Dear Dr. Kirk:
I am fairly new to teaching and occasionally I will have a student ask me a question in class and I don't know the answer. Should I (a) fake it, (b) request that the student research the question and bring the information back to the class, or (c) admit to the student that I don't know?
Not Really Clueless, Just Don't Know Everything
Dear Not Clueless:
Let's look at your options: Faking the answer won't work in today's high tech world...I've had students google the answer on their laptop while in class. Assigning the student the task of finding out the answer sounds good but will feel more like punishment and discourage other students from asking questions. The right answer is (c) admit you don't know but that you will find out and get back to them. Students don't really expect you to know everything and will appreciate that you are honest enough to admit that you don't. You gain points with them, however, if you find out and share the answer with them the next class period.