Asking, Negotiating, and Answering Questions in University Classrooms: Noticing the Gap Between What Real Data Tell Us and What Current ELT Materials Provide

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited or keynote talk at national or international conference


In all kinds of classrooms, pedagogic discourse is made up of question and answer sequences, traditionally understood to be the central way in which knowledge is exchanged through interaction. Knowing how to ask and answer questions is a necessary skill for teachers and students alike. In English language learning materials produced to develop such a skill, particular attention is paid to question forms and associated norms of politeness in asking and answering questions. Much less attention is paid to how the dialogic process of asking and responding to questions is concerned with navigating intersubjectivity, negotiating stance positions, and understanding what people think.
This presentation compares data from a spoken corpus of university classroom talk (UNITALK) with current EAP teaching materials. The results of this comparison illustrates that little has changed over the past ten years with regard to speaking skills in academic contexts. This presentation offers an approach to evidence-based materials in which learners investigate the activity of speaking in university seminars and importantly uncover the consequences of particular language choices for themselves.
Period05 Feb 2011
Event titleMaterials Development Association Conference: MATSDA
Event typeConference
LocationBelfast, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • classroom
  • discourse
  • questions
  • English Language Education
  • ELT
  • English for Academic Purposes
  • speaking skills
  • oracy