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The research reported here derives from the general field of learner-centred teaching and learning, with specific reference to undergraduate chemistry. It documents the use of student-generated questions as diagnostic of their willingness to engage in classroom interactions. It explores four ways of gathering students' written questions and their relative effectiveness. It examines students' capacity to design and present 'quality questions' during phases of their learning and the extent to which these questions are indicative of particular styles of interaction in the classroom, both with tutors and with other students. The results are drawn from data collected through written questions posted into a question box, the 'hits' recorded on a computer software system, and through one-to-one interviews with a sample of 32 students. The results provide an opportunity to discuss the quality of interactions within fairly formalized systems of teaching and learning of chemistry in a university setting and to suggest further research required in this field.
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Questions of chemistry
Helena Pedrosa De Jesus a , José J. C. Teixeira-Dias b & Mike Watts c
a Departamento de Didactica e Tecnologia Educativa, E-mail:
b Departamento de Química, Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal
c Centre for International Research in Science and Technology
Education, Faculty of Education, University of Surrey, Roehampton,
Version of record first published: 26 Nov 2010.
To cite this article: Helena Pedrosa De Jesus, José J. C. Teixeira-Dias & Mike Watts (2003): Questions
of chemistry, International Journal of Science Education, 25:8, 1015-1034
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International Journal of Science Education ISSN 0950 –0963 print/ISSN 1464 –5289 online © 2003 Taylor & Francis Ltd
DOI: 10.1080/0950069022000038295
., 2003,
. 25,
. 8, 1015– 1034
Questions of chemistry
Helena Pedrosa de Jesus, Departamento de Did ´actica e Tecnologia Educativa;
e-mail:; Jos´e J. C. Teixeira-Dias, Departamento de
Qu´ımica,Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal and Mike Watts, Centre for
International Research in Science and Technology Education, Faculty of
Education, University of Surrey Roehampton, UK
The research reported here derives from the general field of learner-centred teaching and learning , with specific
reference to undergraduate chemistry. It documents the use of student-generated questions as diagnostic of
their willingness to engage in classroom interactions. It explores four ways of gathering students’ written
questions and their relative effectiveness. It examines students’ capacity to design and present ‘quality questions’
during phases of their learning and the extent to which these questions are indicative of particular styles of
interaction in the classroom, both with tutors and with other students. The results are drawn from data collected
through written questions posted into a question box, the ‘hits’ recorded on a computer software system, and
through one-to-one interviews with a sample of 32 students. The results provide an opportunity to discuss the
quality of interactions within fairly formalized systems of teaching and learning of chemistr y in a university
setting and to suggest further research required in this field.
Higher education today plays out against a very particular backdrop of social and
economic conditions so that, in most parts of the world, a greater percentage of
learners than ever before will progress to some form of higher education. This has
brought about a noticeable shift in the business of teaching and learning in colleges
and universities. Not only are new demands and challenges a matter of almost daily
routine, it is also clear that part of the prevailing discourse is rapidly changing. In
many respects, higher learning has adopted the register of management systems in
commerce and industry so that terms such as ‘quality provision’, ‘quality assurance’
and ‘excellence’ have led Coffield and Williamson (1997) to call this the
‘industrialisation of the language’ of academia.
One consequence is the need to ‘provide’ to society cohorts of ‘quality’ students
(individuals) who have developed both a substantial subject specialisms and a range
of transferable or ‘key’ skills. These key skills include such broad capabilities as good
communication skills, teamwork, problem-solving, information technology and so
on, together with the ‘core’ skill of the graduate’s ability to continue to learn new
knowledge, capabilities and practices (Light and Cox 2001). This, in turn, generates a
tension in the practice of teaching and learning: between the more traditional format
of simply ‘delivering knowledge’ and the need to develop and foster independence of
learning, learner-centred teaching, where students develop the ability to question,
generate, reconstruct and be critical of knowledge for themselves.
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The research described here explores one aspect of that tension the ways in
which lecture and classroom interactions foster student inquisitiveness and
questioning. Current research in this area indicates that levels of interaction
between teachers and learners in formal instructional settings can be very low. This
can mean that the key and core skills mentioned earlier have little or no opportunity
for development, that curiosity and inquiry is muted, that students capacity to ask
questions and to question received wisdom is blunted. Our work focuses in
particular on undergraduate chemistry and, in this context, we recognize that
university level courses in chemistry, as in other subjects, commonly take place in
very formal settings and embody expectations of teachers and learners that can
constrain the variety of learning styles that are more commonly found in broader
populations of learners. It seems clear to us that such constraints of formality can
generate incomplete and diminished learning experiences for many students and
result in under-performance in direct and non-direct learning. Situations of this
kind point to the need to value learners contributions by promoting the quality of
interactions (social interactions) in academic settings, which in turn, by placing the
learner more centrally in the sphere of classroom activity, is expected to promote
quality of learning. While talk between teacher and learner, and learner and learner,
can and often does take place, the quality of the interaction can be very variable,
either because participants are not using appropriate cognitive knowledge or
because the emotional/affective dimensions of interaction too strongly influence the
Our principal interest lies in raising the quality of teacherstudent and student
student interactions in university classrooms and, in this case, university labo-
ratories. To achieve this, our research has been designed:
i) to develop innovations in course design and planning procedures to
incorporate a wide range of learning methods; and more specifically,
ii) to use computer systems to facilitate teacherlearner interactions and, in
particular, encourage and explore the positive generation of questions by
undergraduate chemistry students; these lead us to
iii) explore ways of providing academic support for students questions in
In this paper we discuss only the second and third point here: we leave the
exploration of innovative course design until later. The results we describe are drawn
from an initial study, are part of an on-going programme of work in progress, and
so the outcomes we discuss are best described as emergent. We present, therefore,
a discussion of this key area, a rationale that is supported by some early data it is
not, at this stage a full empirical report. The central plank of this work is that the
asking of general and specific questions, and the search for explanation and
understanding, are two key features of high-level engagement with subject matter;
in this case, in chemistry.
The nature of learners’ questions
In this paper we are concerned with the questions asked by initiate scientists:
university undergraduates as they embark upon a search for understanding in their
study of chemistry. Our work is concerned exclusively with those questions asked by
learners and not with the routine asking of questions by teachers. We follow a route
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suggesting that the questions learners ask is indicative of their need for resolutions
in their thinking, for understanding within the domains in which they are working
and studying, and for some degree of interaction with both teachers and other
students within sessions. Student-generated questions, therefore, are an important
element in the teaching/learning process. First, because they can lead to
improvement of understanding and retention of what a student encounters. Second,
such questions can drive classroom learning and are highly effective in increasing
student interest, enthusiasm and engagement. Third, learners questions can be
diagnostic of their understanding. Fourth, question-asking fosters discussion and
In everyday life, questions take on a multitude of forms and purposes.
