Teacher and Student Questions: A Case Study in Malaysian Secondary School Problem-Based Learning

  •  Tan Yin Peen    
  •  Mohammad Yusof Arshad    


Problem-based learning (PBL) promotes high order questioning and stimulates student thinking, thus playing an important role in preparing students to face real-world challenges. Yet, PBL is an uncommon instructional strategy in Malaysian secondary school science classrooms. Occurrence of questioning in the traditional spoon-feeding classroom is low. Thus, the PBL model adapted from Barrows has been introduced. This article investigates whether PBL is able to promote high order questioning and thinking in the Malaysian science classroom. A PBL class with 1 teacher and 17 students divided into 4 groups was observed, video-and audio-recorded, and the verbatim were analysed. Questions are categorized into high order, low order, eliciting ideas, and evaluating ideas questions. Findings show that the percentage of student questions is 67.9% while for teacher questions is 32.1%. The amount of student questions per hour is relatively high at 8.2 questions per student. Nearly half of the classroom questions are low order questions (47.9%), such as clarification, verification, concept completion, disjunctive, definition, example, quantification, and feature specification questions. High order questions consist of 16.3%, which include causal antecedent, causal consequence, goal orientation, comparison, enablement, and reflective questions. Eliciting ideas questions raised by the teacher cover 8.8% while evaluating ideas questions by students cover 27.1%. This study shows that the PBL environment promotes active learning, student thinking, and questioning in the Malaysian science classroom. However, student and teacher questions should be enhanced to be at higher order level. Several suggestions to extend low order questions into high order questions are discussed in this paper.

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