Grant’s Braes Senior School Action Research Issue we want to investigate

Development of questions that require higher order thinking skills from the children in an inquiry

Introduction
This is the third year that Grant’s Braes School have been involved in the ICTPD Cluster and the first year that we have been involved in an action research project. We are well down the track with our inquiry learning teaching but have noticed that the children’s questioning skills are very inadequate and have not improved over several years. We realised that we are not doing any active teaching of questioning. If we started to do active teaching of questioning would it improve the children’s questioning skills? We wanted to develop questioning skills within the senior school so that the children use higher order thinking skills to ask probing questions during an inquiry topic and therefore develop a deeper understanding of the topic.

Rationale
The main focus of this action research was to improve children’s questioning skills through direct teaching of questioning and therefore enhancing a deeper understanding of the topic.

Professional Readings
After setting the premise of our research we knew we needed to do some background reading about questions. We were lucky in that some of the speakers at the Learning@Schools conference in Rotorua had focussed on the issue. Each staff member involved in the research undertook to read and summarise the key ideas of a variety of recommended papers. This summary was then shared to the others involved, in this way we were able to reach a consensus about the types of questions we wanted to develop in our students, a renewed impetus into the importance of developing questioning skills in our students. These are the main authors and their writings that we used. 1. Jamie McKenzie Questioning Website – www.questioning.org Learning to Question, to Wonder, to Learn. He puts forward the concept that questioning is a vital but often poor element in discussions on thinking, indeed that ‘thinking without questioning is like drinking without swallowing.’ So by focussing attention on the skill of asking deeper level questioning we will be enhancing the thinking and therefore the learning that our students undertake. 2. Trevor Bond Questioning Website – see cluster website His summary about questioning and its importance is ‘An effective question is one that returns the required information, to do this it needs to contain the relevant contextual vocabulary and the query needs to be applied to a source that contains the required information. These factors also need to be supported by a range of questioner skills.’ This has a direct bearing on the Inquiry Learning model and helps to highlight the roles of the ‘facilitator’ and the ‘learner’. Trevor had also developed a rubric for questioning criteria. 3. E-Best Website – www.ebest.co.nz This very informative site which also included a series of questioning types but instead of 7 only had 6 steps. They also concluded that ‘An ‘Effective Questioner’ is one who can:

• identify an information need • pose a range of ‘relevant questions’ • take them to a variety of appropriate sources • edit questions where necessary • persist until they locate the required information’ Once again the link between the type of question asked and the learning generated were closely linked, supporting the view that investigating and deliberately teaching questioning was a relevant direction for our research. 4. Hooked on Thinking Website – www.hooked-on-thinking.com Pam Hook and Julie Mills are in the business of encouraging teachers to think about what they do and why they do it. Their website challenges, informs and gives practical ideas that we used to help develop our criteria for questions. Underscoring their philosophy is this quote ‘Once you have learned how to ask relevant and appropriate questions, you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know - Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner in Teaching as a Subversive Activity’ 5. Questioning Strategies – www.rapides.k12.la.us/connectedmath/question.htm This website contains groups of questions linked to Bloom’s Taxonomy levels. Method

Grant’s Braes School Questioning Criteria What Makes a GREAT question?
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6 Level 7 Poses a statement or provides no response (e.g. A worm lives in the ground) Any irrelevant question (e.g. Do trees lose their leaves – a question that does not fit the set topic or problem) Relevant Yes/No/Maybe questions (e.g. Do bees make honey?) Questions that use who, what, when, where, why, how without relevant key words (one word answer questions – e.g. What does it mean?) Questions that use who, what, when, where and relevant key words (one word answer questions – e.g. Where do bees fly to?) Questions that use how and why and relevant key words (e.g. Why do bees carry pollen?) Probing questions using two or more question starters using key words (e.g. Why do bees carry pollen and how do they use it?)

Results

Room 1 Results – Year 6

Findings Before teaching questioning my class were predominately asking level 5 and 6 questions with a lack of probing questions. After actively teaching the question criteria the children’s questioning is now predominately level 7 with the children using a combination of question starters and key words. For ex: What does a bee do with its pollen and how does it collect it? This has lead to the children to having to find more specific information and has lead to them having a deeper understanding of the topic. Those children who are still at level 6 or below are not using probing questions or are just attaching a why or how to the end of a question without going into more detail e.g. what does a bee do with its pollen and why instead of probing more for example … what does a bee do with its pollen and how does it collect it?

Room 2 Results – Year 5

Findings At the beginning of this project the Y5 children were asking questions below the expected level for their age, with the majority in the level 4 and below sector. Although they may have included good starters they needed either one word answers or answers that needed little investigation: e.g. What will hurt a weta? After actively teaching the question criteria the children’s questioning has moved to levels 6 and 7 where the use of how or why starters has required greater research to provide the answers: e.g. Why do bees constantly leave their hives in search of pollen and how do they find their way back to their hives? The five children asking level 2 – 4 questions are not including keywords and are still expecting only one or two word answers.

Room 3 Results – Year 3 and 4 Term 1 Questions (pre active questioning teaching)

Term 2 Questions (post active questioning teaching)

Findings Before teaching questioning my class were predominately asking level 4 questions with a lack of key words. For ex: What does it do? What is it? After actively teaching the question criteria the children’s questioning is now predominately level 7 with the children using a combination of question starters and key words. For ex: What does a bee do with its pollen and how does it collect it? This has led to the children to having to find more specific information and has helped them develop a deeper understanding of the topic.

Room 4 Results – Year 3 and 4 Term 1 Questions (pre active questioning teaching)

Term 2 Questions (post active questioning teaching)

Findings Before teaching questioning my class were predominately asking level 5 questions. After actively teaching the question criteria the children’s questioning is now predominately level 6 with the children using how and why and a relevant keyword to ask there questions (e.g. How do bees collect pollen). Some children are now writing level 7 questions where they have used 2 question starters and relevant key words. For ex: What does a bee do with its pollen and how does it collect it? This has lead to the children to having to find more specific information and has lead to them having a deeper understanding of the topic.

Reflection Strengths
• Excellent development of questioning skills from beginning to end of active teaching • Children’s increased understanding of topics • Included in teaching of inquiry topic • Definite shift in children’s quality of questions • Children more aware of questions and what makes a great question • Finding out and sorting out stage were more focussed. • Children keen to learn about questioning

Weaknesses
• Relating to current topics – some topics are easier for the children to generate questions • Still children with low questioning skills that need to be addressed • Needs time dedicated to it to carry out in deep teaching • Children assessing their own questions

New Ideas
• Needs to be regularly revisited and taught through-out each inquiry • Revisit teaching probing questions to make them a higher quality • Actively teach through-out whole school • Celebrating good questioning when they occur • Reflect on Teacher’s questions throughout the day • Have a ‘question of the week’ • Link it to other areas of the curriculum • Include verbal questioning sessions comparing to written questions • With better ‘question askers’ challenge top end questions and focus more on the ‘probing’ side of questions • Give children more experience in assessing their own questions and other questions

Summary

Resources we created / used:

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