Analysing texts through questioning

Students are exposed to a range of material, including those that look to promote health initiatives, inform, or challenge behaviours, and recommend action. Rather than adopting a passive position when reading and viewing these texts, students in HPE should be encouraged to adopt an active reading/viewing stance.

Questioning is a high impact teaching strategy [HITS Strategy 7] and text-dependent questions can be useful in focusing student attention so that they can

  • identify specific information in a text
  • extract meaning from the text
  • critically analyse the intent of this information (Gabriel, Wenz & Dostal, 2016).

Teachers can use three different types of questions to support students to analyse texts they read: literal, inferential and evaluative.

Literal questions ask about facts that are explicitly stated in the source.

For example:

  • Who created the text?
  • What do you know about them? (Consider age, gender, social position, company affiliations, etc.)
  • When was the text written?
  • What was happening at the time? (Consider significant events, including political, environmental, and health-related events)

Inferential questions require students to

  • analyse and interpret specific parts of the text
  • 'read between the lines' of what is explicitly stated
  • infer the purpose of the creation of the text.

Students should draw on their prior knowledge, practical experiences, and evidence from the text to support their responses.

For example:

  • 'Why do you think that (an individual or group portrayed in a text) acted in a particular way? Explain your reasoning.'
  • 'Why did the creator of the text produce it? (Consider whether it was to make money, influence people, tell their side of the story, etc.)
  • 'Who might have been the intended audience for the text? How do you think the creator wanted the audience to respond? List evidence from the text and your knowledge about the creator that led you to your conclusion.

Evaluative questions require students to use their knowledge, values, and experiences to

  • decide whether they agree with the author's ideas or point of view expressed in the text
  • determine if the text is reliable, credible, and valid.

For example:

  • 'Does the text show any bias? Is the creator of the text trying to present only one of many perspectives? What words/ phrases suggest bias?'
  • 'Are there any parts of the text that seem to be inaccurate? Describe these and explain why you believe these parts are inaccurate.'
  • 'Is there anything missing from the text? Has a data set been omitted? What impact does this have?'
  • 'Does the text that you are looking at support, or contradict, another text that you have looked at previously? What is this other text? In what ways do the texts contradict each other?'

(Some questions adapted from Morris & Stewart-Dore, 1984. National Archives, n.d.)

The below example outlines how this strategy could be used to support students to analyse government initiatives relating to physical activity requirements for healthy living (VCHPEP148, VCHPEP149, VCHPEP150, VCHPEP151).

  1. The teacher provides a topic for investigation.
  2. For example, the Australian government's guidelines about the amount and type of physical activity required for health benefits, limiting sedentary behaviour, and getting adequate sleep (see Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Young People [5-17 years]).

  3. The teacher models questions based on the text for the students.
  4. For example:

    Literal Questions

    • Who set up the guidelines?
    • How many hours of sleep is recommended for each age group?

    Inferential questions:

    • Why were the guidelines developed?
    • Whose interests are being served by these guidelines.
    • Explain your reasoning.

    Evaluative questions:

    • What do you think are the key purposes of the guidelines?
    • What data might be used to support the guidelines?
    • How might the impact of the guidelines be interpreted by diverse groups?
  5. Students work through the guiding questions and are asked to provide 'evidence' to support their responses.
  6. Students can add questions in each of the categories for others to answer.