Archived Information

Tried and True: September 1997--The information in this publication was current as of September 1997, and has not been updated since. Some services described in the publication may no longer be available.
[Teacher Professional Development]

Questioning and Understanding To Improve Learning and Thinking (QUILT)

A Program Designed To Enhance Student Learning by
Improving Teachers' Classroom Questioning Techniques

Developed and tested by the Appalachia Educational Laboratory (AEL)

What is the idea behind QUILT?

QUILT is a staff development program designed to increase students' true thinking time by helping teachers improve their classroom questioning techniques. Asking more effective classroom questions can encourage all students to think at higher cognitive levels and ask questions of their own that will ultimately lead to improved learning.

QUILT complements and supports many existing staff development programs. Schools have reported that the QUILT program helped pull together some diverse programs to create a better understanding of teaching and learning. AEL has had reports that QUILT is complementary to the following programs: TESA (Teacher Expectations and Student Achievement), Cooperative Learning, Madeline Hunter's ITIP, Integration Across the Curriculum, Dimensions of Learning, Whole Language, and Higher Order Thinking Skills.

The development of this program was truly a collaborative effort forged with the talents and energies of teachers, principals, and administrators from five school districts in Kentucky, along with the staff at AEL. The program evolved from the creativity and work of many--much like the folk tradition of a quilting bee. And similarly, the model program has spread to schools throughout Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and beyond the Laboratory region.

QUILT is an intensive, year long program not bound by grade or content area. A personal commitment from participants is necessary for success with the program. Schools send an administrator and a team of teachers to national training, where they learn how to facilitate QUILT with their own faculty. QUILT has three major components:

Elementary, middle, and junior and senior high schools have successfully implemented QUILT. Both large and small schools have enjoyed success with the program with faculty size ranging from 8 to more than 80 teachers. Larger faculties may require more members on the local facilitation team to be able to conduct the collegiums.

What does research say about how this idea can help teaching and learning?

Classroom questioning practice has been the focus of numerous education researchers for over 100 years. Although it is widely assumed that classroom questioning promotes student thinking and learning, research in actual classrooms indicates that current practice falls far short. Consider the following: over 40 percent of classroom instructional time is spent asking questions, and as many as 40 to 50 questions are posed in a typical 50-minute class segment. Most of these classroom questions are not well prepared and do not serve the purpose of prompting students to think. Usually questions serve the purpose of having students verbalize what has been taught. In fact, teachers do not give students time for true thinking.

Classroom studies have also shown that lower-achieving students receive fewer opportunities to answer questions than other students. On the average, teachers wait less than 1 second for a student response. This is in contrast to the findings that when teachers wait 3 to 5 seconds after asking a question, students give longer, higher-level responses; answer with more certainty in their own responses; make more inferences; and ask more questions.

Question-asking indicates that someone is curious, puzzled, and uncertain; it is a sign of being engaged in thinking about a topic. And, yet, very few students ask questions; rarely is even one student question posed in a typical class. Consistently, classroom research finds a large gap, with both students and teachers, between typical questioning and effective questioning that can affect student achievement. The QUILT model, which is the basic content for the program, views questioning as a complex, dynamic process governed by teacher behavior at critical junctures. The QUILT model has five stages:

Stage 1: Prepare the question

Stage 2: Present the question

Stage 3: Prompt student responses

Stage 4: Process student responses

Stage 5: Critique the questioning episode

Research about effective professional development for teachers is reflected in the QUILT model. First, the phasing of activities over an entire school year acknowledges that change is a process that occurs over time. Second, the structure is consistent with theories that teachers learn and improve performance when provided opportunities to acquire a relevant knowledge base, observe demonstrations, practice new behaviors, and receive feedback regarding performance.

How was program tested?

During 1991-92, the QUILT program was classroom tested in 13 school districts with more than 1,200 teachers across AEL's four-state region. At one school in each district, teachers received the complete, year long QUILT program beginning with a 3-day induction training, seven follow-up sessions, and teamwork with colleagues throughout the school year. Teachers at two comparison schools in each district received an abridged version of the training lasting either 3 days or 3 hours. These comparisons more closely resemble traditional staff development than does the complete QUILT program. At all three schools in each district, before-and-after tests measured what teachers knew about asking questions, what attitudes they held that might facilitate or impede effective asking of questions, and how they actually asked questions in class as revealed in videotapes.

From the analysis of these test data, the QUILT program can claim to show an increase in teacher understanding of effective classroom questioning and a corresponding use of effective questioning practices along with an increase in student thinking. As measured by coded videotapes, students in grades kindergarten through 12 answered at higher cognitive levels significantly more often after their teachers participated in the QUILT program. These students also asked significantly more clarifying questions than did students whose teachers were in a comparison treatment group.

What communities and states are using this program?

The power of good questioning to stimulate students∆ thinking has been the compelling idea contributing to the growing awareness of QUILT throughout the United States. QUILT has been implemented in schools in 13 states and 5 territories. QUILT 's training-of-trainers approach has been helping school districts prepare cadres of local teachers who then train others in their schools, districts, and states. AEL staff has instructed more than 650 QUILT trainers who have presented the materials to about 4,600 teachers. Expectations are to add 300 to 400 teachers a year.

Sustaining features of the program exist as well, including booster conferences for local facilitators and renewal meetings for those schools involved in the second year of QUILT. Beyond contact with those practicing QUILT, the Laboratory staff members continue ongoing program analysis and discussion to improve their efforts to promote and sustain change in teaching cultures.

What's involved in using this program in my school and community?

At each school, the QUILT program is led by a local team of three to five members who have been trained by the Laboratory or an AEL-certified trainer. The local training team ideally includes classroom teachers and a school administrator. The Laboratory holds a national training-for-trainers session during the third week of June in Lexington, Kentucky.

The QUILT staff development program has been successfully implemented under a variety of circumstances. However, Laboratory staff believes that QUILT is most appropriate when the following factors are present:

Costs associated with implementing this program vary, depending on the components of the program being used.


Sandra Orletsky
P.O. Box 1348
Charleston, WV 25325
Phone: (800) 624-9120
Fax: (304) 347-0487
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