Questions should be built into every lesson and carefully thought through, in both terms of wording, their objective and wait time (Dillon et al 1995). Most guidance would encourage teachers to utilise questioning as a means of differentiation; often connected to the ideas of Bloom’s Taxonomy and the progression of cognitive skills from ‘knowledge’ to ‘evaluation’. This theory suggests that ‘secure’ students should be asked questions requiring analysis, with questions being simplified for ‘developing’ students (Gershon, 2014). However, Bloom’s Taxonomy has been somewhat criticised, with Wineburg and Schneider arguing that for history specifically the taxonomy is ‘upside down’, as critical thinking (evaluation) often led to new knowledge.
Categorised as an intuitive and natural aspect of teaching practice, research states that, on average, one or two questions will be asked in the classroom per minute, a pace which leaves pupils with a very short window of response time (Brown and Wragg, 2001: p15). It is this response time, often referred to as wait time, that is a crucial instructional variable when higher cognitive level learning is the objective.
The time given to respond to questions is often stressed, with it being suggested that teachers do not give pupils enough time to respond, particularly when it comes to higher order thinking questions. Dylan Wiliam, (2011) argues that the amount of time a teacher allows their students to answer any question is the key, guiding that questions which require thought, should have an increased wait time of three seconds from the average one second, as this produces measurable increases in learning. However, wait time that goes beyond three seconds has little effect and may in fact cause lessons to lose pace.
The focus of this enquiry was to prepare and ask various questions that require higher order thinking skills in order to discover whether an increased wait time would improve the quality of response from pupils.