Integrating ChatGPT as a Co-Advisor in Scientific Research

29 May 2024


(1) Fabiano Villan, Universidade Luterana do Brasil (ULBRA), Curso de Licenciatura em Física;

(2) Renato P. dos Santos, Universidade Luterana do Brasil (ULBRA), PPG em Ensino de Ciências e Matemática (PPGECIM).



Theoretical Framework

The ZPD and Chat GPT as a Co-Advisor in Scientific Guidance


Results and Analysis

Conclusions, Acknowledgements, Author's Contribution Statement, Data Availability Statement





The study was carried out at the Municipal School of Primary Education IP in Canoas, RS, which caters to both the early and final years of primary education. After nearly eight years without a science fair, the school management was motivated to revisit and update their pedagogical approaches.

Inspired by Vygotsky's theories on social interaction in learning and the expansion of the ZPD, we adopted the PBL methodology to investigate the implementation of innovative pedagogical practices, with a particular focus on the potential use of ChatGPT as a co-advisor in undergraduate research guidance.

As Vygotsky emphasized, innovative approaches to scientific problems often require the creation of entirely new methods of investigation and analysis, which go beyond mere modifications of previously accepted methods (Vygotsky, 1991).

The choice of PBL and action research for this study is based on their complementarity and effectiveness for the educational context in question. PBL places students in the position of active problem-solvers, promoting the development of essential critical and interdisciplinary skills for scientific initiation. Simultaneously, action research serves as a reflective and adaptive mechanism for educators, allowing for continuous improvement of pedagogical practices through iterative cycles of planning, action, observation, and reflection. This synergy between the two approaches not only facilitates more meaningful and contextualized learning for students but also promotes a dynamic and responsive teaching practice, capable of adjusting to emerging needs and the challenges of contemporary teaching. Thus, the joint implementation of PBL and action research in this study represents a deliberate effort to align educational theory with innovative and effective practices, ensuring that learning and development occur in an integrated and sustainable manner.

It is vital to highlight that the flexibility of teaching practice and the promotion of interdisciplinarity are cornerstones of PBL, and action research served as a complementary tool to guide teaching decisions and strategies. The active involvement of the teacher in the scientific initiation process was essential, as highlighted by Carvalho, Nevado, and Menezes (2007). This involvement includes the use of questions intended to unsettle the certainties built by students, thereby encouraging a deeper reflection on the content.

In line with the foundations of PBL, each research project in Scientific Initiation was conceived as a complex problem that required students to adopt an investigative and reflective approach. This pedagogical model placed students at the centre of the learning process, encouraging them to identify and define research questions, search and analyse relevant information, formulate hypotheses, and develop strategies for data collection and analysis.

Such an approach promoted not only the acquisition of specific knowledge on the chosen topic but also the development of fundamental competencies such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. In this way, learning occurred organically and meaningfully, through direct engagement of students with their research projects, thus aligning with the goal of PBL to integrate theory and practice in rich and contextualized educational experiences.

Due to some discomfort from the lead teachers in guiding research outside their areas of expertise, the majority of teachers decided, in agreement with the management team, that the research topics should align with each lead teacher's training, which partially diverted the IC process from the essence of PBL.

In this scenario, the researcher, with the assistance of ChatGPT, was available to guide groups that opted for an interdisciplinary approach, maintaining the principles of PBL and testing the effectiveness of ChatGPT as a co-advisor.

The assistance of ChatGPT, acting as a co-advisor, was indispensable for the researcher to effectively guide groups in an interdisciplinary approach, expanding the scope beyond their own academic training. This digital coadvisor was essential for providing insights on a diverse range of student research topics, deepening scientific questioning, organizing information, and supporting strategic decisions. Its application extended from literature review to the exploration of new pedagogical approaches, offering a rich and diverse perspective that goes beyond the traditional limits of academic guidance.

This innovative use of ChatGPT demonstrates its applicability as a pedagogical tool, capable of complementing and enriching the guidance process. Furthermore, the flexibility and adaptability of AI allowed the researcher and students to explore interdisciplinary themes, promoting a richer and more diversified learning experience.

The researcher also played an active role in the development and refinement of teaching materials and research strategies adopted by the groups, in partnership with the school and lead teachers (Figure 2).

Throughout the entire process, ChatGPT served as a complementary tool utilized by the researcher, contributing to the detailed review of the proposal and suggested themes, as well as optimizing the execution of the planning for guidance in elementary SI, resulting in tangible, clear, and effective improvements. The ethical and transparent use of ChatGPT strengthened the collaboration between the researcher and the tool, demonstrating its value in the self-training process for educators. The support offered by the researcher helped to mitigate common concerns of teachers, such as lack of time and the challenges of guidance, facilitating a more efficient and effective pedagogical practice.

