Have you ever found yourself in such situation when you’re asked a question in class but you didn’t know the answer? Well, you’re definitely not alone on this – it’s a normal reoccurrence for every student.  In such instance, you know how awkward it seems to simply say “I don’t know”, thereby making everyone look at you as though you’ve got some dumb brain working for you. Perhaps you should consider no longer using that phrase and instead try these five other ways that might buy you some time in order to be able to think a bit more.

As a teacher for example, if you were to pose a question to a student or even to an entire group in a project-based learning situation, what would be an appropriate response if the answer was not known? Would a student (or students) be allowed to skate by and just say they don’t know? Would you allow a group of students to simply look at each other, shrug their shoulders, and just reply that they don’t know the answer. I imagine they’d say something to the effect of “I don’t know, you tell us the answer.”

Boy, that’d get a passionate teacher fired up. I don’t know about you.

In an effort to get passionate teachers less fired up, and help students think a bit harder before giving their response to a question, here are a few fabulous alternatives to the popular “I don’t know” response. You can say “May I please have some more information?” or “May I have some time to think?” or “Would you please repeat the question?” or “Where could I find more information about that?” or finally “May I ask a friend from help?”

That last option certainly feels like the ‘phone a friend’ option on ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” perhaps. In any case, hope these options help you think critically, work with your colleagues, and just generally not rely on a throw-away phrase that lets you get by without actually learning.