A study of teachers’ adoption of questioning as a formative assessment strategy in university EFL teaching in China’s mainland

Yu Alicia PAN

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


This study investigates the use of questioning as a formative assessment (FA) strategy in university English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classrooms in China’s mainland. Teachers’ questions play a critical role in classroom communication and help teachers adjust their teaching for better FA. However, current research on questioning in foreign language classrooms is limited, particularly in China’s mainland.

The research applies Heritage’s (2007) GFIP (Gap, Feedback, Involvement, Progress) framework of FA elements and Ruiz-Primo and Furtak’s (2006) “assessment conversation framework” called ESRU (Eliciting, student Sharing of answers, Recognizing answers, Using information upon the answers) to analyze the pedagogical features and discourse patterns of questioning used by Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). Three case studies explore teachers’ perceptions of the relationship between questioning and FA, as well as their evaluation of their current questioning practices and needs for improvement in a TEFL context under the Blended Synchronous Learning Environment (BSLE). The study employs class observations, questionnaire surveys, interviews, and corpus-based conversation analysis for a triangulation-based methodological approach.

Findings indicate the growing importance of FA in university TEFL classrooms in China’s mainland and the need for teachers to receive proper training in questioning techniques. The study introduces a new questioning framework that combines a CEIDFR (Creating achievable learning, Elicitation, Interpretation, Diagnosis, Feedback, Response) sequence of assessment conversation and a 4Cs (Criteria establishment, Completion of task, Comments, Consequential learning) model of FA, providing a culturally embedded approach to questioning that includes both pedagogical and linguistic guidance. This framework aims to support teachers’ professional development in assessment literacy across both physical TEFL classrooms and online learning environments.

The study emphasizes the necessity of adapting the current FA model to a more culturally based framework that addresses the unique needs of language classrooms in China’s mainland. It offers practical solutions and guidance to help teachers improve their questioning practices, ultimately fostering more natural communication in the classroom.

Future educational design research should prioritize collaboration with practitioners, focusing on human interactions in educational settings and the testing of refined models in dynamic communicative processes. This approach will help refine the proposed 4Cs model and CEIDFR sequence to better serve the FA objectives and evolving TEFL settings in China’s mainland, ultimately enhancing teachers’ assessment literacy and informing adjustments in FA policies. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Education
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • WANG, Lixun 王立勛, Supervisor
  • CHEN, Hsueh Chu 陳雪珠, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Formative assessment (FA)
  • Questioning strategy
  • Assessment literacy (AL)
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ed.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2023.


Dive into the research topics of 'A study of teachers’ adoption of questioning as a formative assessment strategy in university EFL teaching in China’s mainland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.