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Questioning is one of the most important skills in effective teaching. Through questioning a teacher can help students form relationships, ensure success, induce the involvement of inattentive students, and enhance students' self-esteem (Eggen & Kauchak, 1996, P40).
Researchers overwhelmed with questioning techniques highlighted the importance of questioning in teaching as an effective tool in teaching. A question is defined as: "any sentence that has an interrogative form" (Cotton, Undated). In a classroom, the teacher's questions are meant to be a tool intended to communicate the content elements to be learned and the instructions for what they are expected to do and the manner to do it (Cotton, Undated). Aschner (1961) cited in. Gall (1970), for example, called the teacher "a professional question maker" and claimed that asking questions is one of the basic ways by which the teachers stimulated students thinking and learning.
Questioning facilitate learning and comprehension by actively involving the students in the class, giving them the chance to express the ideas and opinions, foster interaction and listening to the discussion given by their colleagues. Moreover, the transfer of information and conceptual comprehension take place through the process of questioning (Brualdi, Amy C. (1998).
Questions are mainly classified into higher and lower cognitive orders. Higher- order questions are designed to bring out higher-order responses but unfortunately students usually responds at lower cognitive order. Moreover, higher- order questions are not always better than lower, simple questions (Dantonio, & Beisenherz, 2001, as cited in Good, p316).Using different types of questions is recommended as simpler question are useful in arousing student's interest in the topic. However, complex and higher -order questions are needed to stimulate the critical thinking and to make sure whether the students have met the learning objectives of the topic. (Good, &Brophy, 2008). Gall (1984, p41, cited in Brualdi, Amy C. 1998)) quoted that simple factual questions are useful for the disadvantaged learner to help them master their basic skills whereas higher order questions are beneficial for learner of average or having high cognitive abilities.
Teachers should plan a series of different questions to keep the students on the same track of comprehension. Beginning with higher order questions then proceeding to the lower ones is intended to help students apply what they are learning. Conversely, using lower cognitive questions then moving up to the higher ones is recommended when the aim of the teacher is to draw the attention of the students to certain facts , and then stimulating them to infer a conclusion using these facts.( Good,&Brophy, 2008). Accordingly, sequencing the order of questions is very essential to avoid cognitive overload which may disrupt the acquisition of schema and result in poor performance (Sweller, 1988, cited in Lewis .D, (2008). The change in performance occurs as the learner becomes increasingly familiar with the material so that it can be handled more efficiently by the working memory which is usually limited among learner (Sweller. 1998).
This paper is an attempt to investigate the use of the different types of questions inside the classroom in relation to the cognitive theories.
Background and significance:
This study is conducted at Fujairah Institute of Nursing (ION).This institute is one out of three institutes from the Ministry of Health (MOH) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which are teaching nursing diploma for local and expatriates. There are three levels of students; these are diploma one (DI), diploma two (DII), and diploma three (DIII).(see fig 2)
At Fujairah ION, there are thirteen teachers; some of them are Bachelors' degree holders while others are master prepared. The experience of the teachers ranges between two to fifteen years. The teachers usually apply two methods of teaching according to the ION policy; these are Lecture Based and Case Based education.
The admission criteria of acceptance of students emphasize that students must pass the high school with an average of 70% in the scientific stream. All courses are taught in English.
Figure 1: Mini ION-Organizational Chart
On the basis of my personal teaching experience in the nursing field for the last ten years, seven of them as a senior nursing tutor at the ION - MOH - UAE. I have noticed that good questioning technique is essential in the development of student's understanding and critical thinking. Brainstorming, probing, reforming questions (simplification) when needed has been helpful for students in terms of understanding what is required, connecting with previous knowledge, retaining information, and generalizing to new situations. The main goal of the ION is to develop long life learner through the use of Case Based Learning Method and interactive Lecture Based Method where the teacher showered the students with different types of questions to facilitate the discussion in the classroom. This could not happen effectively if the facilitators have no questioning technique. Furthermore, because of my personal interest in improving the quality of teaching and questioning technique in ION, and since nobody has investigated the impact of good questioning on student's understanding. I feel the urge to study the contribution of this aspect to the learning process. The result is expected to uncover the level of questioning (high- order, low order) and the effect of questions on students' comprehension.
