Oral-Questioning Skills of Novice Teachers: ... Any Questions?

Article excerpt

This report, part of a larger study, investigated the development of the oral-questioning skills among 9 cohorts of teacher-interns (n=95) during their 16-week extended-practicum program. Findings indicated that although the interns did develop their questioning skills, certain adjustments to their practicum program could be made to enhance this development even more. Implications for the broader field of professional development are drawn, and follow-up research questions are raised.

From ancient times notable teachers such as Socrates and Jesus have employed oral-questioning to enhance their discourse, to stimulate thinking, and/or to stir emotion among their audiences (Dillon, 1998b; Frazee & Rudnitski, 1995; Matthews, Binkley, Crisp & Gregg, 1997-1998). Educational researchers and practitioners virtually all agree that teachers' effective use of questioning promotes student learning (Gall, 1984; Latham, 1997). Thus, organizers of practicum programs in teacher-education institutions have included oral-questioning as one of several generic instructional skills that their graduates should develop during their pre-service experiences.

Despite the widespread practice among teacher-preparation institutions of requiring pre-service teachers to practice these basic instructional skills, and despite a recent trend in teacher-education reform that advocates good teacher-questioning to stimulate student thinking (see, for example, Acheson & Gall, 1997; Caine & Caine, 1997; George, Lawrence, & Bushnell, 1998), there is little recent empirical evidence that investigates the development of these skills among beginning teachers.

To help offset this apparent overbalance of the rhetoric side of the "rhetoric/ research scale," the present research report is provided. Indeed, educators are obligated to present empirical results that are open to examination and analysis by any interested observer, in order that their claims, assertions, and admonitions may be either validated or refuted on the basis of research evidence.

In the institution where I work as a supervisor of extended-practicum programs, prospective teachers engage in a 4-month internship experience, in which they seek to master a fundamental set of essential, generic teaching skills, including those of oral-questioning (University of Saskatchewan, 1999-2000). Using a supervisory approach called "Contextual Supervision" (CS; Ralph, 1998b) to facilitate this developmental process, the classroom cooperating teachers (CCTs), the college supervisor, and the teacher-interns collaborate for the purpose of assisting the teacher-interns to learn these skills.

The purpose of the present study, which comprised one part of a larger research project (see Ralph, 1998a), was to investigate the extent of the development of teacher-interns' oral-questioning skills. As a means of framing this present study, I accepted the invitation presented in its title, "... Any Questions?" in order to pose and to address five key questions in this report: (a) Why use oral-questioning in teaching? (b) What are effective questioning skills and how are they developed? (c) What did this study attempt to find about this process? (d) What did it find? and (e) What implications may be drawn from the study that are applicable to the instructional development process?

1. Why Use Questioning in Teaching?

A review of the pertinent educational literature identifies at least seven key benefits of effective oral-questioning that have been repeatedly confirmed by classroom research (Brown & Wragg, 1993; Frazee & Rudnitski, 1995; Dillon, 1988a; Gall, 1984; Good & Brophy, 1997; Wilen, 1986). A synthesis of this research shows that teachers' effective use of oral-questioning: (a) helps monitor the learner's acquisition of knowledge and understanding, (b) increases motivation and participation, (c) promotes higher cognition, (d) assesses learner progress, (e) facilitates classroom management, (f) encourages learners to ask and to answer questions, and (g) promotes dialogue/ interaction/discussion/debate between and among the teacher and the students. …

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