On the other hand, action research played a crucial role in this educational intervention, serving both as a methodology and reflective practice. Through it, the researcher not only implemented PBL (Problem-Based Learning) and ChatGPT as teaching and learning tools but also actively participated in the educational process, collaborating directly with students and teachers. This hands-on approach allowed for dynamic adjustments and immediate responses to the emerging needs of the school environment.

Figure 2

Educational material developed to clarify the scientific initiation process and the scientific method.

Translation note (Only main text translated):

Orientation to Scientific Initiation in Elementary Education

By Municipal Elementary School Irmão Pedro.

The Scientific Method: definitions, applications, main stages

Scientific research is essential for technological progress and for solving widespread problems in today's society. From a simple curiosity to complex scientific investigations, the use of a systematic method, the scientific method, is imperative. See the main stages of the scientific method:


• Observation

• Questions

• Hypotheses

• Experiment

• Analysis

• Conclusion

Initially, face-to-face interviews were conducted individually with 353 students from the final years of elementary school, covering classes from the 6th to the 9th grade, both morning and afternoon sessions, one at a time, to assess their prior knowledge about the scientific method. During these interviews, the researcher recorded detailed observations in a logbook. Concurrently, structured questionnaires via Google Forms were administered to the 16 head teachers, who were guiding the research groups, to collect information about their academic qualifications, pedagogical practices, and comfort with guiding SI projects, detailed in Appendix A. Similarly, an additional survey via Google Forms was conducted with the students from the groups guided by the researcher to measure their receptivity to SI, with the results presented in Appendix B[1].

Data collection was carried out following a mixed-methods approach. The responses from the questionnaires, automatically compiled and analysed by Google Forms, were reviewed to provide pertinent quantitative and qualitative insights into the study. Quantitative analysis was performed using Microsoft Excel, with the creation of pie charts to visually illustrate the percentage distributions, facilitating the understanding of the results and highlighting significant trends. This mixed methodology ensured a holistic understanding of the phenomena under study, allowing for the correlation of the researcher’s direct observations with the responses obtained from the questionnaires.

The data collected allowed for an ongoing assessment of the research groups, enriched by the employment of the action research methodology, and served as a basis for strategic decisions by the school administration, leading to the overcoming of initial challenges with confidence and paving the way for more effective and innovative practices.

The school adopted a fundamental strategy to strengthen guidance and SI of research groups, through the organization of strategic pedagogical stops. During these times, the teachers of each class could reserve class periods exclusively to direct the orientation of the involved students.

During this process, teachers and students were educated on the scientific method in face-to-face meetings twice a week. To support the teachers, the school authorized the creation of a virtual environment (Figure 3) where they could seek information about the scientific method. This facilitated access to digital resources, space for teacher training, and allowed teachers to become familiar with the proposed pedagogical approach.

This structured approach ensured that teachers had adequate time and support to effectively conduct guidance with students, a crucial component in the implementation of the new pedagogical approach.

This strategy not only valued direct interaction between teachers and students but also provided a conducive environment for in-depth discussions, clarification of doubts, and the promotion of constructive dialogue.

The project concluded in two distinct stages. Initially, all school groups presented their research work following the scientific method, guided within the teaching practice aligned with the PBL methodology. These presentations underwent a rigorous assessment aimed at analysing and ranking the works according to the rubrics established in the SI project notice. As a result of this assessment, 30 of the 102 workgroups were selected for the science fair that took place in July 2023 at the school, involving the entire school community.

Figure 3

Virtual environment developed to support teachers and students with materials on the scientific method.[2]

Translation note (Only main text translated):


Orientation to Scientific Initiation in Biblical Education


Post-Human Pedagogies of Objects


The evaluation was carried out by external evaluators and the school's teachers; at this point, the researcher intentionally stepped back, not participating in the evaluations considering the adopted action-research approach. Here, the importance of the teacher reflecting on their pedagogical practice with an open mind is highlighted, not only with the goal of professional growth but also to benefit the students. The school recognized the efforts of the teachers and students with certificates.

This paper is available on arxiv under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 DEED license.

[1] This study did not involve the submission of a research project to a formal ethical evaluation by competent boards, as the activities carried out were an integral part of a teaching internship, being inserted in the everyday educational context. Similarly, there was no application of the Informed Consent Form, since data collection was performed during routine teaching internship activities, aligned with standard pedagogical practices. However, full responsibility for any consequences arising from the study is assumed, committing to assistance and reimbursement for any damages to the research participants, in accordance with Resolution No. 510 of April 7, 2016, by the National Health Council of Brazil, absolving the journal Acta Scientiae from any implications resulting from this work.