The use of questioning helps teachers to examine learners' comprehension. Questioning is also useful for learners as it encourages engagement and focuses their thinking on key concepts and ideas. Good teaching involves how to ask questions for maximum effect. Teachers should teach students how think rather than feeding them with knowledge, ask them to find relationships and patterns as this will help them apply what they have learned and make them accountable for their education and value what they are learning. Questions from students mean they are thinking critically about what you are discussing, encourage that thinking! (Schafersman, S., 1991).
Questions are classified as low order cognitive level and high order cognitive level (Bloom, (1956).The lower order questions focus on facts, recall of information that can be memorized which may limit students' thinking, elaboration and deep understanding of the materials and may impair higher order thinking. Yet, higher order questioning requires the students to think critically and reasonably rather than memorizing. In addition, questions promote the students ability to solve problem, analyze, evaluate and develop deep understanding of the subject matters in order to answer this sort of questions (Brualdi, Amy C. 1998).So Critical thinking is a problem solving skills that result in trustworthy information and lead to effective learning and reflection (Schafersman,S.,1991).Therefore, learning will promote the thinking ability and higher order thinking which s dependent on the questioning technique used by teachers thus, the better questioning the higher the ability for metacognition and reflection. So, asking well-formulated and sequenced questions considering the cognitive architecture of the students will limit the random administration of ineffective, non purposeful questions that will overload the cognitive ability of the learner and consequently impair his understanding.
One of the basic theories in questioning was reflected in Benjamin Bloom's taxonomy (1956) who builds a system of categories of learning behavior to help us in designing and assessing educational learning. The taxonomy was ordered in degree of difficulty from simple recall of facts on the lowest level, through increasingly more complex and abstract mental levels, to the highest order creating (synthesis) after being revised by Anderson and Krathwohl (2001). (See Figure 2).
Figure 2: Anderson and Krathwohl (2001) revised Bloom's original taxonomy
An important principle of Bloom's Taxonomy is that each level must be mastered before making progress to the next. Yet, this has been criticized by the fact that learning is not sequential and a person might skip from knowledge to application then analyze the application, come to a conclusion (evaluation) and then re-analyze the conclusion all working toward a greater synthesis of information. Constructivist teaching has suggested that teachers need to spread higher-order thinking skills throughout a task rather than begin with the imparting of knowledge (Spencer.J, 2008, cited in teachercommon.blogspot.com).According to the systems theory forwarded by Squire (Squire & Knowlton, 1995), explicit memory is conscious memory, whereas implicit memory is unconscious memory. Information in explicit memory decays with time, while information in implicit memory stays put. Low order questioning activates the explicit memory while higher order questioning promotes the implicit memory.
The key element of Bloom's taxonomy is in its prompt that we want students to have many levels at skills. Bloom found that over 95% of the test questions require the students to think only at the minimum level.
Teachers should be professional in the formulation of the questions and pay attention to their wordings as broad or narrow wording could limit students' response. Furthermore, teachers' questions should be based on the cognitive level of students rather than their grades.
Piaget, another psychologist, stated that learning and thinking involve learner's participation. Knowledge is not purely transmitted verbally but must be constructed and reconstructed by the learner. Intelligence is well kept through assimilation and accommodation; therefore, experiences should be considered to give chances for assimilation and accommodation. According to Piaget, learners need to explore, to manipulate, to experiment, to question, and to search out answers for themselves - activity is essential. Instruction should be individualized as much as possible and learners should communicate with each others, to dispute and discuss issues. Piaget considers teachers as facilitators of knowledge - they instruct, engage and motivate students. Learning is much more meaningful when learning springs from their experiences. Consequently, teachers can use various types of questions to stimulate the learners' thinking about abstract concepts taking into consideration their developmental level since development precedes learning.
Teachers should carefully plan their questions and move from one stage to another depending on the cognitive process of the learner, Therefore, there should be a correspondence between the cognitive level of teachers' questions and the cognitive ability of the students' answers.
According to Vygotsky (1920s-1934), intellectual development takes place in term of social history and sociocultural background (Luria, I 976). That is, cognitive skills and patterns of thinking of an individual are not inborn factors, but are gained from interaction within his sociocultural environment. Vygotsky believed that learning occurs when children are working within their zone of proximal development (ZPD). That is, the ZPD depicts tasks that a child has not yet learned but is capable of learning at a given time. A key idea derived from Vygotsky's notion of social learning is that of scaffolding; the support given by more skilled peers or adults. Typically, scaffolding means providing a child with a great deal of support during the early stages of learning. The teacher should consider engaging students at the upper levels enthusiastically without overwhelming them. Vygotsky considered that the teacher as a scaffold that can help the individuals learn by adjusting his instructions and questions according to the child's level of performance--is an effective form of teaching. Unlike Piaget, Vygotsky believed that learning proceeds development.
