Jamie Leckie

Primary Teacher

Clarkston Primary

  • Assessment For Learning

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


Wait time is a term coined from Mary Budd Rowe, and refers to the period of silence that follows teacher questions and students’ completed responses (Rowe, 1972). The wait time periods, she discovered, seldom lasted more than 1.5 seconds, in a standard classroom setting. Rowe (1972) found that when between 3-5 seconds of wait time was provided, several positive things happened: students’ responses were more in-depth and accurate; the amount of children who provided no response or replied “I don’t know” decreased; and also the scores of student’ on academic achievement tests tended to increase (Rowe, 1972).

Not only did the implementation of wait time benefit students but Tobin (1987) found that it also has positive effects on teachers. Tobin (1987), found that teacher’ questioning strategies tended to be more varied and flexible; they lower the quantity and raise the quality of their questions; and they also increase the amount of high order thinking questions asked.

This Practitioner Inquiry stemmed from a desire to increase pupil participation when asked questions about their learning; and to discover if they are less vocal because they lack understanding, or if they are simply not provided with a significant amount of time to answer.


The aim of this inquiry was to test the hypothesis that using 5 seconds of wait-time between question and response leads to increased participation. The reason to give 5 seconds wait time was based on the positive effects it had on pupils’ responses in Stahl’s (1990) report.

Download Practitioner Enquiry