"Do we turn this in?" Students, unfortunately, have been trained that if they do something for homework, they need to turn it in so the teacher can run their eyeballs over it. I feel that, if classroom learning activities are designed effectively, you can tell who did and did not do the assignments within the first 5 minutes of the activities. But what's more disturbing to me is the underlying "I'm doing this assignment in exchange for points from the teacher" mentality this question reveals. School shouldn't be based on some weird points-based economic transactions occurring between teacher and student; it should be based on shared learning experiences.
"How are we supposed to know how to do that?" Students often become paralyzed into inaction when faced with an unfamiliar task, one that requires risk-taking and/or problem-solving. For example, I asked my environmental science students to design a mathematical model for representing energy and matter flow through ecosystems (hello NGSS standard HS-LS2-4!) after doing a reading activity about major concepts involved. They all looked at me, stumped, and that question popped up after about 10 seconds of staring at me. I had to reassure them that they knew enough to do it, and that they should start hashing out ideas with their partner. Which then led to this next closely-related question...
"How do I know if I'm right?" My class activities are usually set up so that it's not really about right or wrong after we learn some basic concepts - it's about what makes more sense and what makes less sense when putting those concepts together. This is tough for students who may have only experienced the factory-model of school, where there is always a clear cut right and wrong, because giving students time to experience true, messy, and time-consuming authentic learning processes is too inefficient and would blow all timelines for content coverage. I find I have to do a lot of reassuring and fear-reducing in the first few months of school, telling students that, in life, there is no answer book they can check, and they need to learn how to recognize when what they have done makes sense rather than always looking for someone to tell them if they are right or wrong.
"Isn't this good enough?" In my standards-based scoring system, students are responsible for providing me with evidence of what they know, understand, and are able to do. Getting them out of the habit of writing or doing something "good enough" so they can scrounge a few points and into the habit of self-assessing their work to provide quality evidence of understanding is a tough, often year-long process, but well worth it.
"Why do I have to do it again? I already did it." The concept of having to redo something has really upset some of my students this year. They feel it is unfair for me to ask them to redo an assignment that they have already "completed." My philosophy is that learning isn't ever really done; we are all in different stages of learning, and in order to get better we have to recognize where we went wrong and fix it - so we can do better in the future.
Simple questions, but I believe they reveal some underlying viruses that students pick up regarding school and what should go on there. I also believe they generate another question that we as educators should be asking ourselves. So, to to end this post about questions with a question, here it is - shouldn't we be doing our best to eradicate the viruses that cause these questions to be asked in the first place?