The PhD project is about teachers’ use of questions and responses in classroom teaching in lower secondary schools. This is the first systematic research on this subject in Norway, and the results may have implications for the quality of teaching in Norwegian classrooms and for the ongoing professional education of teachers.
What are you researching?
I am researching teachers’ use of questions and responses in classroom teaching. In my doctoral dissertation I have examined the types of questions that teachers ask and the types of responses they give, and made comparisons between the subjects of Norwegian and science. I have also examined the function of the questions in the classroom dialogue and how the questions work in the context in which they are asked. The aim has been to learn more about teachers’ use of questions, enabling more relevant research from Norwegian classrooms to be used in teacher training. There are many studies into teachers’ use of questions, but there has been no systematic research on this in Norway until now.
Why is this research important?
Teachers’ questions impact on how and to what extent pupils are able to participate in the classroom dialogue, and on the learning engendered through this participation. How teachers ask questions and how they respond to pupils’ responses is therefore an important field of research. Research into teachers’ questions also has a bearing on teaching practice, and can help increase the quality of teaching in Norwegian classrooms. Such research is therefore extremely valuable for teachers’ initial teaching qualification and for the ongoing professional education of teachers.
What motivates you to conduct research?
My primary motivation for carrying out research is the desire to make sense of things. Making new and interesting discoveries is something I find really exciting. Researching a field that is so closely linked to schools is also a great benefit, since the research can be useful for the schools, teachers and teaching practices. I am also the kind of person who likes to work independently and at my own pace, and being able to largely determine my own daily work is invaluable to me.
How is the research progressing?
Observing videos of classroom dialogue using a previously developed coding scheme, and reusing existing data has given me access to a much larger and broader scope of data than I could have collected on my own. My observations have been particularly aimed at teachers and the types of questions and responses they use with students in classroom dialogues in the subjects of Norwegian and science. After I completed my observations, I used various analytical inputs to examine the data.
What benefits can be drawn from this research?
I hope and believe that teachers and student teachers recognize the value of examining question and response practices in schools. Furthermore, oral communication is one of the basic skills needed by teachers, and questions and responses are both therefore of major importance in relation to discussions and discourse practices in schools. I think my research will encourage teachers and student teachers to reflect on their own practices, and by doing so will serve as a valuable aid. There is no template for how teachers should ask questions – what is needed is a repertoire of different forms of questions and responses, and the ability to weigh up a situation.
Where do you get your ideas and research questions from?
Many of the ideas for further research emanate from discussions with colleagues at meetings, conferences, seminars etc. I also get a lot of ideas from discussions with the students that I teach. Their experiences and views on the practice and the theory they acquire in their programme of study are an excellent basis for further reflection and brainstorming. Reading other research in the field is also a great source of inspiration for finding ideas and questions for further research.
What future challenges do you envisage for your field of research?
One of the biggest challenges is communicating the research findings to practitioners. There is often a misalignment between the publishing channels used by academics and the channels from which teachers draw inspiration and information.