One of my biggest responsibilities for my class was to grade the homeworks and exams for the course. Because of this, my office hours would often have students coming in to ask questions about the homework assignments. I quickly found that there is a right way, and a wrong way, to helping students with their homeworks.
Giving a student the answer is the easiest way to help them out. It’s often the most tempting, as well. When you have 7 or 8 students in your office, all wanting help with their assignments, it’s rather tempting to just give them the answers they need so as to quickly address everyone’s needs. However, this does not harbor learning, and 9 times out of 10 you will see the same students back in your office with the same questions, or new questions because they never learned the previous material.
I’ve found that the best method is to make the student work through the problem themselves, allowing them to ask any question they might have along the way. I often say things like, “Walk me through the problem” or, “What information do we have and what are we being asked to find?” or, “Tell me what you know.” Most of the time, the student will be able to figure it out on their own, simply by talking themselves through the problem or by taking things a little more slowly. If not, it is rather easy to see where there are holes in their knowledge, because they will be walking through the problem out loud. In addition, when there are multiple students present, they will often begin to work together to solve the problem. This seems to help solidify the information for every student that is present.
It might be easier to give a student the answer, but that’s not why we’re in the position we are in. We’re here to teach. Knowledge comes from understanding, not from being told the answers.