Skip to main content
Log in

Understanding student questioning

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Cultural Studies of Science Education Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Our investigation focusses on a group of eleven lower-middle-class students from classrooms in which the teachers did most of the talking and students rarely asked any questions. We have examined whether spontaneous discussions among the students in a less structured setting would include questioning, and what kinds of questions they might ask. Our study is based within a historical dialectical materialist framework. We particularly wanted to find out whether, given a material context—an unusual variegated tree—the students would spontaneously ask questions about the tree, or whether they would need some sort of teacher’s guidance in order to do so. We were motivated to raise these research questions partly by worries that a culture of an unquestioning student passivity may exist and that such a culture may be an expedient way of maintaining social norms. Rather than testing out a teaching strategy, our broader aim was to understand the students and find out whether or in what sense they might practice science. We explored the role of the teachers and the context in the students’ questioning process by analysing student talk and interactions with each other and with the tree. We found that, in the course of their spontaneous discussions, even with very little teacher guidance, the students engaged in questioning and asked each other a surprising number of investigatable science questions. Their questioning was mainly authentic, and was both explicit and implicit. We claim that their questioning was a dialectical process in which conflicts arose due to interactions between students, as well as between students and the tree. Even though the students had never done practical science activities in their classrooms, they spontaneously performed some experiments to find answers to their own questions. We present evidence that they did this despite thinking that they were not supposed to do so. We discuss how and why the students engaged in questioning and investigating. We also discuss possibilities for how student questioning could flourish, even if not officially encouraged, at least as a subversive activity.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Almeida, P., & de Souza, F. N. (2010). Questioning profiles in secondary science classrooms. International Journal of Learning and Change, 4(3), 237–251.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ansari, H. (2016). Remarks by Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari, at the inauguration of the panel discussion on “Scientific Temper: A pre-requisite for knowledge based society”. New Delhi: Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Vice President’s Secretariat.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barnes, D. R., Britton, J. N., & Rosen, H. (1971). Language, the learner, and the school. London: Penguin.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (2010). Can children really create knowledge? Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 36(1), 1–15.

    Google Scholar 

  • Biddulph, F., Symington, D., & Osborne, R. (1986). The place of children’s questions in primary science education. Research in Science and Technological Education, 4(1), 77–88. https://doi.org/10.1080/0263514860040108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brice Heath, S. (1982). Questioning at home and at school: A comparative study. In George Spindler (Ed.), Doing the ethnography of schooling: Educational anthropology in action (chapter 4 (pp. 101–131). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chin, C. (2002). Open investigations in science: Posing problems and asking investigative questions. Teaching and Learning, 23, 155–166.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chin, C., Brown, D. E., & Bruce, B. C. (2002). Student-generated questions: A meaningful aspect of learning in science. International Journal of Science Education, 24(5), 521–549. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500690110095249.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chin, C., & Kayalvizhi, G. (2002). Posing problems for open investigations: What questions do pupils ask? Research in Science and Technological Education, 20(2), 269–287. https://doi.org/10.1080/0263514022000030499.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chin, C., & Osborne, J. (2008). Students’ questions: A potential resource for teaching and learning science. Studies in Science Education, 44(1), 1–39. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057260701828101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cifone, M. V. (2013). Questioning and learning. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 15(1), 41–55.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cornforth, M. (1975). Materialism and the dialectical method (4th printing). New York: International Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dillon, J. T. (1983). Teaching and the art of questioning. Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

  • Dillon, J. T. (1988). The remedial status of student questioning. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 20(3), 197–210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dillon, J. T. (2004). Questioning and teaching: A manual of practice. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Duckworth, E. (2012). TEDxPioneerValley—EleanorDuckworth—‘When Teachers Listen and Learners Explain’. Retrieved 30 August, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sfgenKusQk.

  • Eisenhart, M. (2008). Globalization and science education in a community-based after-school program. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 3(1), 73–95. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-007-9084-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Engels, F. (1876). Dialectics of nature (1940 English edition, translated from German by Clemens Dutt). New York: International Publishers.

  • Engels, F. (1886). Ludwig Feuerbach and the end of classical German philosophy. In K. Marx & F. Engels (Eds.), Collected works (Vol. 26, pp. 353–398). 1946 English edition. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

  • Engeström, Y. (1999). Activity theory and individual and social transformation. In Y. Engeström, R. Miettinen, & R.-L. Punamäki (Eds.), Perspectives on activity theory (pp. 19–38). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Falk, B., & Margolin, L. (2005). Awakening questions within: Inquiry research in an elementary classroom. Thinking Classroom, 6(2), 6–14.

    Google Scholar 

  • Foster, J. B., Clark, B., & York, R. (2010). The ecological rift: Capitalism’s war on the earth. Monthly Review Press, Indian edition, 2011. Kharagpur: Cornerstone Press.

