The concept of thinking time or wait time was first introduced by Mary Budd Rowe in 1972. It is defined as the length of time between a teacher asking a question and a pupil’s response (Rowe 1972). Studies have shown that the average wait time afforded to pupils is between 1 and 1.5 seconds (Wasik & Hindman, 2018). In a review of the use of wait time, Rowe concluded that when learners are given more than 3 seconds to think of their response to a question, the length of their answers, the number of learners offering a response and the number of alternative explanations to a question all increased. It is important to encourage the use of higher order thinking skills. Consistent use of thinking time with longer thinking times being used for questions which involve higher order thinking can encourage learners to engage with higher order questions (Yang, 2017).
Research into educational psychology has shown that the recollection of information is extremely beneficial for encoding that information into ones long term memory. Learners benefit most from recollection of information when it is more difficult to recall. (Yan et. al., 2016). By only allowing learners a short time to think of their response to a question many learners are denied the opportunity to recall information and encode that information into their long term memory as simply being told the information through another learners answer is not as beneficial. Short wait times disadvantage those learners who would benefit from the question most (the learners who find recalling this information most difficult). Short wait times can also discourage learners from attempting to recall information (Willis, 2017).
The aims of this enquiry were to investigate how the use of ‘thinking time’ affected pupil response to questions. The effect of thinking time on both frequency of response and the quality of pupils’ answers were both studied with a focus on higher order questions.