Grant holder
Dr Maria Birbili, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
Project status

A study gathering evidence about how Froebelian principles may guide and support the improvement of young children’s question-asking abilities.

This research project based in Greece explored how early childhood educators can improve young children’s question-asking skills.

As Froebel observed and pointed out in his writings, posing questions is one of the most important tools that children have available to make sense of the world around them:

"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, 1903, p. 102)

How can early childhood educators improve young children’s question-asking skills?

The research explored what is needed for young children to "generate more effective questions":

  • adults who act as 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
  • a safe environment to pose their questions
  • feedback on their efforts.

"...children need adults and environments that provide models of productive question-asking and opportunities for practice, purposefully and systematically."
Maria Birbili, Principal Investigator and Ifigenia Christodoulou, Co-Investigator

The research explored the effectiveness of strategies and resources - looking at two approaches “teacher as a model of question generation” and “explicit teaching of question-asking”.

"The educator participating in the project engaged critically with Froebel’s ideas about learning and teaching, developing instructional knowledge around questions and questioning, using new strategies and resources and evaluating their effectiveness, practiced her observation skills, and took an active role in the dissemination of the study’s findings."
Maria Birbili, Principal Investigator and Ifigenia Christodoulou, Co-Investigator

Data was collected through teacher observations, field notes, audio-recordings of classroom dialogues, interviews with children, documentation of children’s learning and samples of their work. Parents were also invited to share their observations from home and their thoughts on the project and children’s learning.

"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

Based on current teacher-child ratio in Greek kindergartens, approximately 25 children (and their parents) participated in the study. The age of children in Greek kindergartens ranges from 4 to 5 ½ years.

"Well-formulated questions and knowing what questions are worth asking are also 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.

About the research team

Maria Birbili, Principal Investigator - Maria is Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. She has a BA (from Greece) and an MA (from USA) in Early Childhood Education, an MSc in Educational Research Methodology and a DPhil in Educational Studies from Oxford University, UK.

Ifigenia Christodoulou, Co-Investigator - Ifigenia is an early childhood educator with more than 25 years of classroom experience. She has two BAs (Theology & Early Childhood Education) and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She has been involved in the writing of the Greek national early childhood curriculum (2011) and research projects on mathematics, assessment in the early years and parents’ involvement in young children’s learning.

Final report August 2023