  • Freire, P. (1968). Pedagogy of the oppressed. English edition translated from Portuguese by Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Continuum, Seabury Press.

  • Freire, P., & Faundez, A. (1989). Learning to question: A pedagogy of liberation. New York: Continuum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gade, S., & Blomqvist, C. (2015). From problem posing to posing problems via explicit mediation in grades 4 and 5. In F. M. Singer & N. F. Ellerton (Eds.), Mathematical problem posing (pp. 195–213). New York: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Gade, S., & Blomqvist, C. (2016). Investigating everyday measures through exploratory talk: Whole class plenary intervention and landscape study at grade four. Cultural Studies of Science Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-016-9784-y.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Good, T. L., Slavings, R. L., Harel, K. H., & Emerson, H. (1987). Student passivity: A study of question asking in K-12 classrooms. Sociology of Education, 60(3), 181–199. https://doi.org/10.2307/2112275.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Graesser, A. C., & Person, N. K. (1994). Question asking during tutoring. American Educational Research Journal, 31(1), 104–137.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haldane, J. B. S. (1940). Why I am a materialist. In Rationalist annual. London: Rationalist Press Association Limited.

  • Hanrahan, M. U. (2006). Highlighting hybridity: A critical discourse analysis of teacher talk in science classrooms. Science Education, 90(1), 8–43. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.20087.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harris, P. L. (2012). Trusting what you’re told: How children learn from others. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Haydock, K. (2017). A marxist approach to understanding ecology. Economic and Political Weekly, 52(37), 83–88.

    Google Scholar 

  • Henkemans, A. F. S. (2009). Manoeuvring strategically with rhetorical questions. In F. H. van Eemeren, B. Garssen, & B. Garssen (Eds.), Pondering on problems of argumentation (pp. 15–23). Dordrecht: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Hodson, D. (1993). Re-thinking old ways: Towards a more critical approach to practical work in school science. Studies in Science Education, 22(1), 85–142. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057269308560022.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hodson, D. (2014). Nature of science in the science curriculum: Origin, development, implications and shifting emphases. In M. R. Matthews (Ed.), International handbook of research in history, philosophy and science teaching (pp. 911–970). Dordrecht: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-7654-8_28.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Ilaiah, K. (2010). The weapon of the other: Dalitbahujan writings and the remaking of Indian nationalist thought. Delhi: Longman.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jain, M., & Saxena, S. (2010). Politics of low cost schooling and low teacher salary. Economic and Political Weekly, XLV(18), 79–80.

    Google Scholar 

  • Junior, P. L., Ostermann, F., & Rezende, F. (2014). Marxism in Vygotskian approaches to cultural studies of science education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 9(3), 543–566. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-013-9485-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kandpal, K. (2015). Children’s questions. Sandarbh, 98, 50–55.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kearsley, G. P. (1976). Questions and question asking in verbal discourse: A cross-disciplinary review. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 5(4), 355–375. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01079934.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Keys, C. (1998). A study of grade six students generating questions and plans for open-ended science investigations. Research in Science Education, 28(3), 301–316.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75–86.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kulkarni, V. G., & Agarkar, S. C. (1985). Talent search and nurture among the underprivileged (report). Mumbai: Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kumar, K. (1989). Social character of learning. New Delhi: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kumar, K. (1996). Two worlds. In Learning from conflict, chapter 4 (pp. 59–74). Hyderabad: Orient Longman.

  • Lemke, J. L. (1990). Talking science: Language, learning, and values. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Pub. Corp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levins, R., & Lewontin, R. C. (1985). The dialectical biologist. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. New Delhi: Sage.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Lundin, M. (2007). Questions as a tool for bridging science and everyday language games. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 2(1), 265–279. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-006-9043-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Madhu, K. P. (2015). Why Ramu does not ask questions. Science Reporter, 52(02), 22–25.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marx, K. (1844). Private property and communism. In the 1964 version translated by Martin Milligan and edited by Dirk J. Struik: The economic and philosophic manuscripts of 1844 (pp. 132–146). New York: International Publishers.

  • Marx, K. (1867). Capital: A critique of political economy. Volume I. English edition of 1887, translated by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, edited by Frederick Engels. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

  • Mehan, H. (1979). ‘What time is it, Denise?’: Asking known information questions in classroom discourse. Theory Into Practice, 18(4), 285–294.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nambissan, G. B., & Ball, S. J. (2010). Advocacy networks, choice and private schooling of the poor in India. Global Networks, 10(3), 1–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • National Council of Educational Research and Training [NCERT]. (2005). NCF 2005, national curricular framework. New Delhi: National Council of Educational Research and Training.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nehru, J. (1946). The discovery of India. New Delhi: Penguin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Noorani, A. G. (2017). Nationalism in peril. Frontline, 34(7), 98–102.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nystrand, M., Wu, L. L., Gamoran, A., Zeiser, S., & Long, D. A. (2003). Questions in time: Investigating the structure and dynamics of unfolding classroom discourse. Discourse Processes, 35(2), 135–198.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pal, Y., & Mishra, K. K. (2008). Khoje huye prashna, Hindi version of Discovered Questions. New Delhi: National Council of Educational Research and Training.

