Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Education


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Margaret Sims


This research project investigates student cognitive engagement through observations of nonverbal responses to certain forms of classroom questions. The basic assumption of this thesis is that education is the intentional act of expanding or evolving each individual student's model of the world. This study explores the non-verbal responses that various forms of questions generate in order to assess the level of student thinking that occurs as a direct result of the question. It looks at responses to closed, open and schema accessing questions to discover the role that they play in the expansion of student schema. The expected readership of this thesis is teacher educators who will be able to use this information to train teachers to use questions for fulfilling their educational outcomes. It investigates the assumption that questions cause people to think. and shows that not al1 forms of questions consistently do this. The link between questions and thinking was investigated by examination of brain research which shows that ..... blood flow level reflects the level of neural activity (Goldberg. 2001. p49)" and Greenfield (2000. p23) who tells us "The harder working the brain region. the greater it's consumption [of brain nutrients] and the greater the blood flow to that site". An external manifestation of the level of brain activity was sought by filming the non-verbal responses of a small group of students to their teachers' classroom questions. See pages 35-37 of the literature review where it reveals that eye movements are both caused and are caused by stimulation to specific brain areas, and that the activation of the brain could be clearly seen by teachers when they watched the eye movements of their students. The study showed that observation of more movements of the eyes meant activation of more areas of the brain. Therefore the chain of events found in this study is: when students are focussing on the lesson they may choose to either discard or respond to questions. The level of cognition caused by response to the questions can be assessed by observation of eye movements Gust as external eye tracking can be observed when reading, so eye movements can be seen while people are tracking internally _ that is thinking). Eye movements are indicative of brain activation such as memory and thinking so we can postulate that learning is the result of brain activity. Teachers can therefore assess the level of cognitive involvement occurring in response to the various forms of questions they ask by observing the eye movements of their students.

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