ACTION RESEARCH: QUESTIONING: AUTUMN 2017
Researcher: M Gittins
Context: Year 1/2 questioning
Desired Outcomes: Children thinking more deeply about their learning and exploring the points of view of others.
QUESTIONING – EXPLORING ALTERNATIVE VIEWS: (Question stems below)
Can you put it another way?
Is there another point of view?
What if someone suggested that…?
What is the difference between that view and…?
What would someone who disagreed with you say?
I began this research by choosing six children (random selection), interviewing them and recording their responses. At the end of the research, I hoped to see pupils who enjoyed debating and who saw themselves as thinkers with a point of view.
Evaluation 1 – intermediate results and conclusion:
[Looking at cubes and cuboids]. I asked the question, ‘how do we know?’ I thought this was effective because it ensured that Child A gave me an answer and articulated his thoughts on a cube. When I asked Child B if he agreed with Child A, or if he had an alternate point of view, this appeared to confuse Child B at first because I assume that he thought I was announcing to the group that I thought Child A was incorrect. However, Child B had the confidence to tell me that he agreed with Child A and that he knew this because the other shape was a cuboid with rectangular faces (hence it couldn’t be the cube).
When asking children to count the number of cubes and next the number of cuboids and then asking ‘do we all agree?’, this gave any child who disagreed the opportunity to voice their opinion (and therefore perhaps open up another discussion) and also allowed room to go over these/any misconceptions present (also known as marvellous mistakes).
[Now looking at the difference between 2D and 3D shapes]. The questions ‘what if someone suggested that 3D shapes have flat parts to them?’ and ‘what if someone suggested that circles and spheres were the same?’ opened up some good avenues for conversation and the group talked about what was the same and what was different about both of these concepts.
The final learning point from this first evaluation was that, naturally, as the children became familiar with these question stems, they were responding to these different types of questions with more ease. Therefore, as they are exposed to various types of questions in the future, I believe they will more easily be able to tackle and adapt answers to them.
The time between evaluations:
In the time between evaluations, I kept practising these question stems with the class, analysing and evaluating what the responses told us about children’s learning and ability to answer these kinds of questions. The exercise was then repeated and I looked for any differences in pupil responses, any conclusions from such differences, improvements in responses and improvements in learning.
Evaluation 2 –results and conclusion:
The second evaluation took place during the first RE day, when the children were asked to guess what gold, frankincense and myrrh represented and symbolised. I used the question ‘is there another point of view?’ many times and I felt that this encouraged the children to have a go and think more deeply about the potential reasons, using what they knew about both Jesus and the nativity story. A rich discussion ensued and the children seemed excited about getting to the answer. Many of the answers I received from children were in the form of a question; therefore, I think this activity also developed their ability to ask questions. Again, the question stem ‘Can you put it another way?’ encouraged children to clarify their meaning if it was unclear and explain it again more clearly.
When looking at artwork of baby Jesus and an image of unknown children, the question ‘What if someone suggested that this baby was the most special baby in the world and was good at this…..?’ sparked much dialogue. I heard children concluding that you could not tell anything from the images, they looked like normal children and that it was strange to think that this baby was in fact God himself on earth. Another child pitched in, ‘that was difficult to do because we don’t always know what someone is like just by looking at them’ and ‘no one looks too special on the outside, it’s the inside which counts’.
When designing the bedroom of a baby who was also a king, the children gave the rooms swimming pools, slides, rockets and hundreds of toys. Yet, when I asked ‘what would someone who disagreed with you say?’ this again opened up an in depth discussion about how Jesus came for all people, both rich and poor and how him being born in a stable had huge meaning. The living conditions he was actually in were ‘awful,’ ‘poor’ and ‘practically nothing there’.
‘What if someone suggested that the wise men visited Jesus as a baby?’ had some children arguing in a healthy way- we looked at a range of images and some children noticed that Jesus was no longer a baby but a toddler. The children who were adamant that Jesus was a baby at the time thought this because in typical nativities, the wise men are not far behind the shepherds. Of course, in reality they were several years behind! Some children made good links here between the picture and the story.
The meaning of Christmas as being ‘for presents/Santa/Christmas trees’ was followed by the question ‘what would someone who disagreed with you say?’ and this led to answers veering towards the true meaning of Christmas and a greater understanding of thankfulness, gratefulness, celebration of family and of Jesus.
In conclusion, using these question stems meant that the children offered deeper thoughts rather than their first thoughts. The children became more independent thinkers and those children who often would be the last to answer became eager to participate (although perhaps this also had something to do with the guessing element of the one activity). Children were giving reasons for their thoughts and were using each other’s ideas to create new thoughts or to extend existing thoughts. Questions such as ‘what if someone suggested that…?’ and ‘what would someone who disagreed say?’ and ‘ what is the difference between that view and another?’ encouraged children to think about the sometimes stark differences between people’s opinions and understanding of why others may have this point of view. Overall, I believe the best outcome of this questioning was an improvement in extending and challenging the pupils thinking and getting them to consider the views of others.