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International Graduate Centre of Education

Research Commons- Dr Karin Moses


The research on the relationship between questions, learning and language is sparse. What little there is has tended to focus on children’s acquisition of language and the grammatical formation of questions. However, a few studies, have looked at questions as a ‘mechanism for cognitive development’ (Choinard, 2007, 2012) and their importance in classroom discourse (Moses, 1995; 2008) while others have indicated significant differences in the use of questions –the form, function and frequency – across cultures, languages and socioeconomic groups (Ochs, 1985; Schieffelin, 1985; Eades, 1985, 1992). The importance of questions in learning is always assumed and forms the basis, often implicitly, of much pedagogic practice at every level of education. Yet, the way in which students use questions to learn varies significantly. What this paper seeks to do is to pull the threads together and examine the nexus between the use of questions in one Kriol-speaking community in the Kimberley (Moses 2009) and the experience of Aboriginal children and adults in education. It looks at the assumptions about Aboriginal people’s use of questions and the findings of a corpus-based study which challenges most of them. Then identifies the implications for learning and teaching for schools and Higher Education institutions.


Dr Karin Moses, has worked in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and Western Australia as a teacher, researcher, school principal and lecturer. More recently, she has been employed as a senior lecturer in La Trobe University’s in the area of learning and teaching. Her research has centered on discourse in the Aboriginal classroom, the language use of Indigenous children and adults, the role of questions, and academic language and literacy. 

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