A research project in Greece looking at how early childhood educators can develop young children’s question-asking skills.

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This Froebel Trust funded project led by Maria Birbili, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece looked at how educators can improve young children’s question-asking skills in an early years setting. It explored what children need to ask for effective questions, to support their learning - including:

  • adults who act as good role models
  • environments and materials that open up opportunities for curiosity, open-ended play and inquiry learning
  • intentional and explicit teaching about the value and use of questions.

"Well-formulated questions and knowing what questions are worth asking are at the heart of learning to be an autonomous learner and decision-maker... it is critical for teachers to help children understand the importance of asking questions for learning and improve their questions."
Maria Birbili, Principal Investigator and Ifigenia Christodoulou, Co-Investigator.

Hugs

"What would happen if there were no hugs?"
Researchers observed, documented and analysed the question-asking skills of 23 children, aged between 4 years old and five and a half years old in a kindergarten in Greece. The children's parents and carers were also asked to record any questions asked by the children at home.

Bees

"How fast do bees fly?"
Researchers collected children's drawings of their questions as part of the project.

The Book of Questions

The children involved in the project went on to create their own "Book of Questions" as a record of what they were learning together.

Screenshot 2023 08 10 at 12 39 50

"Children were supported and guided to improve an essential skill for independent learning and encouraged to connect with their curiosity, to drive learning with their questions, to use their imagination and thinking skills to give answers to their questions and formulate new ones, to reflect on new learning and feel confident about themselves as learners and inquirers."
Maria Birbili, Principal Investigator and Ifigenia Christodoulou, Co-Investigator

Findings

  • Researchers observed that once children discover the use of asking for learning and feel more confident in doing the asking themselves, they transfer this knowledge to different contexts: their play, their interactions with the educator and their peers, their participation in teacher-directed activities and the home environment.
  • Learning how to ask ‘good’ questions is not an incidental process but one that needs to be supported in intentional ways.
  • Project leaders were successful in supporting children to learn how to ask a variety of questions (e.g. open, closed, imaginative questions) but more importantly, purposeful questions.
  • Question games are a useful strategy for helping children see that asking questions opens the ‘door’ to learning more and understanding better.

Question upon question comes from the lips of the boy thirsting for knowledge—How? Why? When? What for? and every satisfactory answer opens to him a new world.

Froebel