The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday October 28th

Column: Answer with confidence

We’ve all been there. Someone in class confidently shoots their hand up in the air, ready to answer a question. The professor picks them out of the crowd, awaiting the student’s response. The student answers, and the response is, simply put, wrong. The professor might outright say the student is incorrect, or he or she might let the student down easy reciting the classic, “Well, not quite, but good idea.” Other students in the class may smirk, some may laugh and most will remain quiet for the rest of class.  

These are some of my favorite, and I think most important, moments in the classroom. On several occasions, I have been the student confidently answering incorrectly and also been the quiet observer. Each has taught me the value in making, recovering and learning from mistakes. Yes, sometimes being painfully incorrect stings, but making mistakes is only natural and should be encouraged in the classroom. 

To be fair, I am a fairly extroverted person. I enjoy answering questions and participating in class (that increases my chances of being wrong by a lot). But I realize that not everyone is in the same boat as me. I still think there is something important to be gained from making mistakes in the classroom setting. Classrooms are designed to be ways for students to learn from those with more knowledge and to gain insight to the world. As students, who are there to learn anyway, it only makes sense that they will make mistakes or be wrong sometimes.  

Answering incorrectly should not be something to be feared. It should be fostered as a way for students to grow and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. After making a mistake, we can see what we did wrong, what we should have done and, hopefully, what we can do better in the future. Mistakes are an integral part of the learning process. So, own it. What we can gain from the mistake is far greater than the embarrassment from committing the error. 

This is by no means me asking for people to answer things incorrectly. Please don’t waste the professor or your classmates’ time. Try your best to properly address the questions being asked. If you do that, and still are wrong, you are one step closer to understanding the material. That is something to be proud of. 

If you are someone who doesn’t frequently answer questions in class, know that messing up or answering incorrectly is not the end of the world. Rather, it’s the best way to learn. Take pride in that and use it to your advantage 

So, raise your hand. Answer that question. Be confident. So what if you get it wrong? The worst thing that can happen is the professor says no. At least you learned something, and that's the most important thing.

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