Ordinarily, to question is to ponder, to seek answers to a puzzle or a problem, to
encounter a perplexity that requires resolution; to call something into question is to
express doubts about it and to challenge its authenticity. To question somebody is
to pepper them with questions, and to be questioned is to submit to someone elses
insistent peppering. There are factual questions, multiple-choice questions, legal
questions, rhetorical questions and, as Toulmin (1976) points out, there are
philosophical questions:
With the help of questions like these, we can look (so to say) into a mirror that shows us the
workings of our own minds. (p. 4)
The approach we prefer can be summarized by reference to Dennetts (1991)
notion of epistemic hunger. Human beings are informavores such that they
have a need to make meaning and understand their surroundings. The human
brain, says Dennett, does everything it can to assuage epistemic hunger, to satisfy
curiosity in all forms of life. However, there are two necessary ingredients. First,
one needs curiosity; an openness to what is new or puzzling. Second, one needs
a spark. Such a spark occurs when one is piqued by a detail that obstinately
refuses to fit the conventional pattern, or a chance remark that somehow
resonates with ones own unexplicated views or feelings. For scientists, the
stimulus is often an unexplained detail or incongruity. The spark will not ignite
unless it comes into contact with a body of knowledge of the right kind. That is,
one cannot be curious in vaccuo.
In their seminal book Teaching as a Subversive Activity, Postman and Weingartner
(1969) describe good learners as those who ask meaningful questions. To some
extent, encouraging students to ask meaningful questions of their teachers is still
mildly subversive even in the twenty-first century. Within the sciences, where
question-asking is often accorded the status of high art, it can nevertheless be an
unwelcome challenge to authority for a novice to question an expert.
Understanding is a common goal in education and recent work (Watts and
Alsop 1995, Watts, Alsop, Gould and Walsh 1997, Watts, Gould and Alsop 1997)
has shown that learners questions are an essential expression of their understanding
of science. As Newton (2000) points out, it is self-evident that understanding is not
only a good thing for the process of learning, but that understanding itself is an
indicator of the quality of learning. For Sutherland (1994), understanding is the
key feature that distinguishes education from training. In a particular field of study,
be it chemistry or history, understanding implies the ability to recognize faulty
reasoning, to construct hypotheses that go beyond the evidence available and to
identify the kinds of evidence that will verify or falsify the hypotheses. Training and
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the imparting of skills can legitimately fall well short of that. Gibbs (1992) considers
quality learning experiences to be:
. . . the development of students intellectual and imaginative powers; their understanding
and judgement; their problem-solving skills; their ability to communicate; their ability to see
relationships within what they have learned and to perceive their field of study in a broader
perspective, to stimulate and enquiring, analytical and creative approach; encouraging
independent judgement and critical self-awareness. (p. 20; emphasis added)
Barnett (1994), focusing on higher education, maintains that understanding is a
central and irreducible concept. That said, however, little is understood about how
understanding comes about within individuals or groups of learners. Understanding
is a very personal reorganization of knowledge: it is an economical way of knowing,
that captures innumerable particulars about the world and reduces them to a
coherent, manageable and even satisfying order. It is not a skill or competency
that can be passed or transmitted from one person to another. A first supposition
here is that learners questions may be one way of assessing their level of
understanding since these may show:
1. Relevant and coherent structures in learners thinking.
2. The degree of integration of new elements and their relationship with other
aspects of knowledge.
3. The learners ability to produce an explanation, or to make a prediction, to
evaluate a situation or position or even to solve a problem.
A second supposition is that learners questions can foster and promote
understanding in chemistry. Thus, it is expected that the positive generation and use
of learners questions is a vehicle for developing the quality of learning. By
engineering the teaching and learning environment, and presenting learners with
the possibility of asking questions easily of their teachers, it may be possible not only
to gain some appreciation of their levels of understanding as they work, but also to
support and facilitate learning as it happens.
A growing number of educators now emphasize the importance of students
questions in both teaching and learning for understanding, and the number of
investigations looking for ways to stimulate students to generate questions is
growing (Commeyras 1995, Rosenshine, Meister and Chapman 1996, Maskill and
Pedrosa de Jesus 1997a, Watts et al. 1997, Marbach-Ad and Sokolove 2000).
Studies at different educational levels and contexts generally indicate that learners
avoid asking questions (Susskind 1969, 1979, Dillon 1988, Pedrosa de Jesus 1991).
However, there is also strong evidence that if good conditions are created
(appropriate conditions conducive to the generation and asking of student
questions) then students are willing to ask meaningful questions (Pedrosa de Jesus
and Maskill 1993, Maskill and Pedrosa de Jesus 1997b). In general, learners will ask
questions where they have high levels of self-confidence and self-esteem within the
learning context, and where their questions are seen (Watts et al. 1997) to be
valued. In some cases, asking even poorly formed and tentative questions can
indicate an active, interrogative attitude that not only seeks appropriate information
and opinion, but also allows some determination of the worth of what is read or
Quite clearly, people can be differentially curious, differentially willing to ask
questions: the epistemic hunger of some being more readily satisfied than that of
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others. So, some learners ask questions easily, others less so. Some do so on the
smallest contact between problem and knowledge; others require more information
first before they can form a question. As discussed more fully later, the possibility
exists that questioners might fall into two camps of curiosity:
1. Those who ask questions easily, early in the process, who take risks in the
first few moments when a puzzle is formed.
2. Cautious questioners who take time, information and a lot of considera-
tion, before they ask questions.
This may relate to peoples general personality learning style and their ability to
tolerate uncertainty. Some learners are able to live with uncertainty and doubt, feel
relatively self-contained and can make good guesses without the need for explicit
questions and answers. Others may need satisfying answers and have a need for
certainty. They ask questions to minimize doubt and to restore an inner calm.
Moreover, the physical and emotional environment that the learner inhabits clearly
affects the nature and quality of the questions they ask. All, however, can be taught
and encouraged to ask questions, and will do so increasingly if the context and
conditions conducive for questioning are right.
Within this, we recognize that, while a learner may frequently be able to raise
questions, may be even eager to ask them, the act of uttering or presenting a
question to the scrutiny of others may not be a straightforward process. A number
of personal, social, psychological blocks may intervene and not allow him/her to
externalize these. Some researchers have taken this to mean that some learners will
commonly avoid asking questions so that Graesser and Person (1994), for example,
assert that:
It is well documented that student questions are very infrequent and unsophisticated.
(p. 104)
This perspective maintains that student-generated questions are normally shallow,
short-answer, questions that address the content and interpretation of explicit
material. Our interpretation is different: it pays particular attention to the situation
in which students are interacting with teachers and with each other in order to
facilitate the generation of high-level questions. These involve inferences, multi-step
reasoning, the application of an idea to a new domain of knowledge, the synthesis
of a new idea from multiple information sources, or the evaluation of a new
While classroom contexts at university level are different from those at primary
and secondary school level, there are still some similarities in, for example, the
frequency and the quality of students questioning behaviour. Understandably, the
expectations of university undergraduates can be seen to be much higher and more
demanding than elsewhere in the educational system. At the same time, however,
they are also considered more mature and more independent as learners so
implying that they should be able to cope with the basic social interaction of asking
questions. In our experience, the vast majority of first-year undergraduate students
need to learn how to work autonomously and to use critical thinking skills. They
need appropriate scientific stimulus as well as support in various ways, including
those from the affective domain. Self-confidence, self-assurance and self-esteem are
important ingredients in developing self-directed learning. Where levels of
confidence increases (i.e. where students have more self-confidence and a greater
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level of interaction with the teacher), it is expected that the kind of blocks or barriers
referred to earlier may be weakened and students will interact more frequently and
the nature of the interactions will also be different.
