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Nawani, Jigna; Kotzebue, Lena; Rixius, Julia; Graml, Michael; Neuhaus, Birgit J. (2018): Teachers' Use of Focus Questions in German Biology Classrooms: a Video-based Naturalistic Study. In: International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, Vol. 16, No. 8: pp. 1431-1451
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Abstract

This study investigated the effects of teachers' use of focus questions on students' knowledge structures and classroom teaching-learning process by re-analyzing selected data from a quasi-experimental pre-post video study (Wadouh, 2007). Focus questions are content-related anchoring questions highlighting the key content taught in individual lessons (Forbes & Davis, 2010). In Wadouh' study, students answered a knowledge test before and after the lesson on blood and the circulatory system and one lesson per teacher was videotaped to investigate teaching practices in grade 9 biology classrooms. Students also completed a post-unit concept mapping exercise and a motivation-interest questionnaire. In this study, 30 lesson videos selected from 47 were re-analyzed for teachers' use of focus questionsno focus questions, non-specific or simple focus questions, and specific and challenging focus questions. Individual students' scores in the concept mapping exercise were aggregated as students' topic-related knowledge structure. Multilevel analyses revealed a significant positive effect of teachers' use of specific and challenging focus questions on students' topic-related knowledge structure. Furthermore, a comparative case analysis of the classroom teaching-learning process was conducted in four lessons where teachers used specific and challenging focus questions in two of the lessons and non-specific or simple focus questions in the other two lessons. The findings indicate that specific and challenging focus questions anchored lessons on students' co-construction of scientific explanations by activating their pre-instructional ideas, whereas non-specific or simple focus questions anchored lessons on their accumulation of canonical scientific knowledge. This study's limitations and implications for teacher education reform are discussed.