Vygostyan psychology (Vygotskij, 1978, 1999, 2002); any knowledge is based on a particular level of abstraction. As a result, the proper use of teachers' question even in the form of fact could lead to abstraction which is contrary to Bloom. On the other side and according to Vygotsky, Learner's biological capacity for performing certain tasks are limited, but did not define, what that child could learn Thus, "knowledge" by itself, even at its very concrete stage or factual domain, is still based on abstract phenomena The idea that factual information somehow reflects a thinking act based on no abstraction or on a low level of abstraction reflects a rather naÃ¯ve psychology of Learner development, especially if it is used to build a higher form of thinking. Instead of focusing our attention as to the different hierarchical levels of conceptual development, we should emphasize the different levels of conceptual development in which the learner interpret their own reality. Therefore, learning at any of the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy can be applied in classroom conditioned that the competent tutor is able to simplify concept and interpret according to the students' level of cognition.
A considerable number of researchers have studied the use of questions in the classroom by the teachers and their findings were congruent. The number and types of questions asked by teachers during the teaching process varies. According to Gall, (1970) the use of questions in the classroom over a fifty year period reveals that the main trend has been the development of techniques to describe questions used by teacher. It is clear for educators that questions play an important role in teaching. Aschner (1961) called the teacher "a professional questions maker". Flander (1970) cited in Gall, (1970) P3) stated that asking question is one of the 10 major discussions for studying teachers' behaviors in the widely used system for interaction analysis. Hastings (1912) cited in Gall (1970) P3). An average teacher asks 400 questions in a day, this means that most of the teaching time is occupied with questions and answers. Educators generally see eye to eye that teachers should stress the development of students' skill in critical thinking rather than in recalling facts. According to Gall, About 60% of teacher's quest on recall facts, about 20% require students to think and the remaining 20% are procedural.
In another study by Hussein (2006), three teachers observed asked a total of 782 questions composed of academic, non-academic, and false questions in sixteen observation sessions. The observer recorded (526) questions, three hundred fifty four (354 or 67.3%) were academic. The majority of the academic questions were low-level (458, 87%) and the remaining 68 questions (13%) were high-level.
In the study of Graesser and Person (1994), 96% of the questions in a classroom environment are teachers' questions. In addition to being rare and short, student questions are also simple (Dillon, 1988; Flammer, 1981; Kerry, 1987) cited in Graesser & Person). That is, they are normally superficial, short-answer questions that deal with the content and interpretation of clear-cut material; they are rarely high-cognitive questions that involve inferences, multistep analysis, or the assertion of critical judgment.
This paper is an attempt to answer the following question:
What types of questions are used by the teacher?
How different or similar are these questions to the researches findings?
A descriptive study design will be used to study the level of questions posed by the teachers, based on the revised Bloom's taxonomy of the question level. The results will be tabulated using simple statistical analysis to mention some: Totals, and Percentages,
Sample and Setting:
The researcher will conduct two sessions of observations in two nursing classes. These are: DI & DII; each class consists of 25 and 28 adult students respectively and learns through lecture based method. They lie in the (Formal operational stage of development) according to Piaget.
Two teachers will be observed are: first is a holder of a master degree in Medical surgical nursing, has an experience for two years in nursing education; the second possess a Bachelor's Of Nursing Science, and has seven years of teaching experience.
The questioning technique of the teacher will be assessed and evaluated through direct classroom observation in relation to the cognitive theory (Bloom, Piaget and Vygotsky)
The revised version of Bloom's taxonomy (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001)) will be used as a tool to evaluate the level of questioning. (figure 2)
The ethical considerations of conducting this piece of research were carefully considered. Three consent letters were obtained from the Branch Manager as well as the concerned teachers.
A letter will be sent to the principal to get permission for observations well as to the concerned teachers that I will attend their classes. (Appendices C, D).The classroom observation time will be 100.The findings of the study will be compared with the results of the studies done by Gall, 1970 (The use of questions in teaching), Graesser and Person 1994, (Question asking during tutoring) and Hussein, 2006 (Dimensions of Questioning: A Qualitative Study of Current Classroom Practice in Malaysia).The intent behind the comparison among these studies is to determine whether the questions used by the teachers have been changed or not throughout the mentioned dates of studies.
