Category Archives: Teaching & Higher Ed

You’re not “just kidding.” You’re just wrong. And that’s okay.

Recently a student asked me for an answer to a question on an assignment she was doing in my ECG Assessment class. I tend to answer questions with a questions, so I asked her, “what do you think the answer is?” After some discussion she came up with a response. Which was wrong. And she replied, “just kidding.” She wasn’t kidding, and she didn’t know the right answer.


This was far from an isolated incident. When a student answers a question incorrectly in class or  in conversations outside of class, the most common response is “just kidding.” I first noticed it years ago, mostly from female students. Now I hear it equally from male students. I even hear it from other “adults,” most recently when an acquaintance didn’t remember what grade my son is in—”just kidding.”

It’s as though being wrong is so unacceptable, it is turned into a joke. The message seems to be “I wasn’t wrong, I was joking, and I knew the right answer all along.” The problem is, most students who say this really don’t know the right answer.I worry that this lack of ownership will prevent students from identifying weaknesses and missing opportunities to fill gaps in their knowledge.

So, now when I hear a student say “just kidding” I say “no, you’re not just kidding, you’re just wrong, and that’s okay.” Then we work to find the correct answer.

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Five students came to see me about their exam. They were the wrong five students.

I gave my first exam in Exercise Physiology last week. Predictably, grades ranged widely, with some students doing very well and others, well, not. There were five students who failed. So, I sent them a friendly email asking them to meet with me to discuss their exam and, more importantly, what they can do to salvage their chances to pass the class.

And five students came to see me. But they were the wrong five students.

F grade

The students who came to see me all earned As or Bs on the exam and wanted to see what they missed or to talk about some of their answers. One student who earned a high A just wanted to find out what she got wrong (very little). None of them really needed help, but they still took the time to see me.

This is probably why these five students did so well. And why the other five didn’t.

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