Re: Display questions in and outside the classroom

From: Peg Griffin (
Date: Sat Mar 05 2005 - 11:40:38 PST

Hi, Olga and all,
There's a piece from a bit ago that might be helpful (or maybe not -- it
has something to turn everyone off -- on the one hand a metaphor based on a
Rembrandt chalk drawing "Two Women Teaching a Child to Walk" and on the
other attention to formal conversational analysis). (Come to think of it,
the Rembrandt base could annoy two groups at once, couldn't it -- the
anti-artsy metaphor folk and those in my country now who worry about people
insidiously supporting gay families. I wonder if I can get Dobson to make
Rembrandt as contemporaneously infamous as he has SpongeBob Square Pants?)

Anyhow, the chapter is about escaping from the tyranny of equating a turn at
talk with an isolated expression of meaning and about seeing some
expressions (particularly those in Zo-peds) as multi-party/multi-turn. I
think great teaching is that way. There is a not only student body, but a
class as organism entity (when the class has been organ-ized), and the
teacher's contributions and students' contributions express joint acts that
can subsequently show up as concepts which have been appropriated by one (or
more) of the participating contributors, i.e., having been learned.

It builds on the "How the west has won" chapter in the Construction Book
that Denis, Mike and I did an even longer time ago.
It was published in 2000 as "Collaboration in school: 'I (don't) know'
answers and questions." It's on pp. 472-491 in a book from Hampton Press
that I helped to edit (with Peyton, Wolfram and Fasold) "Language in Action:
New Studies of Language in Society."
If there's a lot of trouble getting it and you want it anyhow, I might be
able to unearth a Word file of an earlier version to email; just let me

PS Has anyone seen that and other drawings of little ones learning to
walk -- it seems at Rembrandt's time Dutch people issued toddlers with
protective headgear for learning to walk. And some people complain about
motorcycle helmets....

----- Original Message -----
From: "Griswold, Olga" <>
To: <>
Sent: Saturday, March 05, 2005 11:50 AM
Subject: Display questions in and outside the classroom

> Hello,
> I am looking for literature on the different functions of display vs.
> referential questions in the classroom. I am somewhat familiar with the
> literature on the role of such questions in second language classrooms,
> most of the research in this area discusses the primary functions of
> questions as comprehension checks and as means of eliciting particular
> (e.g. grammatical structures and/or vocabulary) form L2 learners. The
> pedagogical advice seems to be to increase the number of referential
> questions and to decrease the number of display ones in order to promote
> more communicative classrooms.
> In my own analysis of classroom talk (a citizenship class at an adult
> school), however, I am finding quite different functions of display
> questions in the co-construction of content and linguistic knowledge. I
> new to the investigation of interaction in the classrooms that are not
> strictly ESL, and I would very much appreciate any recommendations on any
> literature addressing the functions of teacher questions in non-language
> classrooms, especially in adult settings.
> Thanks in advance to everyone who can help,
> Olga Griswold

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