Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Environmental Education Research Group

Re-imagining futures in STEME

Questioning to Support Inquiry

The following framework describes the types of questions and ‘discursive moves’ expert teachers of primary science use in whole class discussions to support student reasoning and inquiry.

There are three main categories of move:

  • Eliciting and acknowledging
  • Clarifying
  • Extending.

It has been adapted from the following paper: Tytler, R. & Aranda, G. (2015). Expert teachers’ discursive moves in science classroom interactive talk. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 13,2.

New questionThis involves asking a new question, which begins a new line of inquiry or discussion.
ELICITING AND ACKNOWLEDGINGThese are teacher moves that elicit and acknowledge student inputs and establish them as contributions that are valued in building understanding in the classroom. These moves can include canvasing of further ideas, simple recognition of student contributions, to marking out contributions for special attention. They include positive evaluations and negative evaluations. They are used when the teacher is encouraging and gathering responses to an initial question to get ideas ‘on the table’.
1. Eliciting Further Responses/ re-stating questionThe teacher further elicits ideas by canvassing other students’ input, or clarifying the nature of the question e,g, ‘further ideas?’ ‘Anyone else” “Henry”
2. AcknowledgingSimply saying ‘ok’, acknowledging with a nod.
3. MarkingThe teacher marks out the student input as worthy of further consideration, for instance by repeating the student response or highlighting it on the board.
4. AffirmingAffirming interactions are those where the teacher offers a positive evaluative response to the student’s response. e.g. ‘that’s a good idea’.
5. DiscountingThe teacher passes judgment on the contribution, which takes it out of contention as something to move forward with. ‘No, that’s not relevant’,
6. Asking a Review QuestionThe teacher asks a question to reinforce a term or idea. It goes over previously trodden ground. ‘ … and what do we call this point again?’
CLARIFYINGThese are a set of response moves aimed at clarifying and sharpening the student input to achieve greater precision of meaning. These shift the language of student input to more scientific ways of talking about the phenomenon, from simply asking for students to be clearer about what they are saying, to re-voicing the input to subtly impose scientific language.
The order of the sub categories reflects increasing introduction of scientific language.
7. Requesting ConfirmationAsking the student to confirm their intended meaning through repeating the student’s response, perhaps using different or more precise words, and asking for their agreement or not. ‘So are you saying that …. ?’
8. Requesting ClarificationRequesting a student to provide further information/interpretation concerning their response so it is clear what they meant.
9. Re-framing QuestionAsking the question in a different way, with the intent to clarify what is being asked. ‘That’s not quite what I meant. Let me ask you …. If ….’
10. Re-voicingRe-casting the language of the student response to introduce scientific language. Summarizing student responses in more precise terms.
EXTENDINGThese moves aim to shift students’ ideas forward, by challenging students to extend or re-think their ideas or use them in another context. These are discursive moves that invite students to embellish and go beyond current ideas, to justify their claims and to reason. This may involve a sequence of further, extending questions that progressively open out students’ thinking.
The order of the sub categories reflects increasing challenge to students to refine, re-think and extend their ideas.
11. Requesting ElaborationRequesting a student to talk further about their idea with the implication of extending and elaborating rather than simply clarifying. E.g. ‘That’s interesting, can you talk some more about how this applies more generally’
12. Canvassing OpinionAsking for other students’ opinion on the response. This invites student-student interaction, and may involve students in claims and justifications.
13. Asking an Extending QuestionAsking a related question that introduces a new element and that might ask for an extension of the idea. It may be part of a sequence of questions that take students by degrees deeper into understanding.
14. Challenging DirectlyThis is an action, question or statement designed to extend the thinking of students by challenging them to reconsider their response. e.g. ‘But if that’s the case, wouldn’t it imply that …?’ ‘But doesn’t that contradict …?’
15. Challenging to Extend IdeasThis is an explicit challenge to students to use their idea in a new context or consider the implications of their idea in a new or problematic situation. e.g. “Sand can change its shape to fit a container. Is it therefore a liquid?”
Elaborating, presenting the scientific viewA relatively extended response that moves beyond what a student said and presents and elaborates on new science ideas. It may be a summing up of the whole discussion and extending to new explanatory ideas.