One of my main goals as a teacher is to be willing to help students when they are having difficulty with the homework or the concepts we are learning in class.
Every year I have my faithful visitors to office hours who I can rely upon to show up each week with questions about the lecture and problems sets, and I think it’s really great that a) they’re putting such a consistent effort into the class and b) they seem to find my help valuable and keep coming back, since there are other instructors for this course who they could go to for help. If a student is really struggling, I am willing to take them step-by-step through the problem. I don’t do the problems for them, but I do ask prompting questions and give hints if they get stuck.
However, this semester I have one student who just brought me his completed homework and wanted to know if it was right. I told him I wasn’t just going to check his homework before he handed it in; if he had any specific questions, I would answer them, but I wasn’t going to just tell him whether his answers were right or wrong.
After pondering a while, I’m thinking that maybe this was a bit unfair. He’s not asking for the answers, he just wants to know if any of his solutions are wrong so he can work them again. He has completed all the problems (four days before they are due, no less), which shows that he’s willing to do the work on his own, and arguably he is asking for a lot less help than the students who show up and say, “I looked at problem 5 and don’t know where to start. Can you help me with it?” Yet I’m much more willing to help that student through the whole problem than to just tell this guy whether his answers are right or wrong, and I can’t quite put my finger on why.
Bear in mind that if I do tell him whether his answers are right, I’m pretty sure he’s going to show up every week all semester and expect the same service.
What do you think?