Brian McGowan


Dalziel High

  • Assessment For Learning

What Happens When Wait-Time is Used During Questioning in the Classroom?


In the classroom, it is common place that the number of pupils responding to questioning is low and/or the same pupils often answer the questions, as debated by Wiliam in his Assessment for Learning work (YouTube, 2014). Thus, this enquiry investigates what happens when wait-time is used during questioning. The concept of wait-time refers to the period between when a question is asked and when students respond (TeacherVision, 2018). Moreover, it has been defined by Tobin (1987) as the time that separates exchanges during an interaction.

The importance of wait-time stems from the need for an increase in the time that practitioners give students to answer questions as this allows them to generate appropriate response. Thus, more time equates to more developed answers, which offers a deeper examination of learning and teaching. Moreover, many practitioners believe that they give students enough time to answer questions. However, studies show that most teachers wait less than a second before giving the question to another pupil, reframing it, or providing the answer (Rowe, 1974). Furthermore, Rowe (1974) investigates the type of questions used and suggests a more positive approach. For example, Rowe (1974) suggests a move from traditional quick fire and quick answer questions towards a Bayesian approach of process and evidence building as this allows students to learn more over time. Stahl (1994) supports these claims as his research showed that practitioners did not give sufficient think time and that teachers gave students roughly 0.7-1.4 seconds to answer a question. Additionally, Cotton (1988) claims that this time frame only allows students to use their short-term memory. Consequently, students are unable to respond to Blooms Taxonomy Questions.

Evidence suggests that increasing wait-time facilitates the higher cognitive level learning linked to higher attainment, which is a target of the Curriculum of Excellence ( 2011). This enquiry aims to investigate if providing wait-time brings significant changes to the answers given, the number of students responding, and answer quality. Moreover, the confidence levels towards volunteering answers will be studied. Rowe (1986) suggests that there will be increased participation and confidence following longer wait-time.


The aims of this enquiry were to investigate if increased wait-time would indicate greater student participation, higher quality answers, and more confident students. Moreover, the enquiry also examined different types of questions and the answers to these questions regarding wait-time.

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