SQA research reveals impact of Artificial Intelligence on Scottish education

Monday 03 June 2024

SQA has published new research that reveals the impact that Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) is having on education in Scotland.

Over 500 educators from across the country – from classroom teachers and lecturers to senior managers and school leaders – took part in the survey, the findings of which reveal how GenAI technologies such as ChatGPT have already been adopted by many in the teaching community.

Key findings: 

There was also strong support for SQA’s current position on candidates’ use of GenAI in assessments. A large majority (63%) of teachers agree with SQA’s position from the 2023-24 session that learners must not submit GenAI outputs as their own work, nor can they refer to GenAI outputs as a source for assessment tasks.

However, one of the strongest themes identified over the course of the research were the calls from educators for more guidance from SQA and other education authorities to help them keep pace with the growth of GenAI technologies.

When asked to select which areas need to be addressed most urgently in order for GenAI to be suitable for widespread use in Scottish education, the top three choices were the ability to detect AI produced content (68% of respondents), personal lack of understanding or knowledge (62%), and lack of guidance from the education system (53%).

Martyn Ware, Director of Policy, Analysis and Standards at SQA, said: “This is the first time that a wide range of educators from across Scotland have been asked about their views towards GenAI. The findings we have published today provide a valuable insight into the opportunities and challenges GenAI presents to the education community in Scotland.

“We have evidence now that many teachers and lecturers are harnessing AI to reduce the burden of administration and allow them to focus on what they do best – supporting and inspiring our young people in the classroom. But it is also clear that they share our view of the critical importance of safeguards and clear guidelines to ensure the ethical and appropriate use and understanding of GenAI technologies.”

SQA position on Generative AI in assessments for session 2024-25

Following the publication of this research, SQA is confirming its position on candidates’ use of GenAI in assessments will remain in place for the coming 2024-25 academic session.

The use of Generative AI tools and outputs will not be permitted to generate outputs that could then be submitted as the learner’s own work when completing assessment tasks that contribute towards a qualification. Doing so could constitute malpractice.

SQA continues to discourage the use of referencing GenAI outputs. While this will not be regarded as malpractice, outputs from GenAI are still unreliable, and still cannot be regarded as a reliable source of information.

SQA does not object to learners or practitioners using GenAI technologies to help them generate ideas or investigate issues, though this should be done in conjunction with teachers and lecturers and should be in line with the requirements for individual subjects, centres own policies, and comply with the age restrictions some GenAI technologies have introduced.

Martyn Ware, Director of Policy, Analysis and Standards at SQA, adds: “Our stance continues to reflect similar positions from assessment specialists and other awarding bodies from across the UK.

“Going forward however, we will continue to monitor developments in GenAI over the coming year, and tailor our approach to the unique needs of our awarding principles.

“We will work our partners across Scottish education, supporting teachers and lecturers where we can, listening to their views and sharing their insights so we can work effectively together to protect the credibility of assessments and qualifications.”