Project Profile

Constructing Understandings of Generative AI and Machine Learning with High School Youth


This project explores how high school youth communicate with AI tools and assesses how they learn to use AI tools in context. Though students are using these tools widely, inciting much public discourse, very little is known about how, why, and when they use AI tools, or what they understand about the tools. Through curricular exploration, this study evaluates how historically marginalized high school youth of color interact with AI tools to write papers, write program code, or study for science tests. This proposal was received in response to the Dear Colleague Letter (DCL): Rapidly Accelerating Research on Artificial Intelligence in K-12 Education in Formal and Informal Settings (NSF 23-097) and funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers.

Through a one-year study, researchers will pilot generative AI activities in classrooms and out-of-school clubs; collect quantitative data, logs, video data, screen recordings, and artifactual data; and analyze those data to find mechanistic explanations and generalizable models of how students are interacting with and learning AI content. Offering a foundational perspective for AI-related learning and augmentation, this study is a crucial and time-sensitive first step, required before scalable interventions and curriculum development. The research questions guiding the study are (1) How do students and teachers learn to communicate with generative AI? (2) How do learners demonstrate their understanding of AI and predict AI responses in order to yield desired results? and (3) How do students compare AI to their own cognitive strategies? The project has multiple potential transformative outcomes including a model for how students and teachers understand generative AI; a curriculum for teaching students and teachers how to use generative AI ethically and meaningfully; and new possibilities for using generative AI in education. Research findings, instructional materials and teacher professional development guidelines will be shared with and distributed to the research and practitioner communities.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


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Principal Investigator(s)


Award Number
Project Duration
2023 - 2024
Stanford University, CA
Project Status