The other day I gave a SAKAI assignment to my students that seemed simple enough: “Create a questionnaire that you could administer to a group of your choosing and bring it to class next week.” This was in a beginning social work research class. It sounded simple to me anyway. What else did I need to say? Well, you would have thought I had asked the students to fly to the moon and bring back moon dust. My e-mail was burning up:
“How many should be in the group?”
“Is it a group on campus?”
“Do I hand it out or what?”
“How will I know if I am doing it right?”
“How will I know if it is what you want?”
“Will this be graded?”
“Calmness, calmness,” I replied back to them in a group mail. “You can do this. What do I want? Well, I want whatever it is you give me. Give it your best shot.”
“You mean it doesn’t matter if we do it wrong?” was the overall group response.
“There is no wrong,” was my response. “And, no, it doesn’t matter.”
The next week we went over the questionnaires they brought to class, and we came to a consensus on what makes a good questionnaire. “If you had told us how to do it, we wouldn’t have made so many mistakes,” one student commented at the end of class with an amused expression.
“That’s right,” I nodded, smiling back at her. “You are absolutely right.”