The numbers and the types of questions posed by teachers' will be counted and analyzed. I calculated the frequency of questions asked by the teachers and categorized them according to high cognitive order and low cognitive order based on bloom's taxonomy. The percentage of the total number of questions was calculated to facilitate readability and comparison between two classes (See Appendices A&B).
Level of question
Table 1: Classrooms results
Figure 2; Graphical presentation of results
With respect to this number of questions:
The findings of this study showed that the number of asked questions (C1 =38, C2 =27) falls in range with the findings of the study of (Graesser and Natalie) '30 to 120 questions per hour'
With respect to the frequency of low cognitive questions:
It is obvious from the findings that the majority of questions (C1 =92%, C2 =85%) lie in the low cognitive order. Compared to the findings of (Gall. 1970) and (Hussein, 2006) who respectively found that 77% and 87%of teachers' questions are of factual type. The number of questions which lie in low cognitive order is quite higher based on my personal class room observations; even the questions asked at the higher level (C1 =8%, C2 =14%) were not answered correctly by the students. Teachers were noticed to feed the students with appropriated responses which will not stimulate abstract thinking but contrary to that recalling and memorization will; term to be the actual term fro e.g.
Teacher: What is the effect of pulmonary hypertension on the right side of the heart?
Students: did not respond to the question.
Teacher Scaffold them: Could you describe the pulmonary circulation.
-How is the clinical presentation of right ventricular failure different from the left side ventricular failure?
- Students: No response
Moving backward from formal to concrete was quoted in the following event: -Teacher: What are the functions of the left and right side of the heart?
Although the teacher was asking questions at frequent mode there was no enough attention to the level of the asked questions; most of the question did require recalling and rote memory learning. This is an indication that either teachers are not well trained or the higher order cognitive questions are not properly formulated or the students are not well coached to respond to such types of question. Students' preparation plays a role in responding to higher level of questioning. If students are not well prepared, they will not be able to group the essential theme of the asked question and thus they will not catch up the higher cognitive level questions.
Connection with learning Theories:
During my classroom observations, I was able to find a link between some of the teacher's questions and the cognitive theories of Piaget and Vygotsky (see appendices A&B), for example.
1. Vygotsky /scaffolding:
- Teacher: what is the effect of left ventricular failure on the cardiac output?
- Students: didn't respond to the teacher and seemed confused.
- Teacher gave them a hint by simplifying the questions what are the determinants of cardiac output?
- Students answered:" Blood pressure, and contraction.
- Teacher: What is the effect of contract on CO?
2. Formal à Concrete (Piaget)
Teacher: What is the rationale behind dypsnea in pt having left ventricular failure?
Students: didn't answer
Teachers: (moves to concrete)
What causes dypsnea?
Student: lung disorder
Teacher: What is wrong with lung?
Questioning Training program for teachers is highly recommended (Also by Gall.D, 1970).Teachers must be aware of the different level of questions and the importance of effective and sequenced classroom questions in promoting student understandings. Furthermore, Students should be trained and coached on how to respond to higher order questions since higher order questions could be misused to fall in the low cognitive order. Giving students adequate time to respond will positively influence the learning. Finally, another research focusing on the questions posed by the students should be conducted.
Good questioning technique improves the understanding of the students and consequently the outcome of the cognitive learning when the questions match the cognitive abilities of the students. Accordingly learning and cognitive theories should be implemented in the classrooms.
Moreover, the result of this study supports the recommendations of Gall that teachers do need in-service and professional development programmed to improve their questioning skills. Furthermore, the findings of Gall and Hussein are prevalent in the current study. There are no essential changes from 1970 till 2010.
The researcher noticed that the questions were not distributed equally among the students even a considerable part of students were not engaged in the discussion especially in DII. This could be due to poor or inadequate preparation of the students, although it is the responsibility of the teacher to stimulate all the students. Moreover, there was a noticeable problem in the question-answer waiting time; for e.g. the teacher gave 15 seconds for a low cognitive question whereas a high cognitive question was given 12 seconds. The great bulk of the questions were administered by the teachers and students were not encouraged to ask questions.
Limitations of the study:
It is worthy to mention that the scope of this study is limited to two teachers of nursing in one school in an educational zone. Some variables like teacher's preparation which influence the questioning skills were not measured. In addition, Students' preparation and questions were not measured also.
