It’s Ok to Ask Questions

For some reason students feel like they shouldn’t ask their profs questions.  Why is that?  Do you think that how to amortize bonds payable using the effective interest method of amortization is common knowledge?  No, it’s not.  It’s a difficult concept and so are many other theories, processes and formulae you will cover in all kinds of courses ranging from anthropology to zoology.

Most professors are happy to answer your questions for these three reasons:

  1. Asking questions demonstrates that you care.  The fact that you are concerned enough to ask a question shows us that  learning is a priority for you.  We really like to help those students who are interested, passionate or just plain curious about a topic.
  2. We genuinely want to help our students succeed.  We enjoy facilitating discussions and grading papers where students “get it”.  Believe me, it’s no fun grading a failing paper.
  3. We like interacting with our students.  Those of us who teach large classes don’t get to do this very often.  When we respond to questions in a one-on-one setting it can be a great opportunity for us to find out what students are struggling with so that we can make changes to content delivery.

Before you approach your professor with an “I don’t understand” statement, be clear that we do have some expectations.  We expect that you have done some preliminary work and have made some effort to familiarize yourself with the concept/topic/process.  Use this list of questions as a checklist and only approach your professor after you can answer yes to all of them.

  • Have you completed the reading?
  • Have you attempted the review questions/demonstration problem?
  • Did you pay attention/take notes/get notes to the lecture/discussion on the topic?
  • Have you attempted to discuss the concept with other students in your class or study group?
  • Have you actually thought about the concept?

Here’s a question for you.  Does this help?



Filed under Asking Questions

11 responses to “It’s Ok to Ask Questions

  1. This advice can apply to the workforce too, great post!

  2. sespain

    Hello. I am an undergraduate, senior Communication Studies major and also wrote a blog post about questions within the college classroom. Unfortunately, my experience has been much different than what you have to offer. To my peers, my questions seem antagonistic and to my professor, my questions appear annoying. In addition, I have a professor who appears to be hugely under qualified for her job. As a result, asking questions makes me look (and feel) like the divisive student who thinks she is better than everyone else and I’ve quit speaking up in class. I wish my experience had been more like what this post offers.

    • Thanks for commenting and providing the link to your post. I am sorry to hear that your experiences with questions in (and out) of the classroom haven’t been positive. The inconsistency with how faculty handle student questions is disappointing as one bad experience can really shut down a student for the rest of her undergraduate career. In my opinion the potential fear or hesitation to ask questions will impact a student’s ability to be an effective learner both in school and in the workplace. And that’s a total shame. For your sake I hope that your experience is more isolated than general.

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  5. Peculiar article, totally what I needed.

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