Alternatives to Questioning: Teacher Role in Classroom Discussion

| December 30, 2005
Alternatives to Questioning: Teacher Role in Classroom Discussion

Keywords: Teacher talk; Teaching exchange (IRE/F); International ESL; Membership Categorisation Devices

Ann Dashwood
University of Southern Queensland

Bio Data
Ann is a lecturer in Second Language Teaching Methodology and Discourse Analysis in the Centre for Language Learning and Teaching at the University of Southern Queensland. Her teaching involvement with Australian and international teachers is in postgraduate studies and in pre-service teacher preparation in English as a Foreign and Second Language (EFL/ESL) and in foreign languages. Her research interests in classroom discourse highlight a significant role for teacher talk in classrooms.

In language classrooms turns of talk facilitate the meaning-making process as students and teachers collaboratively come to understand the discourse of knowledge they are co-constructing (Wells, 1999; Vygotsky, 1978) in their interactions together, teacher to student and student to student. Questions shape the essential teaching exchange IRE/F as a teacher initiates (I) the first move, a student responds (R) and the teacher again takes up a turn and evaluates (E) in the follow-up (F) move. As common and useful this exchange is for managing classroom behaviour, during the pivotal third turn in the essential teaching exchange (Young, 1992), there is potential for teachers to facilitate student talk when the teacher provides alternatives to a follow-up question (Dillon, 1985). When students talk in discussions there is potential for them to develop their communicative competence (Bachman, 1990; Canale, 1983; Canale and Swain, 1980). This case study of young adult English as Second Language (ESL) users in face-to-face interaction in a university preparatory study skills course indicates a limiting influence of teacher questioning on student talk in discussions. Rather than talk being generated by a teacher’s questioning, alternatives to questions lead to increased length of turns in students’ collaborative talk. Teacher plays a significant role in giving ‘voice’ to students whose role in discussion is limited by a less vocal membership category in the class. This study brings a discourse analysis focus to whole class discussion between teacher and international UNIPREP students in the higher education sector and provides a context for second language acquisition researchers, teachers and TESOL trainers.


See pages: 144-165

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Category: Quarterly Journal, Volume 7 Issue 4