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

Document Type: Research Paper

Authors

University of Mazandaran, Babolsar, Mazandaran, Iran

Abstract

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.

Keywords


Anton, M. (1999). The discourse of a learner-centered classroom: Sociocultural perspectives on teacher-learner interaction in the second-language classroom. The Modern Language Journal, 83(3), 303-318.

Belhiah, H. (2011). You know Arnold Schwarzenegger? On doing questioning in second language dyadic tutorials. Applied Linguistics, 32(5), 1–22.

Bloom, B. S. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives. New York:  McKay.

Boyle, R. (2000). Whatever happened to preference organization? Journal of Pragmatics, 32, 583-504.

Brock, C. A. (1986). The effects of referential questions on ESL classroom discourse. TESOL Quarterly, 20, 47–5.

Cazden, C.B. (1988). Classroom discourse. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann.

Chaudron, C. (1988). Second language classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cole, P. G., & Chan, K. S. (1987). Teaching principles and practice. New York: Prentice hall.

Dalton-Puffer, C. (2006). Questions in CLIL classrooms: Strategic questioning to encourage speaking. In A. Martinez Flor & E. Usó Juan (Eds.), Current trends in the development and teaching of the four language skills [Studies in language acquisition 29] (pp. 187–213). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Donato, R. (1994). Collective scaffolding in second language learning. In J. P. Lantolf & G. Appel (Eds.), Vygotskian approaches to second language research (pp. 33–56). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Donato, R. (2000). Sociocultural contributions to understanding the foreign and second language classroom. In  J. P. Lantolf  (Ed.), Sociocultural  theory  and  second language learning (pp. 27–50). New York: Oxford University Press.

Duff, P. (2000). Repetition in foreign language classroom interaction. In J. K. Hall & L.S.  Verplaetse (Eds.), Second and foreign language learning through classroom interaction (pp. 109-138). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Ellis, R. (1998). Teaching and research: Options in grammar teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 32, 39–60.

Ellis, R., & Barkhuizen, G.  (2005). Analyzing  learner language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gass, S. (1997). Input, interaction and the second language learner. Mahwah, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Gibbons, P. (2003). Mediating language learning: Teacher interactions with ESL students in a content-based classroom.  TESOL  Quarterly,  37(2), 247–273.

Gillies, R. M., & Boyle, M. (2005). Teachers’ scaffolding behaviours during cooperative learning. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 33, 243-259.

Hatch, E. (1992). Discourse and language education. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hutchby, I., & Wooffitt, R. (1998). Conversation  analysis.  Cambridge, England: Polity Press.

Hymes, D. H. (1972). On communicative competence. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Jarvis, J., & Robinson, M. (1997). Analyzing educational discourse: An exploratory study of teacher response and support to pupils’ learning. Applied Linguistics, 18(2), 212-228.

Kim, Y. (2010). Scaffolding through questions in upper elementary ELL learning. Literacy  Teaching  and  Learning, 15, 109-137.

Koshik, I. (2002). Designedly incomplete utterances: A pedagogical practice for eliciting knowledge displays in error correction sequences. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 35(3), 277–309.

Koshik, I. (2005a). Alternative questions used in conversational repair. Discourse Studies, 7(2), 193–211.

Koshik, I. (2005b). Beyond rhetorical questions: Assertive questions in everyday interaction. John  Benjamins.

Lantolf, J. P. (2000). Second language learning as a mediated process. Language Teaching, 33, 79–96.

Lantolf, J. (2006). Sociocultural theory and L2. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 28, 67–109.

Lantolf, J., & Thorne, S. (2006). Sociocultural theory and the genesis of second language development. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lee, Yo-An. (2006). Re-specifying display questions: Interactional resources for language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 40(4), 691-713.

Lee, Yo-An. (2007). Third turn position in teacher talk: Contingency and the work of teaching. Journal of Pragmatics, 39(1), 180-206.

Lerner, G. H. (1995). Turn design and the organization of participation in instructional activities. Discourse Processes, 19, 111–131.

Long, M. H. (1983). Native speaker/nonnative speaker conversation and the negotiation of meaning. Applied Linguistics, 4, 126–41.

Long, M. H., & Sato, C. J. (1983). Classroom foreigner talk discourse: Forms and functions of teachers’ questions. In H. W. Seliger & M. H. Long (Eds.), Classroom-oriented research in second language acquisition (pp. 268–285). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Lynch, T. (1996). Communication in the language classroom. New York: Oxford University Press.

Maloch, B.  (2002). Scaffolding student talk: One teacher’s role in literature discussion groups.  Reading Research Quarterly, 37, 94–112.

Markee, N. (1995).Teachers’ answers to students’ questions: Problematizing the issue of making meaning. Issues in Applied Linguistics,6(2), 63–92.

Markee, N. (2000). Conversation analysis. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Markee, N. (2005). The organization of off-task talk in second language classrooms. In K. Richards & P. Seedhouse (Eds.), Applying conversation analysis. London:

Palgrave-MacMillan.

