The use of scaffolding in question posing to focus and integrate enquiry [facilitating reflective thinking]

Reflection has been defined as “bringing together of ideas to create new insight through ongoing cycles of expression and re/evaluation” (Marshall, 2019. p.411) acknowledging that reflection is a form of cognitive enquiry that is facilitated by expressing ideas clearly in words so that they are open to the possibilities of being re-examined either by oneself or by others in conversations. Although this definition begins to operationalise components of the process of reflection implicitly, there is little published research about how to facilitate reflection pedagogically. However i am beginning to develop my enquiry further to examine how reflection occurs naturalistically through activities that can be planned to accompany deeper forms of thinking.

I’m interested in the way that questions and prior statements/instructions can help to encourage more abstract ways of thinking rather than limiting someone to a binary black and white mindset where facts rule over reasoning and they become stuck in a factual hole that they can never seem to articulate in sufficient terms to generalise and assume a more complex integrated and differentiated form of knowing.

Questions that promote more fluid expression of ideas could potentially refer to ‘in your own opinion’ and ‘imagine what would happen’ rather than ‘what is’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ that imply a more direct unitary answer in black and white thinkers…e.g. give your own opinion about what benefits you think a sprinter would get from weightlifting Vs what benefits would a sprinter get from weightlifting? how would a sprinter benefit from weightlifting? why would a sprinter benefit from weightlifting? not only am I operationalising the direction of enquiry by asking ‘what benefits’. I am also operationalising the need to think from themselves in less restricted ways of thinking [e.g. they are less likely to use textbook answers or expect to have to give textbook answers with citations etc,] and this style of questioning or ‘setting up a task’ will likely allow them to express their full understanding of the domain of interest in a more natural and less restricted manner. It’s therefore not all about questions but the framing of a task that may utilise questions to form multiple directions of enquiry. E.g. you could set a generic task and provide a list of questions to direct enquiry to knowledge schemas of interest. e

Pedagogic TASK:: give your own opinion about what benefits you think a sprinter would get from weightlifting

Use the following questions to help you think about the subject in more depth [you don’t have to answer these questions but use them to help you ‘think things through’]:
1) What is the purpose of resistance training? [directs attention to resistance training schemas]
2) What is the purpose of weightlifting? [directs attention to more specific schemas about weightlifting]
3) When in a sprint are sprinters likely to produce the most force? [directs attention to schemas about the physical demands of sprinting]
4) In your opinion, how might weightlifting help a sprinter develop the physical ability to sprint better? Attempts to guide the learner to consider an inferentially directed integration of the schemas of interest].

This strategy could go hand in hand with the development of appropriate questions for each lesson that can be posed in tasks [e.g. card sorting, problem-based learning etc], conversations [Socratic method], quizzes [e.g. class exit, interactive, written, Kahoot], etc.

Therefore, planning could involve brainstorming relevant questions to ask and answer throughout each lesson’s focus and this will guide the lecturer to domains of knowledge that they need to reflect on to refresh their memory and facilitate embedding of these questions into student led enquiry.

Questions effectively direct focus towards important domains of knowledge in an operational way e.g. what do you think… how do you think… why do you think… what, how, and why operationalise the question to frame the requirements of the answer and thus direct enquiry to achieve the purpose. Questions are thus like problem setting or task setting in a way but the task is purely cognitive…the next step would be to formulate these in activities to answer them in different and multimodal ways


Marshall, T. (2019). The concept of reflection: a systematic review and thematic synthesis across professional contexts. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 20(3), 396-415.