  • Pearson, J. C., & West, R. (1991). An initial investigation of the effects of gender on student questions in the classroom: Developing a descriptive base. Communication Education, 40(1), 22–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Piaget, J. (1923). The language and thought of the child (reprinted 2001). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Postman, N., & Weingartner, C. (1969). Teaching as a subversive activity. New York: Delacorte.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ramadas, J. S., & Kulkarni, V. G. (1982). Pupil participation and curriculum relevance. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 19(5), 357–365.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rees, C., & Roth, W.-M. (2017). Interchangeable positions in interaction sequences in science classrooms. Dialogic Pedagogy: An International Online Journal. https://doi.org/10.5195/DPJ.2017.184.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rodrigues, A., Camillo, J., & Mattos, C. (2014). Quasi-appropriation of dialectical materialism: A critical reading of Marxism in Vygotskian approaches to cultural studies in science education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 9(3), 583–589. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-014-9570-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosebery, A. S., & Ballenger, C. (2008). Creating a foundation through student conversation. In A. S. Rosebery & B. Warren (Eds.), Teaching science to English language learners (pp. 1–12). Washington, DC: NSTA Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Roth, W.-M. (1995). Authentic school science. Dordrecht: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-011-0495-1.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Roth, W.-M. (2005). Doing qualitative research: Praxis of method (Vol. 3). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Roth, W.-M. (2007a). Busting boundaries: Rethinking language from an epistemology of difference. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 2(1), 290–300.

    Google Scholar 

  • Roth, W.-M. (2007b). Toward a dialectical notion and praxis of scientific literacy. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 39(4), 377–398. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220270601032025.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roth, W.-M. (2007c). Theorizing passivity. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 2(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-006-9045-6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roth, W.-M., & Lee, A. (2002). Breaking the spell: Science education for a free society. Counterpoints, 210, 67–95.

    Google Scholar 

  • Roth, W.-M., & Roychoudhury, A. (1993). The development of science process skills in authentic contexts. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 30(2), 127–152.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rothstein, D., & Santana, L. (2011). Make just one change: Teach students to ask their own questions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sarangapani, P. M. (2003). Constructing school knowledge: An ethnography of learning in an Indian village. New Delhi: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Siddiqui, K. (2017). Hindutva, neoliberalism and the reinventing of India. Journal of Economic and Social Thought, 4(2), 142–186. https://doi.org/10.1453/jest.v4i2.1280.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Singh, G., & Khaparde, R. (2013). The state of experimental activities in Indian school science: An investigation into the existing problems and possible strategies (field work report) (pp. 1–17). Mumbai: Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (TIFR).

    Google Scholar 

  • Stetsenko, A., & Arievitch, I. (2002). Teaching, learning and development: A post-Vygotskian perspective. In G. Wells & G. Claxton (Eds.), Learning for life in the twenty-first century: Sociocultural perspectives on the future of education (pp. 84–87). London: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tewari, S. (2015). Jaitley slashes education, health spending. India spend. Retrieved from http://www.indiaspend.com/budget-2015-modis-moment-of-reckoning/jaitley-slashes-education-health-spending-67467.

  • Thapan, M. (2014). Ethnographies of schooling in contemporary India. New Delhi: Sage Publications.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Thapan, M. (2015). Curriculum and its possibilities. In W. F. Pinar (Ed.), Curriculum studies in India: Intellectual histories, present Circumstances (p. 141). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • The Real Process of Science. (2017). Retrieved 7 September, 2017, from http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/0_0_0/howscienceworks_02.

  • van Zee, E. H., Iwasyk, M., Kurose, A., Simpson, D., & Wild, J. (2001). Student and teacher questioning during conversations about science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(2), 159–190. https://doi.org/10.1002/1098-2736(200102).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Van Zee, E., & Minstrell, J. (1997). Using questioning to guide student thinking. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 6(2), 227–269.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vygotsky, L. (1966). Play and its role in the mental development of the child. Voprosy Psikhologli, 12(6), 62–76.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wiliam, D. (1998). Open ends and open beginnings. Presented at the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education. In 22nd annual conference, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

  • Wivagg, D., & Allchin, D. (2002). The dogma of “the” scientific method. The American Biology Teacher, 64(9), 645–646.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zafar, M. (2015). Questioning is more important than answering. Sandarbh, 96, 38–42.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Karen Haydock.

Additional information

Lead Editor: Ajay Sharma.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Singh, G., Shaikh, R. & Haydock, K. Understanding student questioning. Cult Stud of Sci Educ 14, 643–697 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-018-9866-0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-018-9866-0

Keywords

Navigation