Open Source Language Models Can Provide Feedback: Evaluating LLMs' Ability to Help Students Using GPT-4-As-A-Judge


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Large language models (LLMs) have shown great potential for the automatic generation of feedback in a wide range of computing contexts. However, concerns have been voiced around the privacy and ethical implications of sending student work to proprietary models. This has sparked considerable interest in the use of open source LLMs in education, but the quality of the feedback that such open models can produce remains understudied. This is a concern as providing flawed or misleading generated feedback could be detrimental to student learning. Inspired by recent work that has utilised very powerful LLMs, such as GPT-4, to evaluate the outputs produced by less powerful models, we conduct an automated analysis of the quality of the feedback produced by several open source models using a dataset from an introductory programming course. First, we investigate the viability of employing GPT-4 as an automated evaluator by comparing its evaluations with those of a human expert. We observe that GPT-4 demonstrates a bias toward positively rating feedback while exhibiting moderate agreement with human raters, showcasing its potential as a feedback evaluator. Second, we explore the quality of feedback generated by several leading open-source LLMs by using GPT-4 to evaluate the feedback. We find that some models offer competitive performance with popular proprietary LLMs, such as ChatGPT, indicating opportunities for their responsible use in educational settings.
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