EFL Teacher Questions to Scaffold Learning Process: A Conversation Analytic Study

Document Type : Research Paper


University of Mazandaran, Babolsar, Mazandaran, Iran


Questioning practice constitutes one of the typical and fundamental interactional tools in L2 teaching. Much L2 research on teacher questions has been quantitative studies focusing on identifying question types and their roles in language acquisition and meaning negotiation. However, by drawing on conversation analysis within a sociocultural perspective, this study examines qualitatively how EFL teacher questions can scaffold learning processes. The data were collected through videotaping EFL classroom interaction. Eleven sessions of seven intermediate-level teachers in private language schools were recorded. Through the microanalysis of the transcribed data, the study found that EFL teachers vary in their structuring of unfolding question-answer sequences and that only a small number of teacher questions tended to provide learning opportunities. Four question types providing scaffolded assistance were identified: simplifying questions, marking questions, prompting questions and asking-for-agreement questions. This study contributes to understanding how the interactive nature of the questions teachers pose can shed light on the connection between teachers’ practices and students’ learning across unfolding sequence. It argues that teacher questions are more than elicitation techniques; they are mediational interactional tools to assist participation and comprehensibility. Some examples illustrating these communicative moves of questions and their scaffolding functions are provided. The implications for teacher education are also discussed.


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