An investigation of the Questioning Behaviour of Teachers of literature in the classroom

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Mudenda, Sylvia Joyce
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The dissertation reports an investigation of the type of questions and pattern of questioning used by the grade Eleven "Literature in English" teacher in Zambia. The marked dlfficulty in using higher level cognitive skills in answering the questions on the Grade Twelve school-leaving examination in this subject, as noted by chief examiners over a period of years, was the starting point for the study. The researcher wanted to find out if the problem originated in the classroom, hypothesizing that the questions asked orally and in homework assignments by the teacher might call for the use of lower level cognitive skills, such as memory, rather than the more productive higher level skills of convergence, divergency and evaluation. Eighteen graduate teachers of Grade eleven (from a total population of thirty) in fourteen government and aided secondary schools in Central, western and southern Provinces were observed, the field-work covering the third school term of 1986. Each teacher was observed for two class sessions, one unstructured and the other being a class discussion on the characters in the text understudy. Auadio—recording, an interaction schedule and a general description schedule were used to record classroom data, and teacher characteristics, opinions and attitude toward the text being taught were ascertained by means research-administered questionnares and an attitude scale. The results were analysed in terms of the total sample and the individual teachers and possible covariations between on the one hand, the percentage of higher level questions asked (high level question score) and on the other hand the teacher variables of sex, education, experience in teaching literature or attitude toward the text were examined. In addition, the relationship between the high level score and the time spent on the text itself, was investigated. Descriptive data concerning other aspects of teacher questioning behaviour in general were also evaluated. Analysis of data established that the sample population asked more lower level cognitive questions than higher level ones, the lowest percentages being in the areas of divergent and evaluative questions. No clear pattern of teacher questioning was was established nor was there any significant covariation between the high level question scores of the teacher and the teacher variables of sex, education or experience or the time spent on the text. However, the small number of teachers with many years of experience made this result incoclusive. When the avarage high-level scores and the avarage attitude scores for each text were correlated, a relationship of some kind was suggested, but not strongly enough to prove significant. In conclusion, the need for replication of this research on a larger and wider scale, implications and questions arising from the findings and some interim measures are discussed.
Literature in English in secondary schools