Lesson: The Heart in health and disease
Time: 50 minutes
Venue: Diploma I A class, Fujairah ION
Observer: Bilal El-Salibi
The teacher started the sessions by introducing the learning objectives .Then; he asked the following questions:
Referring to your high school teaching; what do you know about the heart
Who can identify the location of the heart?
Who can name the four chambers of the heart?
List the three layers of the heart?
What is the function of the myocardium?
What do we mean by the prefix (Myo)?
State the functions of the heart?
How many valves do we have in our heart?
State the function of the valves?
Could you please tell me which artery is responsible about supplying the heart with blood?
Can you predict what will happen to human being if this artery becomes blocked?
List the most common substance that leads to occlusion of the coronary artery?
Is there any other factors than cholesterol can occlude the coronary artery?
What are these factors?
When we can say that the patient is having bradycardia (low heart rate)?
When we can say that the patient is having tachycardia (high heart rate)?
Identify the system that is responsible about regulation of heart?
Distinguish the effect of Autonomic nervous system?
What are the factors the lead to stimulation of the autonomic nervous system?
Explain the essential elements of cardiac cycles?
How much it takes?
When the AV valves will close?
Why do they close?
When the plutonic and aortic valve will close?
Why do they close?
Explain what produces the two heart sounds?
Define cardiac output?
How do calculate the Cardiac output?
We said that contration is the main function of the heart.
What will happen to the human being when the cardiac contractility is impaired?
What is the effect of left ventricular failure on the cardiac output?
What are the determinants of Cardiac out?
What is the effect of good contraction on CO?
How is the clinical presentation of ventricular failure different from the It side?
What are the functions of the left and right side of the heart
What is the effect of pulmonary hypertension on the side of the heart?
Could describe the pulmonary circulation
What is the rationale behind dypsnea in pt having left ventricular failure?
What causes dypsnea?
Time: 50 minutes
Venue: Fujairah ION
Teacher: Mr. M.S-Lecturer
Observer: Mr. Bilal El-Salibi
The lesson started at945 Am. Mr.MS introduced the instructional objectives of the session by talking about the history of the disease and its effect on the community; then referred the students to their prerequisite course of anatomy and physiology .
Can you identify the location of the liver?
Who can remind us of the main functions of the liver?
Do you know anybody having hepatitis?
How did she get it?
How old she is?
Is she married or single?
When did she deliver her child?
In which hospital?
What type of delivery? Normal vaginal delivery or c-section.
Did she receive blood transfusion post C-section?
Did they make sure that the blood unit is free from infection?
When did she discover that she is infected?
What signs and symptoms did she exhibit?
Did she receive any treatment or vaccine?
How many types of hepatitis do we have?
What is the most common one?
What is the prevalence of hepatitis B?
How much it takes for hepatitis virus to produce the infection? I mean the incubation period
Compare and contrast between hepatocellular jaundice and obstructive jaundice?
What is the normal value of bilirubin?
What is difference between direct and indirect bilirubin?
Draw a chart showing the whole pathopysiologic state of hepatitis B?
Devise a plan for preventing the transmission of hepatitis B?
Identify the mode of transmission?
What should we take to limit the transmission of infection?
What will happen if the blood unit is not tested properly by the lab technician?
Do you think that the meticulous checking and testing of the blood unit is important? Why?
Branch Manager-Consent letter
United Arab Emirates
Ministry of Health
Institutes of Nursing
Mr. Bilal El Salibi
Senior Nursing Tutor
Mrs. Mona Al Kujuk
Permission for classroom observation
Dear Mrs. Mona,
As part of my practical training requirements in the British university in Dubai, I would like to ask for your permission to attend two classroom sessions for two different tutors.
The aim of this observation is to gain insight and document the structure and level of questioning enacted by the tutor.
I appreciate your cooperation and communication with the specified tutors to facilitate the accomplishment of this process.
Thank you very much
Teachers- Consent letter
United Arab Emirates
Ministry of Health
Institutes of Nursing
Mr. Bilal El Salibi
Senior Nursing Tutor
Arranging for classroom observation
In reference to the letter sent to you by the manager, I would like to tell you that this attendance comes as a part of my practical training requirements in the British university in Dubai.
The aim of this observation is to gain insight and document the structure and level of questioning during classroom teaching.
I would like that you inform me about session timing at your convenience within one week.
I appreciate your cooperation to accomplish of this process.
Thank you very much