Repairing "Failed" Questions in Foreign Language Classrooms

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Yusuke Okada


While the pedagogical value of teachers’ questioning in classrooms has been well studied, what exactly teachers do if a question fails to obtain an adequate response has not yet been sufficiently addressed from an interactional perspective. This study examines how and why foreign language teachers deal with this problem and how they pursue a response. Conversation analysis of EFL classroom interactions demonstrated that teachers employed three strategies to repair a question: a modification of the failed question in the target language, codeswitching into L1 as a further step of the modification, and proffering candidate responses to the failed question. Teachers do not merely simplify and sharpen the focus of the original question successively to pursue a response, but they teach English in interaction by trying to help students understand the meaning of the questions in English. Implications for teachers who face the problem of failed questions are discussed.