Gilbert Burgh
University of Queensland
Teaching children to ask and answer questions is critically important if they are to learn to talk and reason effectively together, particularly during inquiry-based science where they are required to investigate topics, consider alternative propositions and hypotheses, and problem-solve together to propose answers, explanations, and prediction to problems at hand. This study involved 108 students (53 boys and 55 girls) from seven, Year 7 teachers’ classrooms in five primary schools in Brisbane, Australia. Teachers were randomly allocated by school to one of two conditions: the metacognitive questioning condition (Trained condition) or the prescriptive questioning condition (Untrained condition). Data on students’ discourse and reasoning and problem-solving (RP-S) were collected across Times 1 and 2. The results showed that while there were significant differences in the discourse categories of the students in the two conditions at Time 1, the only significant difference was in questioning behaviour at Time 2 with the students in the trained condition continuing to ask more questions than their untrained peers. Given that these students had been taught to specifically ask ‘thinking’ questions that probed and interrogated information, these results are not surprising. A follow-up examination of students’ discourse during their small group discussions illustrated how these students interacted with each other to probe and interrogate information by providing explanations and reasons to make their thinking explicit and by using analogies to verbally represent concepts they were trying to express. Results on the follow-up reasoning and problem-solving (RP-S) tasks indicated that students in the Trained and Untrained conditions improved their scores from Time 1 to Time 2 although the change was not significantly different between conditions.
Keywords Scientific reasoning and discourse  Cooperative learning  Inquiry-based science
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