University of Aveiro, Research Centre for Didactics and Technology in Teacher Education (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 5528-5539
ISBN: 978-84-613-2953-3
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
To conceive an educative question requires thought;
To formulate it requires labour;
To pose it, tact.
None of this is mysterious
And all of it is within our reach.
(J. T. Dillon, 1983, p.8)

Classroom questioning is an extensively researched subject. The high incidence of questioning as a teaching strategy – Morgan and Saxton (2006) emphasize that, on a average day, teachers ask between 300 and 400 questions - and its consequent potential for influencing student learning (Gunel, 2008), have led many researchers to explore relationships between teaching questioning methods and student achievement and behavior (Brophy and Good, 1985).

Sternberg and Spear-Swerling (1996) identified three different teaching strategies typified by the kind of interaction between teacher and students, which, on its turn, was mainly characterised by the number and kind of teacher’ questions, as well as by his or her feedback to students’ answers and/or questions.

The purpose of this study is to: i) identify the teacher and the students’ questioning patterns during Philosophy, Portuguese and Chemistry classes, ii) discuss the role of teachers and students’ questions in the process of constructing knowledge, iii) investigate the relationship between teachers and students’ questioning patterns, and teaching strategies, and iv) discuss the influence of the discipline on questioning patterns of both, teacher and students.

The sample has involved three Portuguese Secondary teachers (one Philosophy teacher, one Chemistry teacher and one Portuguese teacher), and their students. A fifty minutes class of each teacher was audio-recorded, fully transcribed and analysed.

The data analysed until now suggests that the teacher questioning pattern influences students’ discourse and students’ questioning pattern. Data also confirm the relationship between teachers’ questions and teaching strategies, as suggested by Sternberg & Spear-Swerling (1996). That is, the teacher asks predominantly low-level questions when adopting a fact-based questioning approach, and higher-level questions are mainly asked by teachers using a thinking-based questioning approach. The three teachers showed distinct discourse patterns what allows us to discuss to what extent the discipline influences the classroom discourse.

The generalisability of the overall study is limited because of the few classes considered. However, there are some clear indicators here for the relationship between both teacher and students’ questioning behaviour and the teaching strategies. The results point out the need to conduct a study considering a larger sample (number of teachers involved and number of classes observed), including teachers from several disciplines.

Brophy, J. and Good, T.L. (1985). Teacher Behavior and Student Achievement, In Merlin C. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Teaching (3rd ed.), New York: Macmillan Publishing Co.

Dillon, J. T. (1983). Teaching and the Art of Questioning. Bloomington: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

Gunel, M. (2008). Critical Elements for the Science Teacher to Adopt a Student-Centered Approach: The Case of a Teacher in Transition. Teachers and teaching: theory and practice, 14(3), 209-224.

Morgan, N. and Saxton, J. (2006). Asking Better Questions (2nd ed.), Ontario: Pembroke Publishers Limited.

Sternberg, R. J. and Spear-Swerling, L. (1996). Teaching for Thinking, Washington, D. C.: American Psychological Association.

questioning, questioning patterns, teaching strategies, secondary education.