Fionn O’Mara


Caldervale High

  • Bloom's Taxonomy

How Does Thinking Time Affect Classroom Response?


The idea of thinking time, otherwise known as waiting time, has become an important area of research in teaching. It is defined as the duration of the uninterrupted silence given after asking a question before an answer is given (Tobin, 1987). Within an educational context, it was found that the thinking time given to pupils after being asked a question by their teacher was on average 1.5 seconds (Rowe, 1974). Rowe found that by increasing the thinking time to 3 seconds pupils were able to give much more detailed and correct answers. It was also found that pupils’ test score would also improve. The benefits of extending waiting time is also highlighted in Stahl’s report (Stahl, 1994), where he states that the introduction of longer thinking time helped change the teacher behaviour; finding that the quality and variety of their questions improved. The benefits of giving more thinking time to pupils were also noted in “Assessment for Learning in The Classroom” (Black et al, 2004) were it was stated that an increased thinking time produced measurable increases in learning. This paper also states that implementing thinking time successfully should incorporate formative assessment technique such as show me boards.

The length of thinking time given to a pupil will depend on the style of question being asked. For example, questions that require a higher order of thinking will require an increased duration of thinking time for pupils to be successful. Orders of thinking are differentiated in layers by Blooms Taxonomy where the upmost layer requires the highest order of cognitive work. When a student applies a more cognitive effort it demonstrates a greater and develop a greater understanding (Adams, 2015). Furthermore, pupils will also require more time if their answer will require working or a performing task (for example writing on show me boards or doing calculations).

This enquiry came from the desire to improved interaction between pupils and teachers within the classroom while also improving pupils’ academic success.


The aim of this practitioner enquiry is to investigate what effect increasing thinking time will have on the number of pupil responses and the quality of these responses. The enquiry will find the optimum duration of pause between question and answer. Pupils will be asked a variety of questions of different orders of thinking.

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