Learning and Unlearning through Questioning Practices: Middle Grades Mathematics Teachers’ Transformations to Support English Learners

Sarah A Roberts


Questioning is recognized as a well-established aspect of good mathematics teaching, and this study draws on this instructional practice to provide multilingual learners high-level mathematics, discourse, and cognitively demanding mathematics. Three seventh grade mathematics teachers engaged in professional learning to develop their questioning practice over the course of a semester, with this research seeking to answer the following questions: 1) How did three seventh grade mathematics teachers develop their questioning practices over the course of a semester?; and 2) What opportunities did these mathematics teachers’ questioning provide for discourse, particularly for English learners? The research was framed using the concepts teacher learning and unlearning, discourse, and questioning. Qualitative data analysis of seven observations and four interviews from each teacher examined which types of questions teachers asked, how teachers’ questioning developed over time, and how students responded to questioning. The findings illustrate that teachers’ questioning strategies were fairly limited initially and that teachers rarely planned to support multilingual students. As teachers’ questioning practices developed, they asked a wider variety of questions, always wanting to ask better questions. While some of the teachers’ questioning practices changed, there were interesting developments in the teachers’ conceptions of their students, particularly related to how teachers identified multilingual students’ mathematical capabilities. Questioning created an inquiry space for teachers that allowed teachers to develop their instructional practices while also reconsidering their expectations for multilingual students both linguistically and mathematically.


questioning; professional development; English learners; middle grades

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