Questions in informal teaching: A study of mother-child conversations


Questioning is a core component of formal pedagogy. Parents commonly question children, but do they use questions to teach? Research has shown that informal pedagogical situations elicit stronger inferences than the same evidence observed in non-pedagogical situations. Certain questions (“pedagogical questions”) have similar features. We investigate the frequency and distribution of pedagogical questions from mother-child conversations documented in the CHILDES database. We show that pedagogical questions are commonplace, are more frequent for middle-class mothers compared to working-class mothers, are more frequent during free play than during daily routines, and are more frequent in mothers who ask more questions. The results serve as a first step towards understanding the role of questions in informal pedagogy.

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