The overall paucity of student questioning is not in dispute this has been
documented over time and in different settings, for example, in primary classrooms
in the UK (Elstgeests 1985) and in secondary classrooms in the USA (Carlsen
1991, Commeyras 1995). The disagreement, instead, is with the implication that
learners cannot routinely ask sophisticated questions of teachers where they are
enabled to do so. The critique here is of the atmosphere of traditional lecture and
tutorial rooms that inhibit the natural asking of questions, where learners hesitate to
ask anything that might cast them in poor light with teacher and other students,
where revealing of a misunderstanding is to render the student vulnerable, open to
embarrassment, censure or ridicule. The emphasis in this work is that, with
technique, encouragement and opportunity, learners questions can be a fruitful
means of increasing student engagement with the learning of chemistry.
Not all questions are of equal value, a notion that introduces the need to
delineate clear criteria for what can be seen to be quality questions. The process of
question generation, and, in particular, the design and use of quality questions, is
often considered an exercise in critical thinking and in the development of critical
thinking skills (Fisher 1990, Browne and Keeley 1998). As we discuss later, once
delineated, our interest then lies in exploring the extent to which these quality
questions are indicative of particular kinds of questioners and, in this arm of the
work, the relationship this might have with students learning styles.
Questions and interactions in chemistry
Taber and Watts (2000) chart some of the problems of undergraduate chemistry.
The number of entrants to pre-university chemistry in the UK is falling, as in other
parts of Europe. It is seen as a difficult and arcane subject area lacking in appeal
(Watts 1999). Kee (1997) sees chemistrys declining fortunes to be a teaching
problem created by the tendency towards dogmatic factual transmission rather than
teaching for understanding, in this case:
whatever passion for the subject our students have when they arrive, we, the teachers of
university chemistry, have become adept at snuffing it out . . . [facts are] presented to them
as they have been for the past 30 years i.e., dry lifeless, passionless and devoid of relevance
to the real world. (p. 95)
In general, we see this to indicate a clash of pedagogical cultures between those
who advocate change and progress in teaching and learning towards more learner-
centred approaches, and the predominant ethos of traditional transmission
teaching. While there are many who would explore innovative and novel ideas to
engage students fully in the learning of chemistry, the widespread use of testing and
assessment at all levels leading both towards admission to colleges and
universities, and as output measures once there continues to reinforce traditional
patterns of teaching and learning.
One part of the debate relates to how learner-centred principles inform the ways
in which subject matter is broached. For example, teaching towards these principles
pre-supposes that the teacher holds a dynamic view of chemistry, seeing it as a
discipline that is continually changing and undergoing revisions. It is this way that
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the senior chemist in the room can feel comfortable with encouraging students, as
junior chemists, to make contributions, capitalizing on their remarks and
incorporating students ideas into the body of the sessions. In many respects,
chemistry has a distinct advantage here. It is an interdisciplinary subject that
provides an important understanding of our material world at the molecular level.
It shares important ties with biochemistry, biology, pharmacy, environmental
sciences along with many other disciplines, and its most central and practical
objective is to synthesize new forms of matter. In this sense, it is present in and
clearly has an enormous impact upon virtually all aspects of everyday life as, for
example, in the production of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, fertilizers in agriculture
or novel materials for the electronics industry. In this sense, chemistry is an
extremely practical science, and is continuously undergoing change as new advances
are made: it need not be seen simply as a static and abstract body of knowledge to
be transmitted wholesale from teacher to student.
While abstract theoretical and mathematical matters are vital to chemistry, it is
its very worldliness that also allows it to be contextualized quite readily within real
and practical contexts and applications. This context rich nature of chemistry
provides many opportunities to promote interaction, discussion and debate between
teachers and learners, to embed the subject within the lived experience of students.
One way to explore the lived experience of learning in undergraduate classrooms
is to examine the interactions that might take place between teachers and learners.
Cunningham (1999), for instance, has made use of the language of industry noted
earlier to stress the role of interactions in what he calls strategic learning.
In traditional models of higher education, he says, the teacher may interact with
a particular learner (labelled B on figure 1) during a lecture, asking the student to
respond to some point or other and the learner responds (A). The teacher will also
relate to other learners in the same way (C). The relationship between learners (D),
however, is often largely ignored or deemed unhelpful, a diversion, an unwelcome
intrusion or, in some cases, a sign of poor etiquette and/or disrespect for the teacher.
In an atmosphere conducive of question asking, however, the process can work
Figure 1. Channels of classroom interaction.
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differently. First, the learners question can precede the teachers opening remarks
so that the initiation of learning comes from the learner (A). Second, the interaction
between learners (D) is regarded as a key part of the learning process and it is to be
encouraged. The process with other peer learners occurs in the same way.
Worldliness is not a quality that is exclusive to chemistry. It does, however,
mean that chemistry is fully embroiled in issues of commerce, industry, social
necessity and environmental impact. This social dimension of chemistry provides a
dynamic arena through which the teacher can stimulate dialogue and debate
through which classroom interactions can be developed, enabling learning that
contributes significantly to learners critical social and cultural awareness. The
appropriate selection of materials in lectures and tutorials can lead naturally to
strong and sustained interactions between teachers and students and between
students themselves. For example, it follows from a more learner-centred approach
to the teaching of university chemistry that students might be engaged in some
design of their own learning, might work on assigned themes in mini-projects, might
form small research groups to become experts on varying topics. They might then
conduct short seminars so that they share their expertise with other members of the
group a series of peer-tutorials that involve individual responsibility for
constructing knowledge linked to communal sharing. Classroom discourse in these
sessions includes students questioning of each other, questioning of the teacher,
critiques of the issues on offer and considerable discussion as individuals contribute
to and appropriate key ideas. In this forum, learning becomes an act of
interpretation and negotiation with other individuals. In contrast, traditional
teachers tend to default towards a much more objectivist perspective: the lecture
and demonstration are the preferred modes of delivering knowledge to learners.
Teachers see themselves as representatives of canonical science, as practitioners who
must model the intellectual skills and dispositions that students are to learn.
Language is taken to be a neutral precise tool to describe the real world and
effectively map knowledge as an entity that is transmitted unchanged from orthodox
texts to the minds of the learners. Questioning is one way, from teacher to learner,
as a means of checking that the ideas have in fact been delivered accurately and
received intact, soliciting correct answers to convergent questions, providing
immediate feedback on the adequacy of student response. Where questions do arise
from the learner, these are commonly in a form that allows for confirmation and
validation of the knowledge being transferred.
That said, there have always been problems too with progressive learner-
centred education; not least the impracticalities at classroom level, low levels of
teacher enthusiasm and/or competence, and a general conservativism in educational
circles. The key barriers for teachers in the classroom have included the difficulties
of creating and adapting particular curricula to meet the needs of specific learners,
managing more active classrooms and dealing with issues of accountability
regarding individual student learning. A further difficulty can lie in the structure of
teaching patterns in undergraduate chemistry. In many parts of the world, for
example, it is not unusual for the structure of undergraduate chemistry programmes
to provide for lectures to large audience groups. Audiences may be comprised of
students from a range of courses related to mainstream foundation with all the
attendant problems that entails. It is possible that students learning experiences are
comprised of a mixture of teaching formats led by a range of teaching staff and in
several constellations of peer and classroom groupings.
