When It Pays to Say "I Don't Know"
In response to our recent podcast called “Why Is ‘I Don’t Know’ So Hard to Say?,” a reader named Timothy McCollough writes in with a most interesting story. He teaches at a private international school in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. His courses include two sections of AP microeconomics, sociology, and “regular economics.” Because it’s a private school, he adds, “we have freer reign to set up classroom incentives and engage students as we see fit.” For instance:
In my classroom, students lose 1/4 point for wrong answers on quizzes. But for writing “I don’t know,” they get 1/4 point. (A correct answer is 1 point). The rationale is that if someone is in a medical emergency, and someone asks me what should be done, the answer “I don’t know” is much preferable to a guess. “I don’t know” leads the questioner to ask someone who hopefully is knowledgeable.
Part of why “I don’t know is so hard to say” stems from an education system based on attempting every single question, whether you know the answer or not.
P.S.: End-of-year student survey showed students strongly supported the +1/4 point IDK and -1/4 point wrong-answer system.
I have to say, I very much like to see this kind of creativity in a teacher, any teacher, at any level.