Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 17, Issue 2, Article 10 (Dec., 2016)
Jacquie L BAY, Fehi FEHOKO, Mumui LA’AKULU, Ofa LEOTA, Lesieli PULOTU, Sina TU'IPULOTU, Salesi TUTOE, Oliveti TOVO, ‘Ana VEIKOSO, and ‘Emeli H POUVALU
Questioning in Tongan science classrooms: A pilot study to identify current practice, barriers and facilitators

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This study evolved from identification of a dilemma within the project team with respect of the absence of questioning and argumentation within many Tongan science classrooms. The objective of developing a methodology to identify evidence of the extent of this issue from which it could be examined and potentially addressed has been enabled by the study. The use of peer-to-peer observation and reflection with anonymized data being analysed within a respectful group setting enabled an environment in which teacher-researchers could confidently participate in analysis and critique of classroom practices. This identified that where questions were being used they were likely to be closed, thus limiting opportunities for discussion and argumentation. It supported the development of pedagogical content knowledge pertaining to questioning as a tool for the development of engaged learning.

Key factors identified as barriers to the use of questions in Tongan science classrooms were linked to the socio-cultural factors that teachers hypothesised to be barriers to the use of questions in learning.

Factors relating to supporting and scaffolding students were identified by participating teachers as positive facilitators that were or could be put in place to increase the confidence and ability of students to ask and answer questions, thereby developing understanding and capabilities.

The PLD process imposed expectations of action on participating teachers. This included taking responsibility for analysis of research findings, communicating these formally within the project collective and their school, and making resultant evidence-based decisions about practice. This is a highly action-oriented PLD process, which we propose led to increased pedagogical content knowledge and its implementation in practice. We will report on the next stage of this work in due course, identifying how the teacher-researchers implemented actions in their practice, and their roles as leaders within their professional communities.


The authors wish to thank all members of the PSHLP Tonga team for their contributions to this study. The authors thank Mrs Soana Pamaka for her ongoing mentorship and constructive reflections; Mrs ‘Amelia Folaumahina, Mr Tevita Kalafatoni Latu and Mrs Asena Ma for their support of the project vision and the teacher-research teams in each school. The work represented is supported by a grant from NZAid.



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