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In this vein, the research we report here relates to an initial study, conducted
with a group of 32 first-year undergraduate students, drawn from the 1000 students
attending an introductory chemistry course at the University of Aveiro, Portugal,
during the academic year 200001. The structure of teaching pattern for this
programme provides lectures for some 130 students at a time, an audience
comprised of students from a range of courses related to mainstream foundation
chemistry but who would later specialize in their final degrees. More focused
teaching takes place in seminar-tutorial sessions where groups of 32 students cover
issues with a specialist lecturer. Laboratory sessions are run for groups of 16, and
these are often supervised by teaching assistants and technical staff. In this way the
teaching is undertaken by a number of academic staff, who work hard to ensure that
the programme is coherent, to diminish any fragmentation and to create good
interpersonal interactions with students.
Gathering student-generated questions
The project has been developed in full collaboration between educational
researchers and the Chemistry Department, as cooperative ventures in exploring
approaches to teaching and learning. Our initial focus here is on an experimental
group of 32 students, with the same teacher responsible for both the duties of
lecturing and for the theoretical-practical class. By developing questioning it was
hoped that individuals would get to know each other better, improving the quality
of the interactions, increasing the ease with which questions might be asked so that
collecting and answering their questions would be enhanced. The experimental
group comprises students from Environmental Sciences, Chemical Engineering,
Biology, Physics and Chemistry, and Mathematics, taught by only two chemistry
teachers, and therefore with a privileged relationship with the lecturers, mediated by
the questions they were able to ask.
The work relies on four main components in the collection of student-generated
1. a software system,
2. an e-mail correspondence system,
3. a laboratory Question Box, and
4. project workbooks.
Further data within is being collected through the outcomes of the sessions (students
tests, assignments, etc.) and also through a series of one-to-one interviews with
students. The first two of the listed components highlight the use of new computer
technologies. Light and Cox (2001) have listed some positive as well as negative
effects of the use of communications and information technology in teaching and
learning. They discuss these effects in terms of the promotion of interactive learning,
increases in written output, opportunities for reflection, the access to multiple
frameworks/discourses/perspectives, the acquisition of computer skills and oppor-
tunities for learning by doing. There are opportunities, too, to develop self-skills, to
take control of ones learning, for dialogue with wider groups, and to increase
collaboration between teachers and learners and between learners.
While we have some opportunity to explore some of these issues, our key
interests lie in the use of software systems to facilitate question-asking. The intranet
system was developed for limited access through a series of computer terminals
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within the chemistry department, in the laboratories, tutorial rooms and the
interconnecting corridors, thus giving relatively free access to chemistry students.
The software allows those students who have use of Internet facilities outside the
university to work at a distance from the department and to access the system
through the use of an appropriate password. The system is fully coded so that
students can follow through the various options with ease.
Our supposition has been that, with the advance of new technologies and its
wider use in teaching and learning, it is possible to extend and enhance the potential
for the basic types of social and human interactions through which teachers and
students have traditionally engaged, and address the quality of learning. For
instance, interaction B (between teacherlearner) in figure 1 may take place during
traditional lectures and tutorials arenas not commonly open to easy interaction
and might now be incremented by the use of e-mail systems that can also induce
interactions at A. Similarly, interaction C (between teacher and learners), usually
through lectures and seminars, can by optimized by video-conferencing. Interaction
D (learnerlearners), traditionally enacted through projects and laboratory work,
can now be encouraged by the use of Internet and intranet systems. These new
technologies clearly provide different opportunities for developing interpersonal
contexts. However, Mason (1998) notes that only highly motivated independent
learners, good at self-pacing, computer literate and interested in computer-
mediated environments are likely to make the most of them.
Our data collection began at the beginning of Semester 1, at the start of
November 2000, and continued until the end of Semester 2, in the middle of June
2001. The start of the first semester was used mainly to develop, test and evaluate
classroom tools, chosen with the aim of providing students with as many as possible
opportunities to easily register their written questions. A short period of time was
used to explain the project, to introduce them to the use of these tools and to
describe the ways in which the assessment system would be used to reward
question-asking. The lecturer negotiated with the students at the outset that, as an
incentive, all questions generated would be judged and weighted as a positive factor
on their final evaluation. The lecturer used the flexibility inherent in the grading
system to award top-up marks to students other assessment grades to reward the
generation of good questions. Students could gain a maximum of three points to
add to their semester score (normally an average of points from several assessed
elements of the course on a range of 0 to 20). Where a student had a score of 15,
then he/she might gain a maximum bonus of 3 points through their asking of good
questions, a score of 16 made them eligible for 2 bonus points, a score of 17 allowed
for 1 bonus point meaning that no student could exceed 18 points for the semester
through this system. It is normal practice on the course to gain scores of over 18
only after submitting to an oral examination with lecturers. Both this system and the
e-mail tagging of questions meant that question-asking in this pilot study could not
be an anonymous affair.
In addition to their other classes, the pilot group (Class D1) met each week with
their lecturer to discuss the written questions that had been generated by them in
that week, providing an opportunity for answers to be presented and explored in
further detail. This additional tutorial session was voluntary for the students,
although all chose to attend. It was a challenge for the lecturer in terms of
attempting to deal with the range of questions and was clearly important in the
development of understanding of chemistry in the group. During the second
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semester, new teaching strategies were explored, with the intention of observing the
effects on students questioning behaviour and aimed at consolidating analysis and
interpretations of previous results. This allowed us both to determine the quality of
the questions asked and to explore the characteristics of the questioners involved.
The graph in figure 2 shows the total number of questions asked by the pilot
group over the period of the first semester within the project, which is called
Questions in Chemistry.
There are two issues to note here. First, the most frequently used way that
students posted questions was through the classroom Question Box and, of the
three methods, the laboratory workbooks were used least. Second, the general level
of questions generated runs fairly evenly at about three questions per session
throughout both semesters. Apart from the peaks we discuss later, this overall
number of written questions seems quite low despite the very positive
inducements for students to submit questions. From the interview data, we were
able to discern that the asking of questions was sufficiently novel and unusual that
most students were still deterred form doing so as an everyday occurrence. In
Semester 1 there are three peaks, on 8 November, 16 November and 4 December.
The first of these was most probably stimulated by first attempts to explore the
system, and to test the extent to which question-asking worked within the computer
intranet. This novelty of the emphasis on questions acted as a stimulus and
prompted a first rush of activity.
The session on 16 November was a lecture for 130 students, and here it was
clearly the topic and presentation that was provocative of questions. In this instance,
the topic related to a theoretical discussion of molecular architecture and
organization and both the difficulty and abstract nature of the issues involved
generated a large number of questions. The questions on 4 December followed a
particularly complex practical activity in the laboratory, and these questions arrived
through the students laboratory notebooks.
