Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

The Use of Questioning in Inquiry-Based Lessons with Bilingual Learners: Developing Academic Language and Discourse

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

The Use of Questioning in Inquiry-Based Lessons with Bilingual Learners: Developing Academic Language and Discourse

Article excerpt

A large body of research highlights the connections between language acquisition, reading proficiency, and the comprehension of content area texts (Taboada, 2011) specifically focusing on such issues as the importance of background knowledge and content area vocabulary in the learning process (McNeil, 2010; Ulanoff & Pucci, 1999) and the role of discourse patterns and oral language development in learning (August & Shanahan, 2006). While much of the existing literature explores the link between first and second language acquistion and content area learning (Chamot & O'Malley, 1994), this study examines how bilingual learners develop questioning skills (Williams, 2010) during integrated science and math lessons in their native language, Spanish, focusing on interactive pedagogical practices.

Research suggests that the implementation of pedagogical practices that engage students in activities to promote higher order thinking skills through the use of inquiry-based learning and project/problem-based learning (Helm & Katz, 2001; Zhang, et al., 2011) supports the development of academic language and discourse (August et al., 2014; Chamot & O'Malley, 1994) necessary for students to be successful in school (Grant, Lapp, Fisher, & Frey, 2012). This is especially true for bilingual learners who may come to school with different types of language experiences than those that take place at school (Moje et al., 2001). Those experiences may necessitate direct written and social interaction with a variety of text structures in each of the content areas to support language acquisition and content learning. Within the framework of inquiry-based learning lies a focus on teaching questioning skills in content area instruction in subjects such as math and science (Forbes & Davis, 2009) in addition to an exploration of links between how questions are used during instruction with narrative and expository text (Wilson & Smetana, 2011).

We began this exploration into questioning during inquiry-based learning activities with the notion that an instructional context that allows for hands-on activities and the development of expert/novice relationships would facilitate the students' understanding of the questioning process (Wadham, 2013) situated in student-teacher discourse in the classroom (Dickson, 2005). Surely, when students worked as "teachers" they would come to know and understand how to question and examine evidence to find answers. Taking on the role of the "teachers" asks students to develop their own opinions and questions about texts and content, separate from that of the author (Williams, 2010). In order to examine the ways that students take on this questioning role, the study is guided by the following research question: How do third grade students (experts) ask and answer questions when working with peers and kindergartners (novices) in cross age groups?

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

Research suggests that social interactions between students and teachers during inquiry-based learning activities support the development of academic language, the language necessary to succeed in school, as well as the development of higher level thinking skills (Moje et al., 2001; Ulanoff et al., 2012; Ulanoff & Quiocho, 2004). One focus of inquiry-based learning (Harste, 2001; Spronken-Smith et al., 2008) is the examination of student and teacher talk in the context of everyday instruction that shapes the way learners view knowledge and learn how to talk about such knowledge (Jennings & Mills, 2009). Jennings and Mills describe the "discourse of inquiry" as including practices related to observation, engagement, and interaction within the context of such instruction. Applying this view of discourse to content instruction with a focus on bilingual learners requires that we ask questions about how students are able to construct knowledge as they engage in instructional practices that may differ from what they are used to at home and at school (Moje et al. …

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