students would not ask if they needed to know it for the test or quiz. Students would not be gaming out whether or not something is worth their time based on whether it will be tested. Most teachers hate these questions from students, but they are perfectly legitimate. Students want to be efficient and successful at school, and why not. Their work on the test and quiz is what gets rewarded, and they are busy with other interests. Our class is more important to us than to them. If we want to change the mindset, we need to change the game.
I would rather have students ask how much they need to know about a topic in order to give a presentation, teach younger students, participate in a discussion – either in class or online, write an article or persuasive essay, write or respond to a blog post, etc. In this case, it is a legitimate question, but I am not the one with the answer. Students need to figure it out themselves as they go. It might involve beginning a draft or lesson plan and then going back to do more research. It could also include discussion and advice from their peers. It might even involve falling flat after a first attempt. What has changed is that they are no longer trying to read my mind but instead trying to master their material. I become a partner in helping them but not the one with the answer key.
As usual a few random twitter threads came together in my mind for this post. Annie Murphy Paul wrote about the power of having students teach others. Mike Kaechele noted during #sschat about flipped classrooms that the real flip is putting students in charge of their own learning. Students should be asking how much they need to know about something but not to answer questions that I have deemed important which only I will read. That question should be part of the process of learning, sharing, teaching and reflecting, which is not a linear one.