In the second semester the overall number of questions each day, as shown in
figure 3, remains similar to Semester 1 bar the surge on 19 April. The reason for
Figure 2. The number of questions asked by students each day of the
module Chemistry I in the first semester.
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this relates to the introduction into the course of a series of mini-projects that the
students needed to complete by the end of the semester students raised a number
of questions surrounding the topics they were expected to investigate.
What emerges from these two graphs is that it is clearly possible to create a
questioning environment where asking questions (and receiving answers) become
an integral part of everyday transactions between teachers and students. Through-
out the two semesters the students maintained a steady flow of questions, although
these could be stimulated on occasions by other events.
The key issue here is the extent to which the pilot study impacted on student
performance. In this instance, we have assessment grades for the end of Semester 1
only and so results are very tentative indeed. Figure 4 shows the grade scores for the
module Chemistry I, out of 20, for the 1000 students in the whole chemistry first-
year cohort. This shows the expected normal distribution of scores across the
cohort. Figure 5 shows the end-of-semester scores for the 130 students in one sub-
group (Class 1), from which the pilot group of 32 was chosen. Again, this shows a
broadly normal distribution of scores.
The final graph in figure 6 shows the scores for the 32 students in the pilot
group (Group T1D). Here there is a small but detectable shift towards the upper
Figure 3. The number of questions asked by students during module
Chemistry II in the second semester.
Figure 4. End of Semester 1 scores for all students for the module
Chemistry I.
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grades, indicating that some of the students gained higher scores than might
otherwise have been anticipated. As yet we have only supposition on which to work
there is further data to be processed that can shed light on what the reasons might
Whatever the reasons whether due to the act of asking questions, the greater
interaction with the teaching staff or the assessment methods used to reward
question-asking (or combinations of all three) we can be pleased that the focus of
the project has not noticeably served to hinder students progress. The pilot group
has responded positively and, while there is much work yet to be done to untangle
the various issues within their responses, the research undertaken so far augurs well
for increasing teacherstudent interactions.
Quality questions
What kind of questions could be considered quality questions? What kind of
properties or qualities do they have that allow them to be considered better or worse
than others? Graesser and Person (1994), for example, make the distinction
Figure 5. End of Semester 1 scores for the module Chemistry I for
students of Class 1.
Figure 6. End of Semester 1 scores for the module Chemistry I for the
pilot group (T1D).
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between shallow, short-answer questions that address the content and interpretation
of explicit material, and high-level questions that involve inferences, multi-step
reasoning, the application of an idea to a new domain of knowledge, the synthesis
of a new idea from multiple information sources, or the evaluation of a new claim.
Similarly, Elder and Paul (1999) maintain that good quality questions should
demonstrate clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth and logic.
In the same vein, King (1990) reports positive achievements from a process
called reciprocal questioning where students are taught to ask each other high
level questions. King compared these kinds of questioning sessions with equal time
open-ended discussions and, while the latter often gave longer answers, they were
almost all classified as low level. The questioning groups were seen to be superior
in critical thinking and high-level elaboration.
A key difficulty with levels such as these is that they are unipolar and value
directional: asking higher level questions is clearly better (superior) than asking low-
level ones. What this kind of taxonomy does not allow for, however, are notions of
context, situation, task, preference, intention, strategy or goal. Our research is
embedded within teaching and learning in higher education and, while arguably
these notions are important in any discussion of learning, they certainly cannot be
ignored in this particular forum.
More appropriate for our purposes, therefore, are bi-polar constructs to
describe questions, where each pole has adaptive value so that the quality of the
questions asked would depend on the nature of the situation; the learners preferred
style of working and the requirements of the task in hand. For example, Fishers
(1990) design and use of quality questions has related to critical thinking skills, so
that he sees learning to think critically to encompass how to question, when to
question and what questions to ask. He advocates teaching students generic
questions, such as:
What is the main idea here?
How would you compare this with . . .?
But how is that different from . . .?
Now, can you give me a different example?
How does this affect . . .?
Browne and Keeley (1998) take this a step further by defining critical thinking in
terms of the awareness of and ability to ask critical questions, such that critical
thinking is the:
(i) Awareness of a set of interrelated critical questions,
(ii) Ability to ask critical questions at appropriate times, and a
(iii) Desire to actively use these critical questions. (p. 2)
Two examples of such critical questions are to ask of a task, discussion or argument
What are the value conflicts and assumptions involved? and How good is the
evidence? Following this direction has led us to develop taxonomy of questions,
which distinguishes between Confirmation questions and Transformation ques-
tions, as depicted in figure 7.
Both begin from a basis of meaning-making, of attempting to construct
frameworks of understanding. Confirmation questions are those that seek to clarify
information and detail, attempt to differentiate between fact and speculation, tackle
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issues of specificity, and ask for exemplification and/or definition. These confirma-
tory questions are an attempt to decide which information is pertinent, check what
basis it has for inclusion within a particular setting, and/or to determine the place
and worth of particular data or evidence. Drawn from our project, some instances
of such questions are:
What is the definition of acid rain in chemistry?
What is an example of the causes of acid rain?
Are there (methods) ways to confirm the existence of fermions and bosons?
What are the reasons for always pouring acid into water rather than the other
way round?
Why is it important to top up the acid in a car battery with water?
Are they real entities or are they just labels?
Transformation questions, on the other hand, seem to signal some re-structuring or
reorganization of the students understanding. The student seems to want to get
further inside the ideas, to be hypothetico-deductive, to seek extensions to what is
known, to cross knowledge domains. These questions explore argumentative steps,
identify omissions, examine structures in thinking, and challenge accepted
reasoning. Instances of these questions are:
What might be the ways in which we could prevent acid rain?
In your experience, what are the effects of acid rain in Portugal?
What are all the different kinds of fields that exist?
What is the use of this categorization?
How is it possible for an eel to produce an average potential difference of
700 V along the 1m length of its body?
How is it possible to generate an image from the phenomenon of nuclear
magnetic resonance?
In what ways could we increase the efficiency of the automobile engine? Using
what materials, with what properties?
These two kinds of question complement each other, both are necessary and revolve
around the task in hand. To pan for intellectual gold there must be something
(water, sand, gravel, etc.) in the pan to actually evaluate. In some instances
confirmation may precede transformation, so that transformation takes place based
on the information achieved. In other cases the process may be reversed, so that
confirmation is sought after a period of transformation has taken place. Both types
of question are important and are inter-related.
To illustrate this point, consider the case of a person who is suddenly plunged
into a situation where he/she knows very little of the topic under discussion and has
to quickly make some sense of the matters at hand. There may be only a limited
opportunity to ask questions before time (or patience) runs out, and the questions
asked must therefore maximize meaning-making. The optimal blend will be of
confirmatory questions to identify, marshal, clarify and evaluate the key issues and
Figure 7. A spectrum of question types.
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a series of searching, transformatory questions to modify the persons own
arguments, transfigure understanding and to test this re-appraisal.
A set of quality questions, then, is that combination of questions that most
readily enable a learner to make meaning of the learning task. Quality questions are
an efficient tool kit containing the minimum most effective tools to generate good
understanding. If, as some research indicates (for example, Graesser and Person
1994), student questions are commonly very infrequent and unsophisticated, then
this seems an argument for encouraging students to generate a mix of questions that
best suits their purpose. The next section looks a little more closely at the kind of
qualities possessed by a quality questioner.
