Amy Sutherland

Primary Teacher

Westfield Primary

  • Assessment For Learning

What happens when wait-time is used during questioning in the classroom?


Deeper-Thought Process
This practitioner enquiry questions what the most effective questioning and answering methods are for encouraging children to engage in deeper-thought processes. Tobin (1987) suggests that when wait time is greater than three seconds it enables high cognitive level learning by giving the respondent more time to process their thinking. In order to provide pupils with the skills and motivation to become innovative, evaluative and creative then teachers must encourage higher-order thinking in the classroom (Bloom, 1956). If pupils are only experiencing low-level cognitive questions then they will only be engaging in low-level cognitive thinking skills (Gambrell, 1983). Therefore, to achieve higher-order thinking learners must be exposed to high level cognitive questions where the pupil must engage in deep-thought processes such as critical thinking or use of problem solving skills.

Wait Time
Does increasing wait time result in deeper-thought processes? Cotton (1988) suggests that a wait time higher than three seconds can achieve successful learning, improve the amount of student participation and encourage longer responses. Wait time is the length of thinking time a pupil is given when asked a question (Stahl, 1994). Earlier research has shown that the average teacher asks 36 questions in 25 minutes with a wait time of only .968 of a second (Gambrell, 1983). Tobin (1987) suggests that increasing wait time allows for pupils to have time to think and engage in higher cognitive level learning. Therefore, increasing wait time could result in more children responding to questions and receiving more correct responses.

Cooperative Learning
Wait time alone may not always provide learners with opportunities to critically think (Tama, 1989). Theorists such as Vygotsky (1978) and Bandura (1977) portrayed the idea of peer interaction as a key role in children’s learning and without the input of a more knowledgeable other the learning is not as effective. This questions whether wait time is enough for higher-order thinking to become evident in a pupils’ thought-process when answering a question.


  • To find out what happens to the amount of responses and correct answers when wait time is increased during questioning in the classroom.
  • Investigate what happens to the amount of responses and correct answers during increased wait times when a pupil is able to develop their answer collaboratively with a peer.
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