• The Core Collaborative

Dealing with the student response of “I don’t know.”

By Connie Hamilton

There are many reasons students give an "I don't know" response. It's not always because they actually do not know. When educators allow shoulder shrugs to trigger reteaching, we might have a mismatch between the problem and the solution.

Consider these possible reasons an IDK response is given. Our decision on how to respond is a critical one. Additional wait time for a student who didn't hear the question is not going to support the student in moving past IDK. Allow yourself to pause and give thought to what might really be the root cause for the "I don't know." Then choose the best strategy to get over the IDK roadblock.

Download this chart of common reasons for an IDK response with corresponding roots and responses.