Rocky Mountain Section - 64th Annual Meeting (9–11 May 2012)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 1:45 PM


NYMAN, Matthew W., Earth & Planetary Science/Natural Science Program, University of New Mexico, MSC03 2040, Albuquerque, NM 87131 and KOOSER, Ara, Department of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry, University of New Mexico, MSC03 2060, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131,

A fundamental basis for inquiry is developing good questions. For science, questions about the natural world form the foundation for all research. However, the utility of good question formulation skills extends beyond scientific endeavors to include issues related to general education, personal health, political discussion, developing a worldview and job success. Developing question requires a multitude of cognitive processes including divergent and convergent thinking and metacognition. Divergent thinking is required to think creatively, change perspective and investigate the unknown whereas convergent thinking facilitates the focusing of ideas towards testable, doable questions. Metacognition is a process that is required to think deeply as well as predict the efficacy of future action. For science questions, strong content background is also required to develop testable and interesting questions that move the frontiers of the discipline. It is our experience with a range of college and high school students that few of them have the ability and/or confidence to develop good questions, which can seriously inhibit learning and attitudes within the class. This is especially true in non-major classes where students may lack the science content background and strong interest in the topic. To address this problem, we have begun to use a classroom technique, the Question Formulation Technique (QFT - Rothstein & Santana, 2011), to develop students’ questioning skills in non-major science classes designed for K-8 pre-service teachers. Our aim is to provide students a forum to not only develop better questioning skills but take more ownership, motivation and interest in their learning. The QFT provides a very prescribed but flexible and “safe” procedure for students working in small groups to develop questions. Results from the QFT technique can be used for a variety of classroom processes including formative assessment, preparation for classroom discussion and investigation of potential research topics. In this talk, we will present the details of the QFT and results of its application in science classrooms for pre-service elementary education students, specifically in the formulation of ideas for research projects on the impact of plate tectonics on landscapes and communities.