Recently, my students took a test in our Social Science class. The assessment was a few short answer questions about a variety of topics in Ancient India. As my students turn them in, I typically have a follow up activity for them to be working on while other students are finishing up. Then I will start on grading the assessments in an effort to give them some instant feedback. There are always some answers that leave me scratching my head and asking myself, “where did that come from.”
However, as I was reading through the student’s work I came across one comment from a student that took me back initially. The question she was answering had two parts to it. She answered the first part well but clearly struggled with the second part and simply wrote, “I don’t know. L”
Now, I know some teachers that would simply give this student a marked down score and move on. I do not do that. Personally, I look at this as an opportunity for both me and my student to learn and grow. Rather than moving on, I provide re-teaching opportunities as well as retakes. For most students, as soon as they turn in a test or assignment their learning ends. I would rather have a student write down, “I don’t know” so I can look at a different approach to help them understand that content. On a regular basis, I tell my students that it is ok for them not to know the answers but to constantly be looking for them. Once they give up on finding answers, I have failed them.
If I am truly a teacher, then I must teach. That doesn’t mean just teaching up until the test, but beyond. If a student “doesn’t know” then it is my responsibility to help them “know”. Learning should not end when a piece of paper is turned in.