Questions? AskAuckland


Asking Questions in a Tongan Science Classroom

Participatory Action Research

Tongan Team 2014
PSHLP Tonga Team Members 2014

In 2014, teachers from Tonga College ‘Atele, Tonga High School and Tonga Side School undertook professional development exploring concepts of science and health literacy.

They identified that in order for young people to explore and understand evidence about issues such as the growing burden of obesity and diabetes, they needed to be given opportunities to learn how to question and to understand how scientific evidence is developed.

The teachers undertook an action research project to identify the extent to which Year 8 students were given opportunities to ask and answer questions. They identified a number of barriers preventing students from engaging in questioning, as well as enhancers that helped students to engage in questioning.

The peer-reviewed article reporting on this work is published in the Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching and can be downloaded here.

Data analysis - 'Ofa Leota and Anaseini Fehoko

The team identified that it would be advantageous if more opportunities for open-ended questions were made available to students. They hypothesized that changes in teaching style that may be supportive of increasing opportunities for students to ask questions and engage in discussion may include:

  • The use of a Tongan cultural framework in the design of questions
  • The use of hands-on activities in conjunction with questioning
  • The scaffolding of questions with visual and experiential stimuli
  • Provision of 'safe' opportunities for students to express opinions
  • Opportunities for students to take part in open-ended research.

Hands-on Learning

Teachers at Tonga College 'Atele wanted to investigate whether introducing hands-on learning could enhance opportunities for students to engage in questioning. One of their challenges was that they did not have a working teaching laboratory. They undertook a fund raising campaign and within a year had refitted a teaching lab in the school and received enough donated or borrowed basic laboratory equipment to get started. To the surprise of the students, the team allowed the Form 2 students (age 12 years) to experience the hands-on learning first.

The video tells the story of the first day that the team from Tonga College ‘Atele introduced hands-on learning for Year 8 students, and reflects on the impact that this change in teaching style had during the rest of the year.

Hands-on Science @ Tonga College 'Atele

Students making decisions about their learning

Understanding the nature of scientific knowledge is an important capability that supports young people to be able to use scientific evidence when exploring socioscientific issues such as the noncommunicable disease epidemic.

The Healthy Start to Life learning modules are designed to support students to experience doing science, as well as exploring the work of scientists. 

In the video Mumui La'akula shares with us the impact of learning that allowed students to ask their own questions and design and carry out their own investigations.  


Using technology to support hands-on learning

Tonga High School students with Data loggers

Teachers at Tonga High School have found that when students are given the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning using the data loggers they observe:

  • excitement from the experience of seeing, feeling and touching the data loggers and actually taking measurements;
  • improved focus and participation from students who often do not want to leave the task when the bell rings! 
  • discussion about the learning becoming more vibrant in the classroom and clarification of ideas occurring more readily for students;
  • increased interest in science and in the potential of exploring a medical career.