A quarter of public K-12 teachers say using AI tools in K-12 education does more harm than good, according to new research from Pew Research.

The research – conducted in the fall of 2023 – found that as teachers begin to incorporate more AI tools in their classroom the majority are uncertain of the impact, or see potential downsides for the use of AI in K-12 education.

Roughly a third (32 percent) say there is about an equal mix of benefit and harm, while only 6 percent say it does more good than harm. Another 35 percent say they aren’t sure.

There is some variation in responses based on teachers’ grade levels. About a third of high school teachers (35 percent) say AI tools do more harm than good. Roughly a quarter of middle school teachers (24 percent) and 19 percent of elementary school teachers say the same.

Uncertainty about the use of AI tools is highest among elementary school teachers with 47 percent saying they aren’t sure about the impact of AI tools in K-12 education. Pew noted in its research report that this is much larger than the shares of middle and high school teachers who feel the same way.

In addition to surveying teachers, Pew separately surveyed teens about their experiences and views about using ChatGPT in their schoolwork. Among the students who have heard of ChatGPT – a generative AI tool – 19 percent say they have used it to help them with schoolwork. This is more common among teens in higher grades, Pew noted. About a quarter of 11th and 12th graders who have heard of ChatGPT (24 percent) say they have used it in their schoolwork, compared with 17 percent of 9th and 10th graders and 12 percent of 7th and 8th graders.

Pew noted that teens’ views on whether using ChatGPT is acceptable depend on what it’s being used for. Among teens who have heard of ChatGPT:

  • 69 percent say it’s acceptable to use it to research new topics.
  • 39 percent say it’s acceptable to use it to solve math problems.
  • 20 percent say it’s acceptable to use it to write essays.
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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs