5_yr_boys_2005-2007.jpgAs I work with schools and tachers providing professional development on questioning I constantly hear people suggesting that 5 year old pupils have great problems asking relevant questions. My first instinctual reaction as a parent is one of dis-belief. I remember back to when my children were young and the enless sequence of whys, hows, and whens. I am sure that at age five they could have taught me much about how to confidently question. However when we carried out a base line assessment at Wakefield School (Nelson, New Zealand), giving the children a scenario and collecting 3 to 5 questions from each pupil, we found that the 5 year old students certainly werent asking relevant questions.
This assessment was carried out at the end of April when the students had been at school 3 months, and showed us that 100% of the 5 year old boys (as an example group) were making statements or asking irrelevant questions as their highest level of questioning.
when we repeated this test at the end of April 2006 with the next group of 5 year old boys we now had 33% of the students asking relevant questions at stages 3 and 4.
We tested again at the end of April 2007 and the matching group of boys, who were aged five and had only been at the school for 3 months, now had 91% asking relevant stage 3 and 4 questions as their highest level of questioning.
What can we draw form this data?
1: The school's standard programme was doing little to impact positively on questioning skills (2005)
2: The new focus on questioning had a big impact on questioning ability even at a 5 year old level (2006)
3: As teacers' ability, knowledge, comfort and skill has increased, so has the impact on students' questioning ability. (2007)
4: with effective support and scaffolding even youn children can be develop effective questioning skills.

I wish to record special thanks to Wakefield School for being willing to trial this approach at their school, and to the teachers who have put consistent effort into getting to grips with the questioning material and for really working at facilitating their students' questioning skills.