Jay Irvine

Primary Teacher

St. Mary's Primary Caldercruix

  • Assessment For Learning

What Happens When Wait Time is Used in the Classroom?


Deeper-Thought Processes

The central question of this enquiry is to determine which questioning strategies most effectively encourage children to engage in deeper thought processes and provide correct responses. Teaching practitioners have a duty to promote higher order thinking in the classroom as it is necessary to provide pupils with the tools to become innovate and creative (Bloom, 1956). Gambrell (1983) states that if teachers pose low level cognitive questions then pupils will only utilise low level cognitive thinking skills. As such, teachers must pose high level cognitive questions to pupils to ensure critical thinking, problem solving skills and other higher order thinking processes are utilised.

Wait Time

The central question of the present enquiry is to determine whether increasing wait time promotes deeper thought processes and has any impact on the number and quality of responses. Wait time in a teaching context can be defined as the length of time a pupil is given to answer a question (Stahl, 1994). Stahl (1994) states that teachers often provide as little as 0.7 seconds to 1.4 seconds of wait time. Furthermore, Gambrell (1983) found that in addition to the sparse wait time offered to pupils, teachers also ask a multitude of questions in a short time span. Gambrell (1983) states that teachers asked an average of 36 questions in a 25 minute period. As such, a deliberate raising of wait time may have a positive impact on both the number of responses received as well as the quality of the responses received from the pupils.


The aims of the present enquiry are:

  • To find out whether increasing wait time positively impacts the number of volunteered responses.
  • To find out whether increasing wait time improves the quality of responses, with quality being defined as the accuracy.
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