Teaching & Learning


'Every powerful pedagogy could be augmented by AI' says expert at UCL Education Conference

10 May 2023

The 2023 UCL Education Conference explored how to design futures-focused education, through a day of keynotes, presentations, workshops and asynchronous papers.

Education Conference 2023

The theme for this year’s UCL Education Conference was ‘Designing Futures-focused Education’, held on Wednesday 19 April 2023. Over 250 delegates attended the event at the IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society. 

Preparing students for future careers

To launch the conference, an online panel discussion was held with a focus on how educators and universities can better prepare students with the skills to meet their aspirations and careers. Watch a full recording of the panel discussion

The conference programme included sessions from invited speakers, educators, SU officers and students. Keynotes, workshops, roundtables and parallel sessions all highlighted the innovative education practice taking place across UCL. 

UCL President and Provost, Dr Michael Spence, opened the conference by considering what a future-proofed education might look like in a rapidly changing world. He proposed three ways that UCL can do to better prepare its students through the UCL Strategic Plan:

  1. Providing students with the necessary skills and knowledge: a grounding in a discipline, developing a multidisciplinary, international perspective and problem-solving skills
  2. Developing a rich and vital campus life in partnership with Students’ Union UCL 
  3. Providing our students with sustainable psychological and social support.

Embracing generative AI

This year were delighted that the keynote address was given by Professor Mike Sharples, Emeritus Professor of Educational Technology at The Open University. 

In his talk, Professor Sharples put forward the challenges and exciting opportunities in how we might respond to the development of AI and prosper with AI as a part of education. It would be difficult and unwise to ban or evade the use of AI, he suggested but emphasised that embracing AI in education will be a long-term process of building trust. 

Professor Sharples stressed that we should assume that students are using these tools and that this will require universities to adapt to new policies and guidelines and methods of assessments. He also called on universities to lead the way in collaborating to build new datasets.

AI can be positive way to influence and enhance effective teaching and learning.

Professor Sharples put forward a wide range of examples of using AI as a teaching tool. This included: as a ‘possibility engine’, producing various responses to an open question so that a student can generate their own conclusion and develop their prompt engineering skills; as a Socratic opponent to help students to write an argumentative essay; as a personalised guide to learning and life.

Mary McHarg, SU Activities and Engagement Sabbatical Officer led a thoughtful conversation responding to Professor Sharples, with insightful contributions from conference participants.

    To close, Professor Sharples’ advice for the audience was to:

    • use generative AI with care 
    • rethink written assessment
    • beware of AI for factual writing
    • explore AI for creativity, argumentation and research
    • develop AI literacy
    • for universities to introduce and negotiate guidelines for students and staff.

    In case you missed it: read UCL’s current staff and student guidance on AI in education and assessment.  

    Future of London Universities

    In the afternoon attendees enjoyed a lively panel discussion touching on pressures facing London universities and the ways to improve students’ futures.

    This was chaired by Pro Vice-Provost (Education - Student Academic Experience) Prof Parama Chaudhury with Emma McCoy, Vice President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at LSE; Professor Susanna Quinsee, Vice-President (Digital and Student Experience) at City, University of London; Professor Adam Habib, Director of SOAS University of London. 

    Education at UCL

    In the afternoon keynote, Professor Kathy Armour Vice-Provost (Education and Student Experience) was in conversation with Hamza Ahmed, SU Education Sabbatical Officer.

    Professor Armour reaffirmed her priorities for education and student experience at UCL and provided an update on the key projects as part of the Strategic Plan. Whilst in addition, discussing parity between research and educators; the delivery of the education strategy; developing guidelines and parity around the use of AI. 

    Hamza Ahmed highlighted a need for investment in physical and digital infrastructure. He also argued for greater financial support for students and their wellbeing. 

    They also discussed ways to reintroduce joy in education. Suggestions included reducing the number of assessments, encouraging new ways of learning and allowing more space for collaboration.

    Education Awards shortlist announced 

    The shortlists for the Education Awards and Students Choice Awards were announced. These awards celebrate the achievements of staff and students and their contributions to UCL’s community. Explore the award categories and the list of nominees. The winners will be announced on Wednesday 7 June 2023. 

    Register to attend the ceremony

    Continue the conversation

    Were you unable to attend this year’s conference? You can find details of some of the excellent work UCL staff continue to do for, and with their students on the UCL Education Conference 2023 blog. Have a read, comment and get involved in ongoing discussions. 

    Conference recordings 

    Watch full recordings of the main sessions in the Logan Hall.
    • Introduction: UCL President and Provost, Dr Michael Spence
    • Keynote address: Generative AI and Education Futures, Professor Mike Sharples in conversation with Mary McHarg, SU Activities and Engagement Sabbatical Officer 
    • Panel discussion: Pro Vice-Provost (Education - Student Academic Experience) Professor Parama Chaudhury, Emma McCoy, Vice President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at LSE, Professor Susanna Quinsee, Vice-President (Digital and Student Experience) at City, University of London Professor Adam Habib, Director of SOAS University of London 
    • Education at UCL: Vice-Provost (Education & Student Experience) Professor Kathy Armour, in conversation with Hamza Ahmed, SU Education Sabbatical Officer  

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