Guiding students towards sensemaking: teacher questions focused on integrating scientific practices with science content


Science education reforms articulate a vision of ambitious science teaching where teachers engage students in sensemaking discussions and emphasise the integration of scientific practices with science content. Learning to teach in this way is complex, and there are few examples of sensemaking discussions in schools where textbook lessons and teacher-directed discussions are the norm. The purpose of this study was to characterise the questioning practices of an experienced teacher who taught a curricular unit enhanced with educative features that emphasised students' engagement in scientific practices integrated with science content. Analyses indicated the teacher asked four types of questions: explication questions, explanation questions, science concept questions, and scientific practice questions, and she used three questioning patterns including: (1) focusing students on scientific practices, which involved a sequence of questions to turn students back to the scientific practice; (2) supporting students in naming observed phenomena, which involved a sequence of questions to help students use scientific language; and (3) guiding students in sensemaking, which involved a sequence of questions to help students learn about scientific practices, describe evidence, and develop explanations. Although many of the discussions in this study were not yet student-centred, they provide an image of a teacher asking specific questions that move students towards reform-oriented instruction. Implications for classroom practice are discussed and recommendations for future research are provided.


Childhood Education and Family Studies

Document Type





teacher questions, elementary school science, inquiry-based science

Publication Date


Journal Title

International Journal of Science Education