Academic journal article International Education Studies

ESL Teachers' Questioning Technique in an Assessment for Learning Context: Promising or Problematic?

Academic journal article International Education Studies

ESL Teachers' Questioning Technique in an Assessment for Learning Context: Promising or Problematic?

Article excerpt


As a crucial feature of assessment for learning (AfL), questioning technique plays an important part in student learning. In an AfL classroom, questioning technique is not merely a pedagogical tool to elicit evidence of students' understanding but also a means to improve their understanding. Effective classroom questioning underpins AfL; However, research into AfL raises significant doubt about the efficiency of teachers' questioning during AfL especially in Malaysian primary schools where AfL is still in its infancy. The current study illuminates the process of classroom questioning during AfL in a Malaysian primary school ESL context. This qualitative case study was conducted in a selected primary school around Selangor, Malaysia. Three ESL teachers teaching in the selected school took part in the study. In order to collect data, twenty periods of each teacher's classroom were observed. Then, interview was conducted with each individual teacher. Interviews and observations were tape-recorded verbatim and transcribed for further analysis. The results indicated that the low-cognitive level of questioning techniques and strategies were utilized by the three teachers. Many findings of this study point to the fact that teachers are still practicing teacher-centered syllabus. The results of the current study showed that the traditional concept of questioning was maintained and classroom questioning did not seem to fulfill the promise of enhancing learner autonomy which is the focus of AfL. The students were not encouraged to ask questions and engage in self-reflection. Many of them were silent oftentimes during classroom questioning and questions were usually answered by a specific group of students or the teachers themselves. Recommendations were made based on the results of the study.

Keywords: questioning technique, assessment for learning, ESL classrooms, student learning

1. Introduction

Students in an assessment for learning (AfL) classroom are exposed to the learning intentions at the very beginning of the learning and instruction process (Eisner, 2003; Haywood, Brown, & Wingenfeld, 1990). They learn about the learning intentions and criteria for success as well as the scaffoldings they receive to achieve success (Vygotsky, 1978). In an AfL context, learners play an important role in their learning process (Hilgers, Hussey, & Stitt-Bergh, 2000; Schön, 1995; Wang, 2010). They have continuous collaboration with their teacher and peer and consistently communicate their learning evidence with them. Therefore, they have an important part in assessing their own learning through self- and peer-assessment (Alexander, 2013; De Bruin & Van Gog, 2012; Kostons, Van Gog, & Paas, 2012; Metcalfe, 2009; Wiliam, 2011). However, many research works established the evidence that students fail to monitor and evaluate their own performance especially their self-assessments (Dunlosky & Lipko, 2007; Dunlosky et al., 2002; Serra & Metcalfe, 2009; Thiede et al., 2009). But, there are instructional techniques that seem to improve accuracy such as training and using standards to assess performance by means of modeling to student (Kostons et al., 2012) and a standard description of expected answers by teachers (Butler & Winne, 1995; Lipko et al., 2009; Rawson & Dunlosky, 2007).

When the criteria for success is established and students know what is expected of them, then in order to implement AfL effectively, teachers need to ask questions of their students to ensure their learning as well as their progress towards learning intentions. As a crucial feature of AfL, effective questioning technique plays an important part in student learning to enhance executive function ability to develop reasoning (Sachdeva,1996), challenge students' beliefs and background knowledge (Petty, 1998), and strengthen their arguments and propositions (James & Baldwin, 1997) depending on the types of questions being asked (Ramsden, 2003). …

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