Teachers often say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but there really is. That’s clear from field research by sociologist Irina Gazpacho.
Gazpacho walked around campus for years and attended hundreds of lectures. ‘Stupid questions are a lot more common than is generally assumed,’ Gazpacho says. ‘In fact, someone will ask one in almost every lecture.’
One of the frequently asked stupid questions is what you need to know for the exam, says Gazpacho. ‘Any question to which the answer is literally word for word in the study guide or on Brightspace is just stupid. And you can generally assume that if a teacher covers it in class, you need to know it. Why else would the teacher pay attention to it?’
Questions like ‘can I do the practical another time because I’m going shopping with my girlfriends on that day?’ are also classified as ‘stupid’. Gazpacho: ‘Come up with a good excuse, at least. What happened to ‘The dog ate my homework’? Where has all the creativity gone?’
‘Did you guys know we were going on a field trip?’ This was a question a student recently asked his course mates on a course that’s famous for its excursion. ‘He asked that as the bus pulled away. He just didn’t get it, poor soul. Seriously stupid.’
Gazpacho expects to publish recommendations based on her research by the end of the year. In the report, Dumb questions for dummies, she will advise teachers on the best way of dealing with stupid questions. ‘What the best answer is depends on the type of stupid question,’ says Gazpacho. ‘You can totally ignore it, get cross with the student or heave a big sigh and ask: are you serious?’