on March 10, 2000
Questioning and Science Talks
This semester, my elementary science methods college students are
co-teaching ten-twelve 2nd or 3rd graders. Their goal is to develop ideas
about forces and motion and science as inquiry. After assessing prior
knowledge and considering their ideas, the college students plan and conduct
additional "exploratory activities" and "fair tests" to develop their ideas.
There are 7 meetings that culminate in a brief, informal public sharing of
science ideas with parents and their classmates.
Yesterday, we debriefed the third science meeting. After some talk related
to their #1 concern, classroom mangement, I asked them to share all of the
science questions posed by their students--knowing that they were focusing
intently on "teacher questions." (see references at end of this message).
Their list of questions posed by children was short.
Then, I presented Paul Black's strategy--using questioning stems to promote
thinking. We practiced using the stems, discussed how the stems could be
used during the sequence of science meetings, and evaluated which question
stems would be most practical with 2nd and 3rd graders.
I'm looking forward to seeing how the college students apply the question
stems----will they apply it as a tool for assessment? a tool for children to
pose questions to "take action" at the next science meeting? as a tool for
review review or reinforcement of knowledge gained? Or, perhaps some other
I'd like to know other people are using the question stem strategy with
preservice and inservice teachers. What difference does it seem to make?
I'd also like to know about other techniques for improving the questions
Thanks so much for your question, GPaulin, and your teaching suggestions
and references, Paul Black.
Besides questioning, there are other challenges preservice students face,
such as facilitating meaningful, equitable "science talks" with children. In
my opinion, it's the most demanding part of the science meeting. In
addition to use appropriate social behaviors, it's challenging to get
children to interpret data and use the evidence to formulate a conclusion,
to explain, to identify a pattern or relationship, to self-assess what they
know or don't know.
Greg Kniseley, Professor
Rhode Island College
KITES K-6 Science LSC
PS: To develop "teacher questions," preservice students use Jos
Elstgeest's "The right question at the right time" and Sheila Jelly's
"Helping children raise questions--and answering them" Chapter 4 and 5 in
Wynne Harlen (ed.) Primary Science: Taking the Plunge published by
Heinemann. Often, at the end of the semester students tell me these were
two chapters were significant course readings.
In our K-6 Science LSC, I've used these chapters as a basis for an
inservice workshop on questioning.
Also, Dr. Larry Lowery delivered an engaging presentation to a large
audience of LSC teachers and administrators, called "Asking Effective
Questions." The session prompted teachers to examine questions promoting a
range of thinking. Also, he related his framework for questioning to the
questioning strategy used in the FOSS modules].