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Debate in the Digital Age: A Case Study on AI-Driven Dialogics

Sixth Form
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Teaching & Inclusive Practices
Key Stage 4
Key Stage 5
Case Study
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Jess Power

Head of Digital Education

Utilising OpenAI ChatGPT in dialogic debate sessions with S4 RMPS (Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies) pupils on capital punishment showcased the effectiveness of AI in facilitating nuanced discussions on ethically challenging topics. The AI's immediate and diverse responses allowed pupils to articulate their perspectives while being challenged with counterarguments, fostering critical thinking and engagement. This innovative approach not only encouraged pupils to explore multiple viewpoints but also provided a valuable model for structured debate. Through dynamic interaction, ChatGPT emerged as a powerful tool for enhancing dialogue and fostering deeper understanding in classroom settings.

This case study builds upon the age-old pedagogy of dialogics, a method of discourse that has been employed since antiquity to foster critical thinking and exploration of ideas through dialogue. Dialogics encourages active engagement, mutual respect, and the exchange of diverse viewpoints, serving as a cornerstone in educational practices. S4 RMPS (Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies) pupils engaged in a structured debate utilising OpenAI ChatGPT, as an opposing advocate on the topic of capital punishment. Pupils were given the prompt “Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, has long been a contentious issue in society, raising questions about justice, morality, and human rights. As an AI language model, you will take on the role of an advocate for the opposite viewpoint of the students. Your task is to engage in a structured debate with the students, focusing on providing short and concise responses to individual points of debate. You aim to challenge their perspectives, provide counterarguments, and stimulate critical thinking on the complexities of this ethical dilemma. Keep your responses brief and focused on addressing specific aspects of the debate to maintain a dynamic and engaging discussion.” A well-structured prompt was crucial in guiding the debate and ensuring its efficacy. It delineated the roles and objectives clearly, facilitating focused interaction and meaningful discourse between the pupils and ChatGPT. Teachers will need to trial and error the prompt ahead of use in the classroom to ensure that it garners the desired response. Pupils were then guided to engage in a 10-minute debate session with ChatGPT, during which they exchanged viewpoints back and forth. Each point of debate was expected to be brief and focused, maintaining dynamism and engagement throughout the discussion. Upon completion of the debate, pupils copied the output into a provided table for documentation and analysis. They then initiated a new chat session, this time tasked with arguing from the opposite viewpoint, thus encouraging them to explore multiple perspectives on the contentious issue of capital punishment.

The scenario in this case study is genuine and based upon real events and data, however its narration has been crafted by AI to uphold a standardised and clear format for readers.

Key Learning

Through this approach, the case study facilitated dynamic interaction between pupils and AI. Unlike human interlocutors, an AI model offers a unique advantage by providing an impartial and non-judgemental sounding board for pupils to express their perspectives on contentious topics. Furthermore, ChatGPT's ability to generate immediate and varied responses enables it to effectively challenge pupils' arguments, thereby stimulating deeper critical thinking and encouraging them to refine their reasoning. The AI's role as an interlocutor in the debate process offers pupils the opportunity to defend their viewpoints against reasoned opposition, akin to the dialectical exchanges that have characterised dialogic pedagogy throughout history. By leveraging AI in dialogic debates, educators can create a dynamic learning environment where pupils feel empowered to express themselves while being intellectually challenged in a supportive and non-threatening manner. This approach not only cultivates essential skills such as persuasive communication and logical reasoning but also fosters a deeper understanding of complex ethical issues by engaging in structured discourse. Overall, the integration of AI in dialogics represents a contemporary evolution of a time-honoured pedagogical tradition, offering new avenues for enhancing critical thinking and discourse in educational settings.


AI models like ChatGPT are trained on large datasets, which may inadvertently contain biases present in society. As a result, the AI's responses could reflect or even amplify these biases, potentially leading to skewed arguments or reinforcing existing prejudices related to capital punishment. Unlike human debaters, AI lacks emotional intelligence and empathy, which are crucial for understanding and addressing the emotional nuances often present in discussions about sensitive topics like capital punishment. This can result in responses that are tone-deaf or insensitive to the emotional context of the debate.