By Sarah Robertson, senior product manager at Khan Academy
Khan Academy has always been about leveraging technology to deliver world-class educational experiences to students everywhere. We think the newest AI-powered feature in our Khanmigo pilot—our Academic Essay Feedback tool—is a groundbreaking step toward revolutionizing how students improve their writing skills.
The reality of writing instruction
Here’s a word problem for you: A ninth-grade English teacher assigns a two-page essay to 100 students. If she limits herself to spending 10 minutes per essay providing personalized, detailed feedback on each draft, how many hours will it take her to finish reviewing all 100 essays?
The answer is that it would take her nearly 17 hours—and that’s just for the first draft!
Research tells us that the most effective methods of improving student writing skills require feedback to be focused, actionable, aligned to clear objectives, and delivered often and in a timely manner.
The unfortunate reality is that teachers are unable to provide this level of feedback to students as often as students need it—and they need it now more than ever. Only 25% of eighth and twelfth graders are proficient in writing, according to the most recent NAEP scores.
An AI writing tutor for every student
Developed by experts in English Language Arts (ELA) and writing instruction, the pilot Khanmigo Academic Essay Feedback tool uses AI to offer students specific, immediate, and actionable feedback on their argumentative, expository, or literary analysis essays.
Unlike other AI-powered writing tools, the Academic Essay Feedback tool isn’t limited to giving feedback on sentence- or language-level issues alone, like grammar or spelling. Instead, it provides feedback on areas like essay structure and organization, how well students support their arguments, introduction and conclusion, and style and tone.
The tool also doesn’t just stop at providing feedback, it also guides students through the revision process. Students can view highlighted feedback, ask clarifying questions, see exemplar writing, make revisions, and ask for further review—without the AI doing any actual writing for them.
Unique features of Khanmigo pilot Academic Essay Feedback tool
- Immediate, personalized feedback: within seconds, students get detailed, actionable, grade-level-appropriate feedback (both praise and constructive) that is personalized to their specific writing assignment and tied directly to interactive highlights in their essay.
- Comprehensive approach: feedback covers a wide range of writing skills, from crafting an engaging yet focused introduction and thesis, to overall essay structure and organization, to style and tone, to alignment and use of evidence.
- Interactive revision process: students can interact with Khanmigo to ask questions about specific pieces of feedback, get examples of model writing, make immediate revisions based on the feedback, and see if their revisions addressed the suggestion.
- Support for various essay types: the tool is versatile and assists with multi-paragraph persuasive, argumentative, explanatory, and literary analysis essay assignments for grades 8-12 (and more, coming soon).
- Focus on instruction and growth: like all Khanmigo features, the Academic Essay Feedback tool will not do the work for the student. Teachers and parents can rest assured that Khanmigo is there to improve the students’ independent writing skills, not provide one-click suggested revisions.
How parents can use Khanmigo’s Academic Essay Feedback tool
Any student with Khanmigo access can find the feedback tool under the “Write” category on their AI Activities menu.
For academic essays, students should simply paste their first draft into the essay field, select their grade level and essay type, and provide the essay instructions from the teacher.
Students then click “Submit” and feedback begins generating. Once Khanmigo is done generating feedback, students can work their way through the suggestions for each category, chat with Khanmigo for help, make revisions, and resolve feedback. They can then submit their second draft for another round of feedback, or copy the final draft to submit to their teacher.
Bringing Khanmigo to your classroom, school, or district
Teachers in Khan Academy Districts partnerships can begin using the Khanmigo Academic Essay Feedback tool with their students right away. Simply direct students to the feedback tool under the “Write” category on their AI Activities menu.
Like all other Khanmigo activities, students’ interactions are monitored and moderated for safety. Teachers or parents can view the student’s initial draft, AI-generated feedback, chat history, and final draft in the student’s chat history. If anything is flagged for moderation, teachers or parents will receive an email notification.
With the Academic Essay Feedback tool in our Khanmigo pilot, teachers and parents can empower students to take charge of their writing.The tool helps facilitate a deeper understanding of effective writing techniques and encourages self-improvement. For teachers, we think this tool is a valuable ally, enabling them to provide more frequent, timely, detailed, and actionable feedback for students on multiple drafts.
In the coming months, we’ll be launching exciting improvements to the tool and even more writing resources for learners, parents, teachers, and administrators:
- The ability for teachers to create an essay-revision assignment for their students on Khan Academy
- More varied feedback areas and flexibility in what feedback is given
- Support for students in essay outlining and drafting
- Insights for teachers and parents into their students’ full writing process
Sarah Robertson is a senior product manager at Khan Academy. She has a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and over a decade of experience teaching English, developing curriculum, and creating software products that have helped tens of millions of students improve their reading and writing skills.