Quality questioners
This section brings a shift in emphasis. Our purpose in the project has been not only
to explore the social interactions that take place within undergraduate chemistry
education, but also to facilitate understanding of chemistry through the generation
of student questions. That is, we are setting out to foster quality questions in the way
we have defined these earlier. We want to equip students with those abilities,
preferences and temperaments that best contribute to learning through the asking of
quality questions.
In this sense, such abilities will be uni-polar and value directional: having lots of
these abilities is more highly prized than having less. From what has been said
already, our delineation of a high-quality questioner is that he/she has:
1. An appreciation that quality questions can be of different types.
2. A feel for when questions are appropriate and inappropriate, and a sense of
the roles questions can play in different contexts.
3. An ability to engineer, shape and manipulate a question.
4. The ability to appreciate the domain from which a response might be
5. A feel for the power of questions.
Figure 8. Quality question types.
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In contrast, a low-quality questioner is a person who:
1. Asks only one type of question.
2. Asks inappropriate questions out of context.
3. Asks messy and confusing questions.
4. Lacks understanding of appropriate domains.
5. Does not recognize the power of questions.
This is illustrated in figure 8.
The empirical issue that now arises is whether, from the initial data collected
from within the project, it is possible to identify a high-quality questioning student,
a low-quality questioning student, and perhaps one who may lie between these two
levels. Our response is to portray Rosa as the first, Luis as the second and Joana as
the third.
Rosa: a high-quality questioner
Rosa asks a large number of questions in a number of forms principally through
the computer intranet system. Her questions are good ones, though they come
relatively quickly. Three examples of her questions are:
How are artificial aromas (smell, flavour) produced? For example, how can banana flavour
be produced experimentally without using the fruit itself for its production?
How is it chemically possible to cause rain to fall artificially, so that it can fall in any part of
the world, even in the middle of a desert?
Given that X-rays are so harmful to the human body, why are they used so extensively as an
auxiliary diagnostic medium in medicine? Are there not better alternatives to X-rays?
Rosa seems to have intuitive insight into the area of study and can ask intelligent
questions easily she seems confident that they are meaningful and likely to move
her thinking in some way, to prise open the points that puzzle her. She is socially
confident and does not mind being exposed in her question-asking.
Luis: a low-quality questioner
Luis seems uncomfortable when asking questions and is disinclined to ask them
either verbally or in written form. They are few and slow to arrive, and then seek
only basic information or descriptive responses. Two examples of his questions are
as follows:
What are properties of state? Why is energy a property of state and not heat and work?
Why are atoms having a low energy electronic configuration more stable?
He is passive and solid within the group, content to take notes and undertake
assignments competently, but without overt curiosity or inquisitiveness. He is
composed and interested but can live quietly with any doubts or queries he has
about the subject matter.
Joana: an intermediate-quality questioner
Joana is confident and spontaneous, and enjoys taking risks. She is well received in
the group, alert and quick. She is willing to expose herself to criticism and
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challenge. Her questions are numerous and come in several forms, so that she is
easily able to explicate her uncertainties, although they lack penetration or
exploration. Her questions tend to seek information, description and exemplars.
Three examples are:
What is the difference between transmittance and absorbance?
How can we represent graphically the maxim absorbance values of the two solutions (blue
and red)?
What is the difference the hypothetical and molecular structures?
It is important to note at the outset that we have been dealing here with written
questions submitted through three collection points, and through which the
identity of the question-asker is known. Our preliminary results (Pedrosa de Jesus,
Teixeira-Dias and Watts 2001) show that these undergraduate students have been
very positive about this new kind of interaction with their teachers. During
interviews and informal conversations they have found the emphasis on generating
questions to be an interesting and challenging departure from the norm. The data
we discuss in this paper show that they took good advantage of this innovative
strategy, with the majority asking meaningful questions very few indeed resorting
to playful or mischievous questions. The teachers involved in the course were also
keen to see what emerged from the pilot study and worked hard to ensure that
students had opportunities to post their questions. All the questions were directed
at the teacher none of the students took the opportunity to e-mail or use the
Question Box to ask questions to each other. This inter-student element of the study
will be explored through other means.
What emerges from this work is that it is clearly possible to create a
questioning environment where asking questions (and receiving answers)
becomes an integral part of everyday transactions between teachers and students.
Throughout the two semesters the students maintained a steady flow of questions,
although these could be stimulated on occasions by other events. Some learners
do ask questions easily, others less so. Some seem to do so on the smallest contact
between problem and knowledge, others require more information first before
they can form a question. Of course, high-quality, low-quality and inter-
mediate-quality questioners may lie in either camp, as we illustrated with our
cameos of Rosa, Luis and Joana.
The number of written questions generated runs fairly evenly at about three
questions from the group per session throughout both semesters, with a few points
at which there is a significant rise in the number posted. The start of the study saw
a large number of questions arriving, with the novelty of the emphasis on questions
acted as a stimulus that prompted a first rush of activity. At other points, it was
clearly the topic and presentation that was provocative of questions. In one instance,
the topic related to a theoretical discussion of molecular architecture and
organization, and both the difficulty and abstract nature of the issues involved
generated a large number of questions. A second instance followed a particularly
complex practical activity in the laboratory and these questions arrived through the
students laboratory notebooks. A third instance related to the introduction into the
course of a series of mini-projects that the students needed to complete by the end
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of the semester students raised a number of questions surrounding the topics they
were expected to investigate.
This research shows that it is possible to change the atmosphere of traditional
lecture and tutorial sessions in the teaching of university chemistry, the atmosphere
that inhibits the natural asking of questions. We have shown that, with technique,
encouragement and opportunity, learners questions can be a fruitful means of
increasing student engagement with the learning of chemistry. For whatever reason
whether due to the act of asking questions, the greater interaction with the
teaching staff or the assessment methods used to reward question-asking (or
combinations of all three) we can be pleased that the focus of the project has not
noticeably served to hinder students progress, and to create a mood of
understanding and motivation. The pilot group has responded positively and, while
there is much work yet to be done to untangle the various issues within their
responses, the research undertaken so far augurs well for increasing the quality of
student-generated questions.
The authors acknowledge the support of the Fundaç˜ao para a Ciˆencia e a
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... Une autre classification de questions des élèves a été proposée par Pedrosa de Jesus et al. [2003] pour distinguer les questions de "confirmation" des questions de "transformation". Les auteurs ont placé les questions sur un continuum allant des questions de confirmation d'un côté aux questions de transformation de l'autre, plutôt que de les définir sur différents niveaux hiérarchiques. ...
