Verbal discourse: the cognitive level of English language teachers' questions and the students' response patterns in some secondary schools in Nairobi province
Kuria, Carol Wambui
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The study aimed at investigating the cognitive level of questions used in English language classrooms by the teachers studied. This was aimed at establishing the level of interaction encouraged within the classrooms. Given the central role of questioning within the classrooms, questions create a forum for pupils and teachers and directly engage the thinking process. It was assumed that the question answer method was dominantly to facilitate cognitive interaction within classroom discourse. The researcher observed 10 secondary school English language teachers teaching in Nairobi province. The schools from where the teachers were picked included National, Provincial and District secondary schools. This was done in order to cater for any disparities that may be existed in the intellectual levels of the students involved, which were likely to influence interaction. The researcher observed the ten form two classes four times each amounting to forty lessons in total. The teachers' lessons were recorded, coded and analyzed into their respective redefined categories. The frequency distribution of the various questions was calculated and the percentages too in relation to their use in the various English language subject areas. It was found that:- (a) English language teachers used higher order and lower cognitive order questions. (b) The most frequent used category of questions were memory questions. This means rote learning was emphasized. (c) The distribution of questions differed in the various English language teaching areas. The subject matter determined the types of questions used by the teachers. For instance, grammar lessons were predominated by higher order cognitive questions while the poetry lessons had the highest frequency of interpretation questions. (d) English language teachers both graduates and diploma holders predominantly used lower cognitive order questions within the lesson. Their emphasis was on the lower level of thinking. The English languages teachers seem to emphasize low-level thinking or recall learning among the learners and manipulation of information learnt. It was recommended that English language teachers should be trained on how to effectively use higher order cognitive questions to maximize learning output and to develop higher level of thinking among the learners.