An exploration of questioning in tutorial interactions.
Access to the textual world of academia requires that learners are familiar with the critical open-ended questioning stance demanded by textuality. Questioning is one of the most important learning-teaching tools available to both learner and educator. Due to the crucial role questioning plays in knowledge construction in the university, this study focuses on questioning strategies used by tutors and learners during tutorial interactions. This focus on questioning aims to: 1) Identify common learner question and response strategies across tutorials, ascertaining what kinds of questions learners ask in help-sessions and what kind of responses tutors' questions elicit from learners, 2) identify common question and response strategies employed by tutors, ascertaining which strategies facilitate active learning, with a particular focus on the kinds of questions used to provoke (open) or inhibit (close) learning and 3) compare the questioning strategies of tutors and learners, uncovering different epistemic bases informing their engagement with text. This study adopts a developmental-process approach to research. Two basic premises informing this research follow from this particular developmental approach: 1) an awareness of learning as a process of change and 2) an appreciation of the socio-historical and discursively constructed nature of cognitive processes. It was found that learners and tutors appear to ask the same types of questions regarding the content of the course with both groups primarily asking closed questions. Qualitative analysis, however, indicated that tutors and learners use these types of questions in very different ways. While tutors' ask open questions in order to provoke enquiry, indicating their reliance on a critical questioning epistemology, learners' borrow open questions from various sources, indicating only that they can imitate the kinds of questions that characterise academia, without evidencing a questioning stance to knowledge construction. Similarly, while tutors' ask closed questions in order to initiate a narrative line of enquiry, learners' asked closed questions in order to elicit a closed response. Further, learners' made no use of process type questions and responses, such as metacognitive and group cohesion questions and responses. Consequently, one may conclude that tutors' use of these types of questions and responses indicated that they control the tutorial process. Further this finding indicated that learners need this kind of structured guidance. The study concludes that tutors and learners use ostensibly similar questioning strategies in very different ways, indicating different epistemic bases informing their engagement with the textual task of academic study.