The analysis of question units in L2 teacher talk
Asking questions is an essential part of teaching and has been an area of inquiry in educational research for decades. However, the research in teacher's use of questions in L2 context has a much shorter history and the findings are preliminary. The present study investigates the use of questions by teachers teaching English as a foreign/second language. The main body of the data used in the analysis comes from audio recordings of 40 lessons where a group of Chinese students were taught by three native-speaker teachers of English over a period of ten weeks. The recordings were conducted and transcribed by the author. One of the main findings is that teachers often ask more than one question in one move. This cluster of questions is termed "question unit", (Q unit for short). The focus then is directed to what constitutes a Q unit, the relationship between questions in a Q unit and the responses to Q units. The identification of a Q unit apparently involves the length of pause (termed wait-time) between questions asked in one speaking turn. It is found that the subsequent question(s) in a Q unit are often either repetition or reformulation of the previous Q(s) in the unit. It is also found that, when Q units are taken into consideration in the analysis of response rate (the percentage of questions being responded to), it would change the response rate significantly. It is argued that Q unit as a unit of discourse analysis does not affect the existing discourse analysis models but would add a supplementary but helpful dimension to it.