Questioning the Author

Building Reading Comprehension Through Classroom Discussion

What is Questioning the Author? (2:32)

  • The research showed that students:
    • spoke up more during lessons, even the quieter students

    • gained new understanding of vocabulary and text meaning through negotiated interaction with peers and teachers

    • showed some improvements on reading comprehension test scores, though these developed over time and were not initially significant

  • QtA complements the existing English language curriculum by incorporating open-ended discussion with questioning strategies to build on students’ understanding of the reading text

To enable students to become independent, thoughtful readers, Questioning the Author (Beck, McKeown, Sandora, Kucan & Worthy, 1996; Beck & McKeown , 2006) encourages the use of open-ended discussions with strategies to probe meanings in text passages. It promotes the notion of teacher and students discovering meanings of text together through query-driven discussions.

QtA has been introduced to students and teachers of a mainstream primary school, where participating students showed improvement in overall reading comprehension tests over a three-year period. Teachers also found that QtA aided students in comprehending vocabulary and understanding the ideas in reading passages.

Questioning the Author provides a framework for leading reading comprehension discussion. A key feature is to help students understand that a text is a collection of ideas written by a fallible author; therefore, the text may be ambiguous or incomplete. In this way, QtA makes texts less intimidating to students and encourages students to think critically while they read.

A QtA lesson involves teachers using initiating and follow-up queries to build learners’ understanding of a text during reading. The query-based discussion helps students learn to explore and probe the meanings of texts. This trains their overall comprehension skills and facilitates their development as independent readers.

Question-Icon
How did students respond?
  • Analyses of classroom discussions showed many examples of students gaining new understanding of vocabulary and text meaning.

  • Query-driven discussion with teachers and peers encouraged students to explore and explain ideas in novel ways which they did not experience during structured reading lessons.

  • Initially, students in the intervention group displayed a slightly higher improvement (non-significant) in reading tests as compared with a non-intervention group.

  • Students who participated for three years along with teachers who participated for three years showed significant gains.

How did teachers respond?
  • Teachers were initially hesitant as the lesson planning required considerable time. Working in a team reduced the load and over time, with developing expertise, lesson planning became quicker and easier.

  • Teachers were also hesitant about the open-ended discussions. They were concerned that lessons would go ‘off track’. Over time, they found that they could keep the discussion on track, even with large classes.

  • Teachers needed time to develop their confidence in implementing QtA and in deciding when it was best to use QtA or other reading comprehension strategies.

  • As teachers developed expertise, they were able to use QtA in teaching other subjects (e.g. Social Studies).

Developing a QtA lesson
  • Teachers can prepare a text for QtA by

    • 'chunking' it into meaningful segments to identify the ‘major understanding’ of each segment; and
    • drafting potential initiating and follow-up ‘queries’ for each segment
      • Example of an initiating query: “What do you think the author is trying to say here?”
      • Example of a follow-up query: “How does that fit with what the author told us before?”
  • When reading the text in class, the initiating and follow-up queries may be used to facilitate class discussion. The goal is to guide the students’ thinking and scaffold students’ construction of meaning around the text.

Managing discussions in a QtA lesson

Follow-up moves help teachers manage classroom interactions during reading comprehension lessons. These moves serve to probe student understanding and highlight crucial information in the text.



1. Marking
Highlighting students’ comments or ideas


2. Turning-back
Directing or redirecting students’ attention to text or to another student’s comment or question


3. Revoicing
Reformulating or restating students’ discussion


4. Modelling
Demonstrating to students how to pose questions


5. Annotating
Filling in gaps or addressing students’ misconceptions with appropriate information


6. Recapping
Summarizing the main points of the text or discussion



For additional details and materials, view our Classroom resources at top right.
Additional information can also be found in Beck & McKeown (2006).

Question-Icon
Further readings
Question-Icon
Research team

For more information about this research, please contact the Principal Investigator Dr Rita Silver at rita.silver@nie.edu.sg.



    Principal Investigator
  • A/P Rita Elaine Silver, English Language and Literature (ELL), NIE

    Co-Principal Investigator
  • Dr Png Lay Hoon, Jessie, ELL, NIE

    Research Associates
  • Ms Galyna Kogut, Centre of Research in Pedagogy and Practice (CRPP), NIE

  • Ms Huynh Thi Canh Dien, CRPP, NIE

  • Ms Raslinda A. R., CRPP, NIE
  • Ms Foong Poh Yi, CRPP, NIE
Research led by
Author
Principal Investigator
A/P Rita Elaine Silver
Author
Co-Principal Investigator
Dr Jessie Png

Researchers above are from NIE

To learn more about Questioning the Author research, email:: rita.silver@nie.edu.sg

This research on Questioning the Author was funded by Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) under the Education Research Funding Programme (OER 29/08 RS, OER 09/10 RS & OER 40/12 RS) and administered by National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Singapore MOE and NIE.

This knowledge resource was written by Lyndia Teow and Tan Minying.

What teachers say

“My [Questioning the Author] sessions with the pupils were enjoyable and satisfying and it made me want to carry out more QtA sessions with them. The pupils were enthusiastic and responsive. In essence, QtA made my pupils think."

