I am a junior undergraduate computer science student at a small engineering school. For the last term I have been paid as a teaching assistant for one of the more difficult courses in the CS curriculum. Because this is a small school, that means that I am basically a public tutor in our CS labs for about 10 hours a week and occaisonally help grade exams and assignments. I took the class earlier this year and did very well, but I am in no way an expert on the topic.
The largest part of the course is to write a small interpreter in Scheme. The students are given a starting point and are told conceptually how to implement most of the interpreter in the lectures, but the actual implementation is left fairly open. Because of this, there are quite a few valid ways to implement any given part of the project, and I do not think I could possibly learn all of them without dropping out of school to make this my full time job. The difficult part is that the advice I give to any given student depends heavily on how they have completed the interpreter thus far, and so I sometimes have low confidence that my ideas are correct.
I don't see a great way to avoid this without telling them to do it the way I did it when I took the class. I think that a strong point of the course is getting students to think about programming in different ways, and suggesting that my way is the best way seems to very directly contradict that. I also have low confidence in most of the students to tell me that I am wrong as they generally come to me at least a little bit confused in the first place.
As a paid assistant for our computer science department, should I encourage different solutions at the risk of incorrect solutions, and potentially at the risk of other students' grades? Or should I encourage solutions I am confident in at the risk of throwing out good ideas?
In the former case I don't feel like I am helping students in the same way that any of them are hoping for, but in the latter case I think I could just as well be replaced by a solution manual. I would like to nudge in the right direction as much as possible, but I don't always know exactly which direction is the correct one given several different thousand line projects in a single day.