“How will you construct a pathway system?”: Microanalysis of teacher-child scientific conversations
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Keywords:Teacher-child conversations, Questions, Explanations, STEM, Inquiry-based learning
During the preschool years, children’s question-explanation exchanges with teachers serve as a powerful mechanism for their early STEM knowledge acquisition. Utilizing naturalistic longitudinal classroom data, we examined how such conversations in an inquiry-based preschool classroom change during an extended scientific inquiry unit. We were particularly interested in information-seeking questions (causal, e.g. “How will you construct a pathway?”; fact-based, e.g., “Where’s the marble?”). Videos (n = 18; 14 hours) were collected during a three-week inquiry unit on forces and motion and transcribed in CLAN-CHILDES software at the utterance level. Utterances were coded for delivery (question vs. statement) and content (e.g., fact-based, causal). Although teachers ask more questions than children, we found a significant increase in information-seeking questions during Weeks 2 and 3. We explored the content of information-seeking questions and found that the majority of these questions were asked by teachers, and focused on facts. However, the timing of fact-based and causal questions varied. Whereas more causal questions occurred in earlier weeks, more fact-based questions were asked towards the end of the inquiry. These findings provide insight into how children’s and teacher’s questions develop during an inquiry, informing our understanding of early science learning. Even in an inquiry-learning environment, teachers guide interactions, asking questions to support children’s learning. Children’s information-seeking questions increase during certain weeks, suggesting that providing opportunities to ask questions may allow children to be more active in constructing knowledge. Such findings are important for considering how science questions are naturally embedded in an inquiry-based learning classroom.
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