Playtesting Your ChatGPT Prompt

Improve students' communication techniques by practicing “Rogers’s rules” for active listening with ChatGPT.

Assignment Details

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Cultivate your prompt-engineering skills
Demonstrate and refine your understanding of “Rogers’s rules” for active listening  
Practice recognizing, anticipating, and addressing your readers’ needs and expectations


This assignment asks students to demonstrate their understanding of a conflict-resolution strategy known as “Rogers’s rules.” It can be adapted to work with any skill or topic introduced in your class. “Rogers’s rules” describe a model developed by the psychologist Carl Rogers that is meant to improve the quality of classroom discussions, especially those about sensitive or controversial issues. According to these rules, each student can state their opinion only after they have first restated the ideas and feelings of the previous speaker and, most importantly, to that speaker’s satisfaction. These rules encourage students to attend closely to one another, rather than waiting for their turn to speak. As a result, conversations achieve greater depth and nuance, ensuring that each student’s comments build upon–rather than merely follow–the ideas of the previous speaker.


Part 1: Drafting

  1. Start by explaining that this assignment asks students to engineer a prompt that instructs ChatGPT to follow protocols or perform skills introduced in class. Students will “playtest” their prompts to identify any limitations or flaws in their instructions. When ChatGPT fails to follow protocols or practice skills described in students’ instructions, students are asked to revise the prompt to prevent the same failure in future tests. In this way, students practice the habits of experienced writers, who view writing not simply as the expression of ideas, but rather as the complex process of transforming and arranging ideas in ways that meet readers’ needs and expectations.
  2. Instruct students to craft a ChatGPT prompt that demonstrates a deep and nuanced understanding of Rogers’s rules and trains ChatGPT to effectively and consistently adhere to these rules. The precise nature of the conversation that students have with ChatGPT will depend on the topic of your course. To consider some examples, students might have a discussion focused on the intersection between healthcare and Artificial Intelligence, electoral systems and democracy, affirmative action, border security, the effects of different economic policies on reducing income inequality, etc. 
  3. If students need further guidance on drafting appropriate language for their prompt, here is a sample that effectively outlines a set of rules for enhancing mutual understanding between conversation participants:
    “We’re going to have a conversation that adheres to ‘Rogers’s rules.’ According to these rules, each person can state their opinion only after they have first restated the ideas and feelings of the previous speaker, and to that speaker’s satisfaction. This means that after I speak, you must demonstrate that you understand and ask me whether or not your interpretation is accurate and complete. Please do not let me get away with merely claiming that I understand. In other words, ‘yes,’ ‘sure,’ or ‘I get it’ are not valid responses to ‘Do you understand what I’m saying?’ Instead, you must insist that I demonstrate my understanding. However, ‘yes’ can be a valid response to ‘Have I understood you correctly?’ If I do certify your interpretation, you must then respond by challenging or augmenting my opinion. But if I do not certify your interpretation, you must try again or ask clarifying questions until you are able to demonstrate accurate understanding to my satisfaction. Finally, after stating our own opinions, we’ll ask ‘Do you understand what I’m saying?’ to cue the other to respond. If either of us breaks any of these rules, the other must stop to correct the issue and insist that the rules are followed.”

Part 2: Testing to Pass

  1. Early in the creative process, designers “test to pass.” This means testing a product under ideal conditions that are most likely to result in success, in order to demonstrate proof of concept. Students’ task here is to gently test their prompts. As a conversant, they should be predictable and pose straightforward claims on simple, uncontroversial topics. For instance, taking the first example above, students might discuss the benefits of regular health checkups and exercise.
  2. Students should review the conversation transcript to see whether ChatGPT effectively and consistently adheres to Rogers’s rules after insisting that it follows them. If students observe failures or deviations, encourage them to revise the language in their prompt accordingly and repeat Part 2.

Part 3: Testing to Fail

  1. Later in the creative process, designers “test to fail.” This means testing a product under the most difficult, demanding conditions that are most likely to result in failure, in order to identify weaknesses and limitations in your design. Students’ task here is to put their prompt to the ultimate test. As a conversant, they should be unpredictable and recalcitrant. For instance, continuing with the topic above, students might discuss AI’s ability to improve diagnostic accuracy, concerns that AI might replace certain jobs in healthcare, the value of mood prediction algorithms for mental health services, and the potential for AI to lead to biased medical decisions, all in one conversation.
  2. Here, students should take note of when ChatGPT fails to adhere to Rogers’s rules, or ineffectively or inconsistently enforces them. If they observe missteps, have them revise their prompt accordingly and repeat parts 2 and 3.

Part 4: Reflection

  1. Once students have completed this assignment, have a conversation as a class or in small groups (or ask students to submit a brief 300 to 500 word reflection essay along with their conversation transcripts), focusing on some of the following questions:
    • What were the most significant challenges you faced when crafting your prompt to adhere to Rogers’s rules?
    • How did you address any failures or inconsistencies in ChatGPT’s responses during the “Testing to Pass” and “Testing to Fail” phases?
    • What insights did you gain about the importance of active listening and accurately restating others’ ideas in both human and AI-mediated conversations?
    • How might the skills and techniques you practiced in this assignment be applied to real-world discussions and conflict-resolution scenarios in your field of study?


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