Emma Brannan

Primary Teacher

Carnbroe Primary

  • Assessment For Learning

What effects does ‘wait time’ have on pupils’ responses to questioning?


It is common to find that the number of pupils responding to questions is low or the same pupils answer all the questions asked in the classroom, as discussed by Wiliam in his Assessment for Learning work (YouTube, 2014). When discussing this idea of “wait time” we are discussing “the period of silence between the time a question is asked and the time when one or more students respond to that question” (TeacherVision, 2018). It was defined by Tobin (1987) as the duration of pauses separating utterances during verbal interaction and communication. The relevance comes from the importance and necessity of thinking about how long we should give children to answer questions as they need this time to create an appropriate response to what is being asked, highlighting learning.

Many teachers think that they are waiting for a long time or giving children enough time to answer questions in the classroom but studies have found that most teachers wait for less than a second for student response before giving the question to another pupil, reframing it or providing an answer for the children (Rowe, 1974). Moreover, she investigates the type of questions which are being used in the classroom and suggests a more positive approach to questioning in areas such as science and maths, from “traditional inferential statistics” of quick fire and quick answer questions towards a Bayesian approach of process and evidence building over time, as more is taught to the children. The evidence suggests that increasing wait time for students to answer questions may be required to facilitate higher cognitive level learning which links to higher attainment, an ongoing plan by the Scottish Government across Scottish Education (Gov.scot. 2011). My research and focus was to enquire if providing children additional thinking time held any benefits to answers being given by pupils. The number of answers volunteered and the quality of answers was the focus. I also investigated how confident children felt with regards to volunteering answers when issued additional thinking time.


The aim of this professional enquiry was to observe the impact that a longer wait time has on the ability of a pupil to answer questions given to them and the quality of these answers. The enquiry also looked at the types of questions given and the answers in response to these questions when wait time was extended in the classroom.

Download Practitioner Enquiry