loop)?
  • Ask students to submit the transcripts created while using generative AI

#5: Attend to the equitable and inclusive use of generative AI in the writing process

If you choose to integrate generative AI into your writing pedagogy, ensure that students have equal access to the technology and to training and support. If you are using an AI that requires a subscription, include the cost in your syllabus and arrange for ways for students to access the technology if the cost is prohibitive, or commit to using only free AIs. Explore how different AIs (like text-to-speech or speech-to-text) might enhance the writing process for students with different needs.

#6: Critique the limitations of AI text-generators as writing technologies

While AIs are continually emerging and changing, some common limitation include:

  • Lack of recent and information
  • Inability to reason or deeply understand context
  • Sensitivity to input phrasing, prompt-engineering
  • Potential for AI to generate plausible but incorrect information (especially with older Ais)
  • Bias from training data
  • Lack of emotional and moral understanding
  • Difficulty with ambiguity and context switching

#7: Research how generative AI might be changing your discipline and the professional writing of your alumni and consider adjusting the types of writing you assign accordingly

We know that some professions have been integrating generative AI into their writing process for a while, and there is much speculation about how generative AI might alter professions and lead to lob loss (for example, see “AI is on a collision course with white-collar, high-paid jobs-and with unknown impact”). Talking with students who’ve done internships and alumni from your programs can help us understand how their professional writing lives might be impacted by generative AI. Consider applying for a CWE “Elon Alumni Who Write Grant,” which will award you $300 for inviting alumni to speak on campus (in-person or zoom) about their professional lives, including the kinds of writing they do at work and the extent to which they might be using generative AI. Consider teaching how professionals use AI somewhere in your curriculum.

Some example professions that have been using generative AI include: journalism, marketing and advertising, finance and banking, data science, software development, accounting, professional writing and editing, law, education, customer services, scriptwriting, real estate, healthcare, and social media.

#8: Explore Resources & Other Elon Programs exploring AI in education

Explore the many writing pedagogy resources that are available and visit other Elon programs doing valuable work with generative AI.

AI Use in Elon’s Writing Center: Guidance for Faculty and Students
CATL’s Artificial Intelligence and Your Teaching
Association of Writing Across the Curriculum’s (AWAC) Statement on Artificial Intelligence
MLA/CCCC Joint Task Force on Writing and AI

ChatGPT 4 ($20/month)
ChatGPT 3 (free)
“35 AI content generators to explore in 2023” (March 2023)

Research & Research Writing
“Top 10 tools for Academic Research” (March 2023)
Elicit: The A.I. Research Assistant
“ChatGPT for Research Paper Writing: A Prompt Guide for Teachers & Students”

The best AI image generators
DreamStudio (Stable Diffusion) for customization and control of your AI images

A.I. Acceptable Use Policies
“Classroom Policies for AI Generation Tools”
“A.I. Syllabus Language Heuristic”
“My class required A.I. Here’s what I learned so far”