Pupil engagement in the questioning process during Numeracy problem-solving sessions

Davenport, Joanne (2006) Pupil engagement in the questioning process during Numeracy problem-solving sessions. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Within the context of interactive Numeracy lessons, active participation of pupils is encouraged. For example, questioning may be used to stimulate thinking skills and pupils may explain their methods of calculation to the class. Problem-solving is an area of Numeracy that offers an opportunity for pupils to discuss their methods and it has been highlighted as an area for development in Key Stage 2 mathematics. However, despite an emphasis on interactive lessons, research has shown that lessons tend to be teacher dominated, with the teacher as questioner and evaluator, and pupils as respondents. I feel that if pupils are to be regarded as active participants in Numeracy lessons, then they must be engaged participants who willingly contribute to discussions, perhaps by asking questions, reflecting or sharing misconceptions. Indeed, I believe that, given the opportunity, pupils are capable of engaging in the questioning process, both as questioner and respondent.

Consequently, I have examined the nature of interaction and discourse in the classroom, in order to determine when pupils are explicitly engaged during whole-class problem solving sessions. I collected data primarily in the form of audio-tapes, which were transcribed in order to facilitate analysis. I applied models of discourse analysis developed by Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) and Archer (2005) in order to categorise speech. Additionally, I utilised Bloom's Taxonomy of educational objectives (1956) to highlight the range of thinking skills being used in response to questioning.

The key findings indicated that when pupils were encouraged to pose their own questions, they readily responded to this opportunity to act as questioners. Pupils demonstrated a willingness and capability to question methods of calculation. There were instances of pupils using sustained questioning to examine alternative methods or misconceptions. The findings signalled that pupils were capable of engaging in the questioning process by considering and questioning methods of problem-solving, and responding to questioning from their peers by providing explanations and comments.

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