Supporting young children to ask productive questions (e-version)


By Robyn Dolby

In this edition of the Research in Practice Series we discuss a different method of cultivating relationships with children that allows carers to look beyond a child’s immediate behaviour and think about how to meet their relationship needs. Robyn Dolby does this by examining The Circle of Security, a ‘road map’ for building relationships with children originally created by Glen Cooper, Kent Hoffman and Bert Powell.


Although children ask questions from a very early age it does not mean that they automatically know how to pose questions that are useful for their learning. How can we help young children to ask productive questions—the type of questions that move their learning and thinking forward? How can we convey to children that their wonderings are welcomed in the classroom?

Any parent can confirm that most preschoolers ask what feels like innumerable questions each day, especially ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. At the same time, studies of classroom talk suggest that the frequency and the quality of children’s questions drop as soon as they begin in an early childhood setting. The way educators treat children’s questions influences whether children will continue to pose questions in the classroom.

Supporting young children to ask productive questions explores how we can help children develop the habit and skill of asking questions that are useful for their learning. When children ask real questions, that is, questions that stem from their desire to understand the world around them, their mind is more open to connections and learning feels meaningful. When children are able to pose questions and explore the answers they feel motivated to exercise their sense of agency and build their independence skills.

Given young children’s natural capacity to ask questions, the challenge for educators is to keep children’s curiosity alive and help them to see questions as the powerful learning tools they are. This edition of the Research in Practice Series provides ideas and activities for creating environments that encourage children to notice, wonder, question and explore. Author Maria Birbili also discusses adult strategies for improving children’s questioning skills in meaningful ways.

Also available in hardcopy here.

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