Friday, August 24, 2012

Good and Not So Good Questions

This is an excellent post about good and bad questions.  Yes, professors always say there is no such thing as a bad question, but then hate it when a student asks a question that is pretty lousy such as:
  1. “Did we do anything important when I was out?”
  2. “Why do we have to learn this?”
  3. “Do we need the book?”
  4. “How much work do we have to do in this class?”
  5. “When will final grades be posted?” 
  6. “How many footnotes/sources do I need?”
  7. “Do we need to know this for the exam?”
  8. Do you have a stapler?
  9. “Can I leave early?/Is it OK if I go to my club meeting?” 
The general rule is that nearly all questions are fine unless they are aimed at trying to do the minimum, like questions 3, 4, 6, and 7.  I kept my door open at Texas Tech since my office did not have a window and because I wanted to interact with the students.  I just didn't want to be their supply secretary.  Stapler is an expected request because students panic when they find that their profs want their assignments to be handed in with something binding the various pages.  But I had students ask to borrow a pen or pencil, which is more annoying than it sounds, since I was working in my office, not just waiting to serve up writing implements. I would have been happy to talk about my classes, about IR, about stuff.  I had students ask to borrow my phone (this is before cell phones became quite so popular).  I even had one student ask to borrow my computer so that he could print something off.  I didn't get this much at my next job, perhaps because I was at the end of the hall or because like I looked older and less tolerant....

The only question on the list that was really off was the last one "“Are you sure you that’s right?”  That is, feel free to argue that I am wrong.  The stuff we are doing in the social sciences is not absolute and my memory is not perfect, so contradict me ... if you have a decent argument.  But woe unto you if you decide to use conspiracy theory--as I am not a religion prof, but one of reality-based social science. 

Anyhow, as the return of the students is about a week or two away, I wanted to ask my readers--what is the strangest question you have heard (or asked).  For instance, in college, we ended up asking a prof if he used shampoo to wash his beard. What say you?

1 comment:

abumustashriq said...

Not sure if you agree but I've found the craziest/laziest and most awkward questions coming from students in my first year lecture class (mostly during breaks). I usually excuse this behaviour since they probably felt empowered to ask anything of their teacher in High School without the requisite concern for embarrassment.

To counter this trend I've taken to doing more didactic guides to what, for instance, is an acceptable scholarly source. And then if I still get a "my uncle is an expert on Salafi Islam and a good source for my paper because he's a Salafi Shaykh" I can express sufficient displeasure.