Researchers apply the TPACK framework to AI learning

AI in education
November 08, 2023

Generative artificial intelligence has the potential to influence how humans acquire and manage knowledge, and that has deep implications for future teachers, education leaders and education systems.

TPACK in the age of ChatGPT and Generative AI, published in the Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, identifies how Gen AI stands out from other digital technologies while exploring its applicability through the widely-used digital education framework, the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework.

The paper’s lead author is Punya Mishra, associate dean of scholarship and innovation and professor with Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Fulton Teachers College. The paper’s co-authors are Melissa Warr (Learning, Literacies and Technologies, PhD, '21), an assistant professor of education design and learning technologies at New Mexico State University; and Rezwana Islam, (Learning, Literacies and Technologies, PhD, '27).

We believe that much of the current discussion of artificial intelligence, including its use in educational settings, has been built on a fundamental misunderstanding of these technologies,” says Mishra. “This paper provides an opportunity to approach these discussions through one of the most influential frameworks for technology integration in teaching, TPACK.” 

TPACK and Gen AI

The TPACK framework has been used to explore learning effectiveness in relation to a range of digital and analog tools. It was introduced in 2006 by Mishra and Mathew J. Koehler in a paper published in the Teachers College Record: Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. This paper has over 16,000 citations and is arguably one of the most influential frameworks in educational technology integration. 

“At the heart of the TPACK framework is an interaction between these three forms of knowledge: technology, pedagogy and content,” says Mishra. “A good educational solution is about finding the right balance between these three, grounded in specific contexts”

The current paper applies the TPACK framework to the use of Gen AI, which stands out from past digital technologies for its predictive capacity and use of machine learning algorithms to create new content and even interactive learning tools. 

Areas of challenge include limitations in generating accurate content and unexpected results that reduce quality of information. Other limitations include an opaqueness or lack of shared insight into how these systems are trained, and why certain results get generated. 

The role of teachers in the age of Gen AI

As Gen AI develops in new ways, so will the role of teachers, according to the paper authors. They base this conclusion on studies that demonstrate opportunities for Gen AI to help reduce teacher workload, improve learning access for diverse students and create new avenues for creative expression.

Educators may use Gen AI to help establish immersive and interactive learning environments that allow for personalized and differentiated learning, such as integrating it as a study partner or tutor for teachers and learners and using it to create tests and provide feedback.

“Since these tools can generate complex and unique responses, this suggests that educators may need to redesign their assessments of learning to focus on deeper, meta-level ideas,” says Warr. “They may find they are able to focus their pedagogies more on conceptual representation, communication and expression of knowledge, as well as analytical problem-solving skills.”

The role of systems in the age of AI

Education systems   not just individual teachers   will need to provide the contextual support for educators to be effective in prioritizing certain learning and knowledge skills needed in a society that widely incorporates Gen AI.

“These are powerful tools that have the potential to truly transform classrooms and the world within which classrooms exist, as well as wider education systems,“ says Islam.

The TPACK framework has the capacity to examine these needs and go beyond its current focus on teachers’ knowledge within the classroom (artifacts, processes and experiences). This allows for broader systems-based discussions around school and district policies related to student autonomy, plagiarism, educational standards and curricular content.

“Ultimately we argue that the TPACK framework offers a persistent and effective means of interpreting these developments though it is critical to view it from a wider perspective than before,” says Mishra.

In addition to the published paper, an executive summary of the paper is available in four languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin.

Photo credit: Image was generated using Dall-E3 with prompts by Punya Mishra.