On the Role of Teacher Questions in EFL Classrooms: Analysing Lesson Videos

  • Petra KirchhoffEmail author
  • Friederike Klippel
Part of the Second Language Learning and Teaching book series (SLLT)


This article reports first steps in an analysis of teacher language in ELT classrooms which are being filmed in German secondary schools. With the tools of discourse and conversation analysis the focus is on teachers’ questions in their instructional context. Teachers’ questions can perform a range of different functions both in the various communicative and pedagogical situations in a lesson and within the IRF cycle (i.e. initiation, response, feedback/follow-up). We argue that even cognitively simple questions should not be discounted as they might serve an important function in the language learning process. Finally, we suggest a reassessment of the IRF cycle on the basis of our findings and we propose a re-working of Nunn’s (1999) framework for question analysis as a point of departure.


Classroom Discourse English Language Teaching Language Lesson Language Classroom Speaking Activity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Anderson, L. and D. Krathwohl. 2001. A Taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing. A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. (abridged edition). New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  2. Ashford, S. 2006. Green line new 4. Ausgabe für Bayern. Stuttgart: Klett Verlag.Google Scholar
  3. Banbrook, L. 1987. Questions about questions: an enquiry into teachers’ questioning behaviour in ESL classrooms. TESOL Quarterly 20: 47–59.Google Scholar
  4. Banbrook, L. and P. Skehan. 1990. Classrooms and display questions. In Research in the language classroom, eds. C. Brumfit and R. Mitchell. ELT Documents 133, British Council.Google Scholar
  5. Brock, C.A. 1986. The Effects of Referential Questions on ESL Classroom Discourse. TESOL Quarterly 20: 47 – 59.Google Scholar
  6. DIPF. Deutsches Institut für Internationale Pädagogische Forschung (ed.). 2007. DESI. Unterricht und Kompetenzerwerb in Deutsch und Englisch. Zentrale Befunde der Studie Deutsch Englisch Schülerleistungen International. (Retrieved December 8, 2011, from
  7. Ellis, R. 1997. The study of second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Johnson, K. 1995. Understanding communication in second language classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Long, M. H. and C. J. Sato. 1983. Classroom foreigner talk discourse: Forms and functions of teachers’ questions. In Classroom oriented research in second language acquisition, eds. H. Seliger and M. Long, 268–285. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.Google Scholar
  10. Nicula, T. 2007. The IRF pattern and space for interaction: comparing CLIL and EFL classrooms. In Empirical perspectives on CLIL classroom discourse, eds. C. Dalton-Puffer and U. Smit, 179–204. Frankfurt am Mein: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  11. Nunn, R. 1999. The purpose of language teachers’ questions. IRAL 37: 23–42.Google Scholar
  12. Rivers, W. and M. S. Temperley. 1978. A practical guide to the teaching of English as a second or foreign language. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Seedhouse, P. 2004. The interactional architecture of the language classroom: A conversation analysis perspective. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  14. Seedhouse, P. and S. Walsh. 2010. Learning a second language through classroom interaction. In Conceptualizing ‘learning’ in applied linguistics, eds. P. Seedhouse, S. Walsh and C. Jenks, 127–146. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  15. van Lier, L. 1988. The classroom and the language learner. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  16. White, J. and P. Lightbown. 1984. Asking and answering in ESL classes. Canadian Modern Language Review 40: 228–244.Google Scholar
  17. Wong, R. 2010. Classifying teacher questions in EFL classrooms: Question types and their proper use. TESOL in Context 20: 37–57.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universität RegensburgRegensburgGermany

Personalised recommendations