How to guide effective student questioning? Design and evaluation of a principle-based scenario for teacher guidance

Harry Stokhof

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal (IDIP)

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This thesis reports on research about the challenge for primary school teachers to embedstudents’ Sincere Information Seeking (SIS) questions in their teaching. SIS questions,defined as self-raised questions to enlarge knowledge or resolve cognitive conflict,have multiple benefits for both learning and teaching. They foster students’ intrinsicmotivation, enhance their inquisitive stance, promote development of cognitive andmetacognitive skills, and support self-directed knowledge construction. Teachers canuse student questioning to diagnose students’ level of understanding, monitor theirstudents’ lines of reasoning, enhance inquiry, and evoke critical reflection.Unfortunately, student SIS questioning is scarce in many classrooms, and much of itspotential for learning and teaching remains unused. Teachers have a pivotal role inchanging this classroom practice. However, teachers face the challenge to provide opportunityfor student questioning, while at the same time feeling pressure to cover thecurriculum content. Teachers seem to be in need of support that enables them to guideeffective student questioning, defined as guiding students to cover and master curriculumcontent by raising and inquiring into self-formulated SIS questions.This thesis aims to develop and study the effects of such a support for primaryschool teachers. The main research question of this thesis is: How to support teachersto guide effective student questioning? Based on earlier research findings that mindmapping can support both the structure and freedom required for effective studentquestioning, this thesis explores how mind mapping can be integrated in the practicalsolution.The research in this thesis can be characterized as educational design-based research.The sequence of studies follows the several stages of design-based research.First, a validation study identifies design principles for teacher guidance of effectivestudent questioning in the literature. Second, in a development study a practical solutionis developed on the basis of these design principles. Third, an effectiveness studyresearches the effects of the solution on student learning outcomes. Finally, an implementationstudy investigates if the solution is transferable to a variety of teachers indifferent primary school contexts.CHAPTER 2The validation study in Chapter 2 aimed to identify the design principles for developinga practical solution for teacher guidance of effective student questioning. The followingresearch question was raised in this systematic qualitative literature review: Whichemergent themes with respect to guiding effective student questioning in primary schoolclassrooms can be derived from the literature?To answer the research question, a data set of 36 articles was collected, using bothstudy and report characteristics as inclusion criteria. All studies are peer-reviewed empiricalreports on teacher guidance of student questioning in primary education published since 1990. The data was analyzed in a three-by-three matrix, relating threephases of questioning (generating, formulating, and answering) to three perspectiveson teacher guidance (teacher characteristics, instructional moves, and organization ofstudent support).The findings show that teachers combine a variety of teaching strategies to successfullyguide the three phases of questioning. Four design-principles emerged, when analyzingthe patterns how teachers effectively guide student questioning: (1) creating asupportive classroom culture for question generation by acknowledging potential in allquestions, (2) defining a conceptual focus by means of a core curriculum, (3) establishinga sense of shared responsibility to collectively cover a core curriculum and organizepeer-collaboration accordingly, and (4) visualizing student questioning and its relationto the curriculum.CHAPTER 3The development study in Chapter 3 aimed to develop a practical solution as well astheoretical understanding if and how this solution might support teacher guidance ofeffective student questioning. The research question was: What is the relevance, practicality,and effectiveness of digital mind mapping in a principle-based scenario for guidingeffective student questioning?To answer the research question, a multiple case design study was conducted, inwhich a prototype of principle-based scenario for teacher guidance of effective studentquestioning was developed, implemented, and evaluated in multiple iterations. Twelveteachers in nine classrooms participated in the development, implementation and evaluationof the scenario that consisted of five phases of guiding student questioning withmind mapping. Video-recordings of classroom activities and interviews with teacherswere collected as the primary data. Analysis focused on fidelity of structure, operationalizedas adherence to and duration of the five phases, and fidelity of process, operationalizedas the relevance, practicality, and effectiveness of the scenario for guidingeffective student questioning as perceived by the teachers.The findings on structure fidelity show that teachers adhered to most of the phasesand activities of the scenario within set time-constraints, with the exception of evaluatinglearning outcomes with students (Phase 5). The findings on process fidelity confirmedthat in general 10 teachers perceived the scenario as relevant, practical, andeffective for guiding effective student questioning. However, two teachers were criticalof the practicality and effectiveness of mind mapping in the Knowledge Constructionand Evaluation phases, because they noticed some students had difficulty with extendingthe classroom mind map and constructing their own mind maps. Overall, it wasconcluded from the results that the scenario generally supported most teachers in guidingeffective student questioning.CHAPTER 4The aim of the effectiveness study in Chapter 4 was to determine the effectiveness ofthe scenario, operationalized as students attaining curricular goals by raising and exploringSIS questions. The research question was formulated as: To what degree dostudents attain curricular objectives, operationalized as (1) learning a core curriculum,(2) elaborating on this core curriculum, and (3) refining the conceptual structure of theirknowledge, when teachers guide student questioning by means of a mind map supportedscenario?The study was set up as a single group pre-posttest design. Respondents were 276students, aged between 8-12 years old, distributed over 10 classrooms in two primaryschools. In each school teachers and