- Teacher
Participants

183 Primary 4 students

11 teachers

Mixed-gender neighborhood school

Topics

English Language, Reading Comprehension, 21st Century Competencies

Contents

Research led by
Author
Principal Investigator
A/P Rita Elaine Silver
Author
Co-Principal Investigator
Dr Jessie Png

Researchers above are from NIE

To learn more about Questioning the Author research, email: rita.silver@nie.edu.sg

Questioning the Author

Building Reading Comprehension Through Classroom Discussion

Question-Icon
How Questioning the Author can help your students
  • The research showed that students:
    • spoke up more during lessons, even the quieter students
    • gained new understanding of vocabulary and text meaning through negotiated interaction with peers and teachers
    • showed some improvements on reading comprehension test scores, though these developed over time and were not initially significant
  • QtA complements the existing English language curriculum by incorporating open-ended discussion with questioning strategies to build on students’ understanding of the reading text
Question-Icon
Why Questioning the Author?

To enable students to become independent, thoughtful readers, Questioning the Author (Beck, McKeown, Sandora, Kucan & Worthy, 1996; Beck & McKeown , 2006) encourages the use of open-ended discussions with strategies to probe meanings in text passages. It promotes the notion of teacher and students discovering meanings of text together through query-driven discussions.

QtA has been introduced to students and teachers of a mainstream primary school, where participating students showed improvement in overall reading comprehension tests over a three-year period. Teachers also found that QtA aided students in comprehending vocabulary and understanding the ideas in reading passages.

Question-Icon
How does it work?

Questioning the Author provides a framework for leading reading comprehension discussion. A key feature is to help students understand that a text is a collection of ideas written by a fallible author; therefore, the text may be ambiguous or incomplete. In this way, QtA makes texts less intimidating to students and encourages students to think critically while they read.

A QtA lesson involves teachers using initiating and follow-up queries to build learners’ understanding of a text during reading. The query-based discussion helps students learn to explore and probe the meanings of texts. This trains their overall comprehension skills and facilitates their development as independent readers.

Evidence from research
Question-Icon
How did students respond?
  • Analyses of classroom discussions showed many examples of students gaining new understanding of vocabulary and text meaning.
  • Query-driven discussion with teachers and peers encouraged students to explore and explain ideas in novel ways which they did not experience during structured reading lessons.
  • Initially, students in the intervention group displayed a slightly higher improvement (non-significant) in reading tests as compared with a non-intervention group.
  • Students who participated for three years along with teachers who participated for three years showed significant gains.
How did teachers respond?
  • Teachers were initially hesitant as the lesson planning required considerable time. Working in a team reduced the load and over time, with developing expertise, lesson planning became quicker and easier.
  • Teachers were also hesitant about the open-ended discussions. They were concerned that lessons would go ‘off track’. Over time, they found that they could keep the discussion on track, even with large classes.
  • Teachers needed time to develop their confidence in implementing QtA and in deciding when it was best to use QtA or other reading comprehension strategies.
  • As teachers developed expertise, they were able to use QtA in teaching other subjects (e.g. Social Studies).
Question-Icon
How can teachers get started?
Developing a QtA lesson
  • Teachers can prepare a text for QtA by
    • ‘chunking’ it into meaningful segments to identify the ‘major understanding’ of each segment; and
    • drafting potential initiating and follow-up ‘queries’ for each segment
      • Example of an initiating query: “What do you think the author is trying to say here?”
      • Example of a follow-up query: “How does that fit with what the author told us before?”
  • When reading the text in class, the initiating and follow-up queries may be used to facilitate class discussion. The goal is to guide the students’ thinking and scaffold students’ construction of meaning around the text.
Managing discussions in a QtA lesson

Follow-up moves help teachers manage classroom interactions during reading comprehension lessons. These moves serve to probe student understanding and highlight crucial information in the text.



1. Marking
Highlighting students’ comments or ideas


2. Turning-back
Directing or redirecting students’ attention to text or to another student’s comment or question


3. Revoicing
Reformulating or restating students’ discussion


4. Modelling
Demonstrating to students how to pose questions


5. Annotating
Filling in gaps or addressing students’ misconceptions with appropriate information


6. Recapping
Summarizing the main points of the text or discussion



For additional details and materials, view our Classroom resources.
Additional information can also be found in Beck & McKeown (2006).

Question-Icon
Further readings
Question-Icon
Research team

For more information about this research, please contact the Principal Investigator Dr Rita Silver at rita.silver@nie.edu.sg.



    Principal Investigator
  • A/P Rita Elaine Silver, English Language and Literature (ELL), NIE
    Co-Principal Investigator
  • Dr Png Lay Hoon, Jessie, ELL, NIE
    Research Associates
  • Ms Galyna Kogut, Centre of Research in Pedagogy and Practice (CRPP), NIE
  • Ms Huynh Thi Canh Dien, CRPP, NIE
  • Ms Raslinda A. R., CRPP, NIE
  • Ms Foong Poh Yi, CRPP, NIE

This research on Questioning the Author was funded by Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) under the Education Research Funding Programme (OER 29/08 RS, OER 09/10 RS & OER 40/12 RS) and administered by National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Singapore MOE and NIE.

This knowledge resource was written by Lyndia Teow and Tan Minying.

What is Questioning the Author? (2:32)

What teachers say

“My [Questioning the Author] sessions with the pupils were enjoyable and satisfying and it made me want to carry out more QtA sessions with them. The pupils were enthusiastic and responsive. In essence, QtA made my pupils think."

- Teacher
Participants

183 Primary 4 students

11 teachers

Mixed-gender neighborhood school

Topics

English Language, Reading Comprehension, 21st Century Competencies