... Notre objectif essentiel est de fournir des catégories de questions qui prennent en compte l'intention de l'élève (définie par Garcia-Fernandez [2010] comme "la réponse à laquelle s'attend un locuteur lorsqu'il pose sa question"), et nourrir la réflexion de l'enseignant pour lui donner éventuellement une réaction pédagogique différente sur les questions posées. Par conséquent, nous avons décidé de définir notre propre schéma de codage pour identifier le type des questions posées par les étudiants, utilisant une approche ascendante fondée sur les données tout en prenant en compte ces différentes contraintes : -Avoir une granularité assez fine : les taxonomies existantes sont trop génériques [Pedrosa de Jesus et al. , 2003;Chin & Kayalvizhi, 2002] ou trop détaillées [Graesser & Person, 1994]. Notre objectif est de fournir aux enseignants suffisamment d'informations sur la nature de questions posées par les élèves et en même temps construire un schéma de codage assez générique pour analyser leur questions. ...
... Bien que notre schéma de codage ait été développé indépendamment, nous avons remarqué a posteriori un certain chevauchement entre certaines taxonomies présentées dans l'état de l'art et notre schéma de codage. En particulier, la dimension 1 correspond bien aux catégories de plusieurs taxonomies, comme "Ré-expliquer / redéfinir" (Ree) qui est incluse dans la catégorie des questions pouvant faire l'objet d'une "investigation" [Chin & Kayalvizhi, 2002], la catégorie "Transformation" [Pedrosa de Jesus et al. , 2003] et la catégorie "Entrée" [Pizzini & Shepardson, 1991]. Les questions d'approfondissement (App) sont également incluses dans plusieurs catégories étudiées, tels que "Exploration" [Watts et al. , 1997], "Transformation" [Pedrosa de Jesus et al. , 2003] et "Réflexion approfondie" . ...
Les questions des élèves sont utiles pour leur apprentissage et l'adaptation pédagogique des enseignants. Cependant, le volume de questions posées en ligne par les étudiants peut empêcher les enseignants de traiter chaque question (e.g. MOOC ou large cohorte universitaire). Nous abordons cette problématique principalement dans le cadre d’une formation hybride dans lequel chaque semaine les étudiants posent des questions en ligne, selon une approche de classe inversée, pour aider les enseignants à préparer leur séances de questions-réponses en présentiel. Notre objectif est d’outiller l’enseignant pour qu’il détermine les types de questions posées par les différents groupes d’apprenants. Pour mener ce travail, nous avons développé un schéma de codage de questions guidé par l’intention des élèves et la réaction pédagogique de l’enseignant. Plusieurs outils de classification automatique ont été conçus, évalués et combinés pour catégoriser les questions. Nous avons montré comment un modèle dérivé de clustering des données et entraîné sur des sessions antérieures peut être utilisé pour prédire le profil des élèves en ligne et établir des liens avec leurs questions. Ces résultats nous ont permis de proposer trois organisations de questions aux enseignants (basées sur les catégories de questions et profils des apprenants) qui ouvrent des perspectives de traitement différent lors des séances de questions-réponses. Nous avons testé et montré la possibilité d’adapter notre schéma de codage et les outils associés au contexte très différent d’un MOOC, ce qui suggère une certaine généricité de notre approche.
... Asking questions is a way to teach students by revealing their understanding of a topic and then guiding them to explore a range of logical outcomes instead of lecturing them on what is right and wrong (Vale, 2013). In addition, asking questions is a way of questioning from teacher to student as a way of checking that ideas are indeed correctly communicated and received in full (De Jesus et al., 2003). Teachers who reveal and use students' thinking as the basis of instructional decisions can positively affect students' learning (Ruiz-Primo & Furtak, 2007). ...
... Asking questions is an integral part of the scientific inquiry and learning process, and asking good questions encourages interaction between teachers and students (Arslan, 2006). Although scientific questions are used in many ways, not all questions used in science classes are "scientific questions" (De Jesus et al., 2003). Specifically, teachers mostly rely on low-level questions that require students to remember separate pieces of information (Benedict-Chambers et al., 2017). ...
Exploring science teachers' classroom assessment behaviors is a way to understand the professional knowledge competencies underlying effective teaching practices. One of the most important components of in-class assessments is teacher questions. However, studies examining teacher questions that provide support to accurately determine student learning and manage the lesson effectively are quite limited. This research presents a case study of a science teacher in Turkey regarding the question types and questioning proficiency in the teaching of 5th grade "Measurement of Force and Friction" and "Matter and Change". The data have been collected through course observations. The study used an observation evaluation protocol to analyze the video recordings taken from the science teacher's lectures. The results of this study showed that about half of the questions that the science teacher has asked in his class remain at a partially appropriate and inappropriate level, and that the teacher mostly prefers questions that aim to evaluate real information and summarize what is important in his courses. These results point to the need for professional development on a teacher's questioning practices. Therefore, it can be said that those who plan professional development programs for science teachers should consider efforts to improve teacher questioning practices. Keywords: case study, classroom observation, science questions, science teacher questioning
... Learning logs typically ask students to record in writing aspects of self-regulatory processes such as questions, selfperceptions, and other metacognitions related to planning, monitoring, or evaluating as they occur during learning. Written logs have been used to study student-generated questions during learning activities in classroom contexts (Glogger et al., 2012;Graesser & McMahen, 1993;Pedrosa de Jesus et al., 2003). Related methods have been used in microanalytic approaches to studying self-regulated learning (Cleary, 2011). ...
Question generation is theorized to support comprehension, self-regulation, and achievement, yet the empirical base for whether and how student-generated questions are associated with comprehension monitoring and whether they predict performance remain open questions. To address these, we investigated the questions undergraduate students in an introductory chemistry course recorded in question logs across an 8-lecture unit and their relations with post-lecture self-appraisals of comprehension and exam performance. Results indicated that students who generated more questions during lectures, who were able to resolve fewer of their questions, and who generated questions indicating large exam-relevant knowledge gaps reported lower levels of comprehension after lectures. Questions that sought verification or disambiguation were positively associated with exam performance. Findings suggest that student-generated questions can be meaningful indicators of comprehension monitoring processes and academic performance.
... The bi-polar scale that they developed classified student questions along a continuum with "confirmation questions," questions that seek to clarify, differentiate, or define, on one pole, and "transformation questions," questions that seek to restructure understanding, through hypothesis, deduction, argumentation, examination, challenge, or reasoning, on the opposite pole. By reframing question-asking behaviors in a nonhierarchical structure, Pedrosa de Jesus, Teixeira-Dias, and Watts (2003) acknowledged that more complex questions are not necessarily higher value questions since both types of questions can serve to meet the question-asker's needs. Chin and Kayalvizhi (2002) designed a framework that classified questions as either investigable, such as questions that focus upon comparison, describing relationships, making predictions, problem-solving, or pattern-seeking, and noninvestigable questions, which referred to basic information questions where answers could be found handily without deep exploration, complex information questions where solving would involve deep theoretical exploration, or philosophical questions that could not be solved by concrete or evidence-based means. ...
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Science Cafés are events designed as public engagement tools that create the opportunity for open dialogue between members of the general public and experts on the issue being discussed at the event. This study explores the nature of questions being asked by audience participants during discussion sessions of Science Café events. It was conducted by coding audio recordings of audience participant engagements at 41 Science Café events held between 2010 and 2019. The result of this analysis produced a novel taxonomic framework to describe audience participant behaviors in terms of their learning goals. This framework was evaluated by applying it to samples of Science Café question data selected by Science Café topic theme. Comparisons between question-asking behaviors for specific Science Café topics and overall trends in question-asking behaviors for all Science Cafés revealed significant changes in audience participant learning goals when asking questions at Science Cafés centered on different topic types. Implications for understanding Science Café audiences and potential developments for Science Café events as public science engagement tools are discussed.
