Generative AI within the Teaching and Learning Context of McMaster University

As the previous chapter highlighted, the risks and challenges to post-secondary education created or energized by generative AI are significant and wide-reaching from how we assess student learning, to promoting academic integrity, to considering what we want students to learn and what their future will be after graduation. Taken together these challenges are significant, and required a full institutional response.

This chapter reviews how McMaster responded to this challenge, and what will come next as an institution.

Generative AI at McMaster University

While generative AI emerged as a transformative technology tool after McMaster’s Institutional Priorities and Strategic Framework (2021-2024) and McMaster’s Partnered in Teaching and Learning Strategy (2021-2026) were launched, the impact of generative AI nevertheless aligns with existing institutional strategic priorities and ongoing efforts to enhance teaching and learning.

In McMaster’s Institutional Priorities and Strategic Framework (2021-2024), for example, Teaching and Learning, one of five priorities listed, identifies the development of active and flexible learning spaces as one key objective. It notes that in “recognizing the ways that online and virtual classrooms have changed the teaching and learning environment for both our educators and our students, [McMaster must] use evidenced based research to make decisions about tools and platforms to optimize learning in the digital environment” (p. 10). While there is little peer reviewed literature yet available on generative AI in post-secondary teaching and learning, McMaster is staying abreast of such research, and even engaging in research of its own in an effort to develop and maintain guidelines and good practices with respect to the usage of generative AI at the institution.

Likewise, McMaster’s Partnered in Teaching and Learning Strategy (2021-2026) connects to generative AI via not one, but two of its four strategic pillars: 1) Fostering Inclusive Excellence and Scholarly Teaching strategy, via the themes Teaching as a Professional and Innovative Practice, and Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning, and 2) Developing Active and Flexible Learning Spaces, via the Digital Learning theme.

McMaster’s Task Force on Generative AI in Teaching and Learning 

Recognizing that the initiatives in these strategies alone could not respond quickly enough to the challenges presented by generative AI, on May 1, 2023, McMaster University struck a Task Force on Generative AI in Teaching and Learning to consider impacts posed by generative AI on teaching and learning at McMaster.

The Task Force was also to provide strategic guidance and actionable recommendations for educators planning for fall courses. Co-chaired by Kim Dej, Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning, and Matheus Grasselli, Deputy Provost, the Task Force includes students, faculty, and staff from across the university. Recommendations made by the Task Force will be submitted to Susan Tighe, Provost and Vice-President (Academic) in the fall of 2023.

The following overarching principles have guided the work of the Task Force and will continue to be updated through conversations with the McMaster campus community.

  • Students want to learn, and instructors want to support their learning.
  • Participatory learning – learning which happens in relationships and community – continues to be a valuable and vital way for students to learn.
  • Assessments that require students to document the process of learning continue to be meaningful for student learning.
  • Generative AI poses risks, as well as opportunities. Individuals will have different reactions and different expectations for the technology.
  • Disciplinary differences and departmental cultures will vary around the use of generative AI.

On June 5 the Task Force released Provisional Guidelines: The Use of Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Teaching and Learning at McMaster University (June, 2023) for McMaster students and educators. The guidelines are intended to offer a starting point for instructors to understand the potential uses of generative AI in their teaching and student learning and for developing courses for the fall term.

These guidelines will continue to be updated as the Task Force explores additional topics and as technology changes. Members of the Task Force invite feedback and suggestions on these guidelines through this form. It is expected these guidelines will be updated again in time for winter course preparation. Potential policy changes implied by these guidelines will be addressed by the relevant governance bodies.

Staff at the MacPherson Institute are available to consult with instructors regarding these guidelines; Instructors can email for support.


Appendix A: Citation and Reference Guidelines

Appendix B: Sample McMaster Syllabus Statements

Appendix C: Sample Rubrics

Appendix D: Honour Pledges

Forthcoming Guidelines and Resources


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Generative Artificial Intelligence in Teaching and Learning at McMaster University Copyright © 2023 by Paul R MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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