Markee, N. & Kasper, G. (2004). Classroom talks: An introduction. The Modern Language Journal, 4, 491–500.

McCormick, D., & Donato, R. (2000). Teacher question as scaffolding assistance in an ESL classroom. In J. K. Hall & L.Verplaetse (Eds.), Second and foreign language learning through classroom interaction (pp. 183-203).Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum.

McNeil, L. (2011). Using talk to scaffold referential questions for English language learners. Teaching and Teacher Education, 1-9.

Mehan, H. (1979). “What time is it, Denise?” : Asking known information questions in classroom discourse. Theory into Practice, 18(4), 285-294.

Mercer, N., & Littleton, K. (2007). Dialogue and the development of children’s thinking: A sociocultural approach. London: Routledge.

Musumeci, D. (1996). Teacher-learner negotiation in content-instruction: Communication at cross-purposes. Applied Linguistics, 17(3), 286–325.

Nassaji, H., & Wells, G. (2000). What’s the use of ‘Triadic Dialogue’? An investigation of teacher-student interaction. Applied Linguistics, 21(3), 376-406.

Nunn, R. (1999). The purpose of language teachers’ questions. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 37, 23–42.

Nystrand, M., & Gamoran, A. (1991). Instructional discourse, student engagement, and literature achievement. Research in the Teaching of English, 25(3), 261-90.

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

Ohta, A. S. (2001). Second language acquisition processes in the classroom: Learning Japanese. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Pica, T. (1994). Research on negotiation: What does it reveal about second language learning conditions, processes, and outcomes? Language Learning, 44(3), 493-527.

Psathas, G. (1995). Conversation analysis. London: Sage.

Richards, J. C., & Lockhart, C. (1996). Reflective teaching in second language classrooms. Cambridge University Press.

Rodgers, A., & Rodgers, E. M. (2004).  Scaffolding  literacy  instruction:  Strategies for 

K-4 classrooms.  Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann.

Sacks, H., Schegloff, E., & Jefferson, G. (1974). A simplest systematic for the organization of turn-taking in conversation. Language, 50, 696–735.

Schegloff, E. (1984). On some questions and ambiguities in conversation. In M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (Eds.), Structures of Social Action (pp. 28–52). Cambridge University Press.

Schegloff, E. (2007). Sequence organization in interaction: A primer in conversation analysis. (Vol. 1). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Seedhouse, P.  (2004). The interactional architecture of the language classroom:  A conversation analysis perspective. Blackwell Publishing: University of Michigan.

Seliger, H. W., & Long, M. H. (Eds.). (1983).Classroom oriented research in second language acquisition. Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House.

Sfard, A. (1998). On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one. Educational Researcher, 27(2), 4-12.

Shomoossi, N. (2004). The effect of teachers’ questioning behaviour on EFL Classroom interaction: A classroom research study. The Reading Matrix, 4(2), 96-104

Sinclair, J. M., & Coulthard, M.  (1975). Towards an analysis of discourse:  The English used by teachers and pupils. London: Oxford University Press.

Storch, N. (2002). Patterns of interaction in ESL pair work. Language Learning, 52 (1), 119-158.

Swain, M. (2000). The output hypothesis and beyond: Mediating acquisition through collaborative dialogue. In J. P. Lantolf (Ed.), Sociocultural theory and second language earning (pp. 97-114). New York: Oxford University Press.

ten Have, P. (1999). Doing conversation analysis: A practical guide. London: Sage.

Tharp, R. G., & Gallimore, R. (1988). Rousing minds to life: Teaching, learning, and schooling in social context. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Thompson, G. (1997). Training teachers to ask questions. English Language Teaching Journal, 51, 99–105.

van Lier, L. (1996). Interaction in the language curriculum: Awareness, autonomy and authenticity. New York:  Longman.

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

Varonis, E. M., & Gass, S. (1985). Native/nonnative conversations: A model for negotiation of meaning. Applied Linguistics, 6, 71-90.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Walsh, S. (2002). Construction or obstruction: Teacher talk and learner involvement in the EFL classroom. Language Teaching Research, 6, 3–23.

Walsh, S. (2006). Investigating classroom discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Waring, H. Z. (2008). Using explicit positive assessment in the language classroom: IRF, feedback, and learning opportunities. The Modern Language Journal, 92(8), 577–594.

Waring, H. Z. (2009). Moving out of IRF (Initiation-Response-Feedback): A

single-case analysis. Language Learning, 59(4), 796–824.

Wells, G. (1999). Dialogic inquiry: Towards a sociocultural practice and theory of education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wertsch, J. V. (1985). Vygotsky and the social formation of mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wong-Fillmore, L. (1982). When does teacher talk work as input? In S. M. Gass & C. G.  Madden (Eds.), Input in second language acquisition (pp. 17–50).  Rowley, MA:  Newbury House Publishers.

Wood, D., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 25, 45-62.

Wu, K. (1993). Classroom interaction and teacher questions revisited. RELC Journal, 24(2), 49-68.