... In this case, in order for meaningful learning to take place, a student must play an active role in his/her own learning, interact with what is to be learned, be in a learning effort, and construct meaning in his/her mind by discovering information (Schunk, 2012). Consequently, on (Baram-Tsabari & Yarden, 2005;Chin & Kayalvizhi, 2002;Chin & Osborne, 2008;Pedrosa de Jesus et al., 2010). Actually, student generated question is a comprehensive process not an end. ...
The purpose of this study is to examine the perceptions of fourth-grade elementary school students and their teachers regarding students’ asking-question in order to develop a model of students’ asking-question process. A phenomenological research has been utilized and interviews were conducted with seven teachers and nine students from three public elementary schools in Istanbul, Turkey. The results showed that students generally ask questions when they are curious about the topic and want to learn the topic. Teachers pointed out situations encouraging students to ask such as creating a comfortable and active classroom environment, designing interesting activities fostering questioning, welcoming students’ questions, and being a role model for asking good questions. There is also evidence that teachers’ reactions such as being nervous or uncomfortable, ignoring them, not responding and classmates’ reactions such as making fun of, humiliating, not listening to are considered as obstacles for students while asking questions. Moreover, it was concluded that students’ questions have affirmative effects on both students and teachers. Finally, based on these results, a three-stage cycled model was developed; antecedents (internal and external causal factors), action-reaction (the act of asking questions, the reaction of teachers and classmates) and impact (impact on students and teachers). Keywords: asking questions, student questions, elementary education, phenomenological research.
... Leaner-to-learner questions in collaborative dialogue provide insight into group collaboration characteristics in relation to the constructs of the learning domain. In this work we categorize naturally occurring learnerto-learner into two types of questions: confirmation and transformation [10]. Confirmation questions usually require only a shallow understanding of topics. ...
Curricular standards in STEM [9] and computer science have emphasized the role of asking questions to support inquiry learning in K-12 education. In this paper, we examine the role of questioning during collaborative computational modeling of scientific processes through discourse analysis to understand how students grapple with the synergistic application of STEM and CT to build, test, and evaluate their models. To our knowledge, limited research has targeted a systematic understanding of question posing during computational modeling in science. We aim to develop a better understanding of question posing in support of inquiry and problem-solving during model building.
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By asking questions, students can practice many cognitive processes, and these processes may reflect clues about their thinking skills. In order to understand students’ cognitive levels in thinking, questions can be used as agents. Doing so, this study focuses on examining students’ questions in terms of cognitive levels of Bloom’s revised taxonomy, namely, remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create. For this purpose, the study followed a qualitative research design with 106 high school students and eight language and literature teachers. To capture the relevant data, students were given two types of texts (narrative and informative), then asked to generate text-based questions as well as their answers. Along with students, teachers were interviewed to find out how they direct students to ask comprehension questions according to instructional strategies they used in asking questions. The data were analyzed through descriptive and content analysis. The results showed that participant students mainly asked questions addressing at the analyze level for the narrative text, and at the understand level for the informative text. These levels are assumed as lower-order thinking skills according to the taxonomy, and possible reasons were discussed with further recommendations.
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The COVID‐19 pandemic forced medical schools to rapidly transform their curricula using online learning approaches. At our institution, the preclinical Practice of Medicine (POM) course was transitioned to large‐group, synchronous, video‐conference sessions. The aim of this study is to assess whether there were differences in learner engagement, as evidenced by student question‐asking behaviors between in‐person and videoconferenced sessions in one preclinical medical student course. In Spring, 2020, large‐group didactic sessions in POM were converted to video‐conference sessions. During these sessions, student microphones were muted, and video capabilities were turned off. Students submitted typed questions via a Q&A box, which was monitored by a senior student teaching assistant. We compared student question asking behavior in recorded video‐conference course sessions from POM in Spring, 2020 to matched, recorded, in‐person sessions from the same course in Spring, 2019. We found that, on average, the instructors answered a greater number of student questions and spent a greater percentage of time on Q&A in the online sessions compared with the in‐person sessions. We also found that students asked a greater number of higher complexity questions in the online version of the course compared with the in‐person course. The video‐conference learning environment can promote higher student engagement when compared with the in‐person learning environment, as measured by student question‐asking behavior. Developing an understanding of the specific elements of the online learning environment that foster student engagement has important implications for instructional design in both the online and in‐person setting.
The use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is rapidly increasing due to the convenience and ease that provide to learners. However, MOOCs suffer from high drop out rate owing mostly to the confusion and frustration going with the learning process. Based on MOOCs discussion forums, this paper aims to explore different levels of confusion in specific concept using prerequisite based ontology for extracting relevant posts, and Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) classification algorithm to describe the degree of confusion for each post. The analysis of discussion posts from Stanford University dataset affirms the effectiveness of our model. BERT achieve good classification accuracy; this will help in early drop out detection and also facilitate future support for learners in confusion state.
There is a growing body of research which explores the nature of explanation in science classrooms. The vast majority of this work highlights the teacher’s role as explainer of scientific phenomena, while little has explored the quality of learners’ own explanations. This paper helps redress this inbalance by undertaking an analysis of students’ explanations related to aspects of chemical structure and bonding. In this paper we set out our results - an analytical framework for exploring the explanations produced by students within the context of a chemistry course. The primary source of data used in this research derives from interviews with students in the U.K. studying chemistry at University entrance level. These interviews were undertaken as part of a longitudinal study of the development of students’ understanding of the chemical bond concept. The data collected has been interrogated to develop an analytical model of learners’ explanations in chemistry. [Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. Eur.: 2000, 1, 329-353]
Whereas it is well documented that student question asking is infrequent in classroom environments, there is little research on questioning processes during tutoring. The present study investigated the questions asked in tutoring sessions on research methods (college students) and algebra (7th graders). Student questions were approximately 240 times as frequent in tutoring settings as classroom settings, whereas tutor questions were only slightly more frequent than teacher questions. Questions were classified by (a) degree of specification, (b) content, and (c) question-generation mechanism to analyze their quality. Student achievement was positively correlated with the quality of student questions after students had some experience with tutoring, but the frequency of questions was not correlated with achievement. Students partially self-regulated their learning by identifying knowledge deficits and asking questions to repair them, but they need training to improve these skills. We identified some ways that tutors and teachers might improve their question-asking skills.
Constructive reflection is seen as an important ingredient in the professional development of teachers, in order to stimulate significant change in approaches to classroom practice and the general provision of science education in schools. This paper explores the use of pupils’ questions in provoking ‘critical incidents’ in the professional lives of teachers. It is suggested that pupils’ questions can be both indicative of their own conceptual change as well as being sophisticated prompts for teachers to examine their own thinking. Case studies of two teachers ‐‐ one primary and one secondary ‐‐ are used to illuminate how such critical incidents can lead to changes in teacher thinking, resulting then in changes in classroom practice in science. Suggestions are made for the use of pupils’ questions as critical incidents in the professional development of teachers.