Contrasting instructional and structural importance: The seductive effect of teacher questions

Patricia A. Alexander, Tamara L. Jetton, Jonna M. Kulikowich, Carol A. Woehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Two studies were conducted to investigate the nature of teacher questioning and its relationship to what learners consider important to remember when processing exposition. Specifically, we wanted to determine if teachers who are asked to write questions over an expository passage focus those questions on segments of text that have been determined to be of high, medium, or low structural importance. Further, we wanted to compare the questions that teachers ask with those that their students predict they would ask in order to assess students' strategic ability to determine what information is instructionally important. The results of the initial study demonstrated that neither teachers nor their students are highly influenced by structural importance when writing questions. The results generally supported the hypothesis that students are cognizant of what teachers value in text (i.e., instructional importance) and seem guided by this understanding when processing exposition. In Study II, we examined the questioning patterns of three physical science teachers as they developed quizzes and led discussions over a segment in their course textbooks. Results again demonstrated that students are relatively aware of the information that their teachers will test and that this information is not necessarily structurally important. Other similarities and differences between teacher and student questions are discussed and implications for research and practice presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-45
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Literacy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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