Thinking across Cultures

By Donald M. Topping; Doris C. Crowell et al. | Go to book overview

7
Cultural Patterns of Cognition Reflected in the Questioning Styles of Anglo and Navajo Teachers

Sheida White Center for Development of Early Education

Roland G. Tharp University of Hawaii

Cathie Jordan Lynn Vogt Center for Development of Early Education


INTRODUCTION

One aspect of culture is the conventions of language use which are developed as a result of interactions with family and peers and shared by members of the culture group. One such cultural convention is the way teachers ask questions in the classroom.

The consensus among professionals today is that teachers' questioning of students can play an important role in furthering their cognitive and language development. Our own work points out that first, questioning taps the various kinds of information that is already available to the child, including material previously read or taught by the teacher. Second, questioning prompts a mental act or cognitive operation that the child cannot or would not produce alone. Third, as Tharp and Gallimore ( 1983) have pointed out, because questions call for a verbal response, the teacher will be able to monitor and assist the students' assembling of evidence and their use of logic and language.

Despite the significance of teacher questions in everyday classroom discourse, we know very little about the way questions may be affected by the culture of the teacher. Understanding how modes of questioning may be affected by the culture of a group gives us clues to their modes of thinking and understanding. Understanding what it means to understand, in turn, puts us in a position to make informed and intelligent decisions as to whether we should encourage the kind of understanding that is nurtured by the culture, introduce other modes of understanding to prepare the child for a literate world, or to do both.

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