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The Importance, Nature, and Impact of Teacher Questions
Unformatted Document Text:  THE IMPORTANCE, NATURE AND IMPACT OF TEACHER QUESTIONS Jo Boaler and Karin Brodie Stanford University ## email not listed ## , ## email not listed ## In this paper we explore teacher questions from a number of perspectives. We look at the broader activity contexts in which questioning takes place, we present a coding system for teacher questions and we explore qualitatively what such a coding scheme might tell us. We reflect on the grain size that is helpful in understanding differences in teaching, and we argue that teacher questions provide an important methodological lens for understanding relationships between teaching and learning. We also consider how teacher questions help shape the flow and direction of lessons. Introduction Teacher questioning has been identified as a critical and challenging part of teachers’ work. The act of asking a good question is cognitively demanding; requires considerable pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1987); and necessitates that teachers know their students well. A number of research studies have shown that teachers rarely ask ‘higher order’ questions, even though these have been identified as important tools in developing student understanding (Hiebert & Wearne, 1993; Klinzing, Klinzing-Eurich, & Tisher, 1985; Nystrand, Gamoran, Kachur, & Prendergast, 1997). Research on the relationships between teacher questions and student learning has produced mixed results. Some researchers argue that higher order questions do correlate with pupil achievement and higher order thinking, while others conclude that they do not (Klinzing et al., 1985). Nystrand et al (1997) show that “authentic questions,” that is, questions without pre-specified answers, are asked only rarely in eighth and ninth grade English classes. At the same time authentic questions do positively influence student engagement, critical thinking and achievement in eighth grade classes. In their ninth grade classes authentic questions had positive effects in high-track classes and negative effects in low track classes. They argue that this is because the authentic questions in the low-track classrooms did not focus on the substance of the literature students were studying. Hiebert and Wearne (1993) argue that questions need to be viewed within the context of the kind of instruction that is taking place and in relation to the tasks. In a comparative study of ‘traditional’ and ‘alternative’ elementary mathematics classrooms, they showed that while teachers in ‘alternative’ classrooms asked a high number of questions requiring recall, they also asked a larger range of questions and asked more questions that required explanation and analysis than did teachers in traditional classrooms. Students in the alternative classrooms achieved higher gains in performance over the year. Our study of questioning comes from a larger project in which we have worked to develop methodological lenses for the analysis of teaching and learning. Tools and methods for analyses of teaching are elusive, in part because conceptual analyses of teaching do not exist in the same ways that they do for learning (Leinhardt, 1993). Where rich accounts do exist, they are often produced by individual practitioner-scholars (Ball, 1997; Chazan, 2000; Heaton, 2000; Lampert, 2001), or by researchers employing fine-grained qualitative analyses, (McClain & Cobb, 2001; Staples, 2003). These accounts

Authors: Jo, Boaler., Brodie, Karin., White, Tobin., Shahan, Emily., DiBrienza, Jennifer. and Fiori, Nick.
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THE IMPORTANCE, NATURE AND IMPACT OF TEACHER QUESTIONS
Jo Boaler and Karin Brodie
Stanford University
## email not listed ##
,
## email not listed ##
In this paper we explore teacher questions from a number of perspectives. We look at the
broader activity contexts in which questioning takes place, we present a coding system
for teacher questions and we explore qualitatively what such a coding scheme might tell
us. We reflect on the grain size that is helpful in understanding differences in teaching,
and we argue that teacher questions provide an important methodological lens for
understanding relationships between teaching and learning. We also consider how teacher
questions help shape the flow and direction of lessons.
Introduction
Teacher questioning has been identified as a critical and challenging part of teachers’
work. The act of asking a good question is cognitively demanding; requires considerable
pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1987); and necessitates that teachers know
their students well. A number of research studies have shown that teachers rarely ask
‘higher order’ questions, even though these have been identified as important tools in
developing student understanding (Hiebert & Wearne, 1993; Klinzing, Klinzing-Eurich,
& Tisher, 1985; Nystrand, Gamoran, Kachur, & Prendergast, 1997). Research on the
relationships between teacher questions and student learning has produced mixed results.
Some researchers argue that higher order questions do correlate with pupil achievement
and higher order thinking, while others conclude that they do not (Klinzing et al., 1985).
Nystrand et al (1997) show that “authentic questions,” that is, questions without pre-
specified answers, are asked only rarely in eighth and ninth grade English classes. At the
same time authentic questions do positively influence student engagement, critical
thinking and achievement in eighth grade classes. In their ninth grade classes authentic
questions had positive effects in high-track classes and negative effects in low track
classes. They argue that this is because the authentic questions in the low-track
classrooms did not focus on the substance of the literature students were studying.
Hiebert and Wearne (1993) argue that questions need to be viewed within the context of
the kind of instruction that is taking place and in relation to the tasks. In a comparative
study of ‘traditional’ and ‘alternative’ elementary mathematics classrooms, they showed
that while teachers in ‘alternative’ classrooms asked a high number of questions requiring
recall, they also asked a larger range of questions and asked more questions that required
explanation and analysis than did teachers in traditional classrooms. Students in the
alternative classrooms achieved higher gains in performance over the year.
Our study of questioning comes from a larger project in which we have worked to
develop methodological lenses for the analysis of teaching and learning. Tools and
methods for analyses of teaching are elusive, in part because conceptual analyses of
teaching do not exist in the same ways that they do for learning (Leinhardt, 1993). Where
rich accounts do exist, they are often produced by individual practitioner-scholars (Ball,
1997; Chazan, 2000; Heaton, 2000; Lampert, 2001), or by researchers employing fine-
grained qualitative analyses, (McClain & Cobb, 2001; Staples, 2003). These accounts


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