students worked with the scenario on a selfchosensocial science topic for a six week period. The teachers’ expert mind map aboutthe topic was assumed to represent the intended core curriculum. Pre and postteststudent mind maps, teachers’ expert mind maps, and classroom mind maps were collectedas the primary data. To triangulate mind map tests, also a conventional pre andposttest multiple choice knowledge test was administered. Adherence to the scenariowas checked by video recordings of classroom activities and product collection, such asmind maps, question sheets and other student products. Mind maps were analyzed forsimilarity to, and elaboration of, the core curriculum, and quality of structure. Correlationsbetween the number and curricular focus of student questions and the learningoutcomes, as measured by the mind maps, were calculated. Furthermore, correlationsbetween the development of the classroom mind map and individual student mindmaps were calculated.Comparison between pre and posttests show that approximately 80% of the studentmind maps improve in three ways: increased similarity with the core concepts mentionedin the expert mind map, elaboration on the core concepts, and improved qualityof structure. About 7% of the mind maps remain in a status quo, and 15% of the mindmaps show a decrease in either similarity, elaboration or quality of structure. At thesame time, a significant moderate positive effect is observed in the results of the multiplechoice knowledge test. Analysis of the SIS questions posed by the students shows nodirect effect on individual learning outcomes, but does relate significantly to the developmentof collective knowledge in the classroom mind maps. Furthermore, the developmentof classroom mind maps significantly affects the attainment of core conceptsand quality of structure in the student mind maps. Based on these results, it was concludedthat the scenario is effective in terms of attaining curricular objectives for moststudents, and that especially the collective construction and extension of the classroommind map in Phase 4 seems to play an important role in this.CHAPTER 5The aim of the implementation study in Chapter 5 was to determine to what extent theprinciple-based scenario for guiding effective student questioning was “robust”, definedas the consistency of benefits when implemented by a variety of teachers, students,and settings. The following main research question was raised: What is the robustnessof a principle-based scenario for guiding effective student questioning? Four sub questionswere formulated. First, how do teachers perceive the scenario (intended curriculum)?Second, to what extent do teachers adhere to the essential and optional activitiesof the scenario (operational curriculum)? Third, to what extent do teachers experiencesupport for their basic psychological needs (realized curriculum)? And finally, if and towhat degree, do the differences in school contexts and teacher characteristics influencethe teachers’ decisions to either adopt or reject the scenario for further use?Fifteen trainers introduced the scenario to 103 teachers in 23 schools. Schools differedfrom each other in terms of their organization of the curriculum, organization ofgrades, curriculum materials, and demographical characteristics. Teachers differed interms of their age, gender, experience, work factor, and teaching grade. All teacherstrialed the scenario in their classrooms for a six-week period. A questionnaire was administered,which measured the teachers’ implementation decisions, use of activities ofthe scenario, perceived attributes of the scenario, experienced autonomy, competence,and relatedness, and various teacher and school characteristics. Findings on classroomactivities and school variables were triangulated with product collection (such as mindmaps, question sheets and student products) and school documents.The findings show that the teachers perceive the scenario as having added value forguidance of student questioning and compatible with existing practices. Working withthe scenario supports teacher feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness.Approximately 80% of all teachers would like to adopt the scenario for future use.About 55% of these teachers see opportunities to further adapt the scenario to theirneeds. Adherence to all phases of the scenario enhances the likeliness for adoption.Further exploration of the data shows that most school and teacher characteristics donot correlate with the decision to adopt or reject. Therefore, the conclusion of thisstudy is that most teachers, despite differences in age, gender, grade, experience, andschool contexts, are willing and able to guide effective student questioning with thescenario.GENERAL CONCLUSION AND DISCUSSIONThis thesis was set up to develop a practical solution for teacher guidance of effectivestudent questioning, and to gain insight if and how this solution might work in classroompractice. The principle-based scenario, based on four design principles identified in a validation study, and developed and refined in close collaboration with teachers inthe development study, proved not only to be effective for its intended use, but alsotransferrable to new school contexts. Present findings at least suggest that three factorsseem to have contributed to support teachers in guiding effective student questioning:a) the four design principles applied in a five phase scenario were perceived as a relevant,practical, and effective scaffold for teacher guidance, b) the use of mind mappingas a complex visual tool proved to be supportive to put the design principles to practice,and c) the principle-based nature of the scenario, which provided both structure forguidance and to freedom to adapt content and processes to local needs and preferences,supported implementation.However, one should keep in mind that the scenario is no panacea for effective studentquestioning, and requires active involvement of teachers and a conceptual approachto teaching. Moreover, new challenges have emerged for working with the scenario,such as organizing assessment for learning, and supporting progressive inquiry.We conclude that guidance of effective student questioning has a lot of potential forteaching and learning, which suggests a need for progressive inquiry into the topic, forthis study offers only a few answers while raising much more new questions.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Open Universiteit
  • Bastiaens, Theodoor, Supervisor
  • Martens, Rob, Supervisor
  • De Vries, Bregje, Co-supervisor, External person
Award date1 Jun 2018
Place of PublicationHeerlen
Print ISBNs978 9462 95 887 6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


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