Question-asking has long been an integral part of human learning. In scholarly investigations over the past several decades, questions have been studied in terms of the answers they generate, their grammatical structure, their cognitive functions, their logical content, and their social dynamics. Studies of student classroom questioning have focused on science education and reading instruction particularly; they detail the reasons why students don't ask questions and explore a plethora of recommendations about teaching students how to question. This qualitative study addressed question-asking from a hermeneutic moral realist perspective, studying question-asking as it unfolded in the everyday practice of learning in a graduate seminar on design thinking. Findings of the study included seven themes that fit within three broader metathemes about the complexities and virtues of classroom questioning, the sociality of question-asking, and the temporality of questions in practice. Specific themes of the study concerned the complexity of overlapping practices within the classroom, ways in which students evaluated the quality and virtue of their questioning interactions, the moral reference points that guided student participation in various kinds of questioning (i.e., convergent questions, divergent questions, challenges to others), and the temporality of question-asking that reflected the way questions mattered to the students and how different aspects of the subject matter were disclosed and concealed in the process of learning. Findings from this study suggest that a moral realist-oriented inquiry can provide a wide-ranging and nuanced set of insights regarding question-asking as a part of student learning.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Instructional Psychology and Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





learner questions, question-asking, hermeneutics, moral realism, practice-internal goods, design, graduate study