Luke Nuttall


Dalziel High

  • Assessment For Learning

What Happens When Wait-Time is Used During Questioning in the Classroom?


Mary Budd Rowe, refers to ‘wait time’ as the period of silence that follows teacher questions and students completed responses (Rowe, 1972).

There is no doubt that questioning is an effective teaching method embedded in the practice of all educational professionals. Some strategies to questioning can elicit deeper learning and promote confidence in pupils as well as possibly deter them from answering altogether if used poorly. Tobin (1987) suggests that when wait time is greater than three seconds it enables high cognitive level learning by giving the respondent more time to process their thinking. Stahl (1990), however, asserts that the average teacher does not allow proper or beneficial wait-time before expecting an answer.

Rowe (1986) states that the average teacher only waits a second or less for a response to a question. This wait time is even less if they perceive that the pupil does not know the answer. This small amount of wait time seems to have a more detrimental effect to teaching and learning, leading to fewer volunteered/higher-level answers. It stands to reason that in order for a child to have collated their thoughts into a higher-level answer they would therefore need the appropriate wait time. This then led to the belief that both the quality and quantity of pupil answers would be increased through the proper use of wait time during questioning. This professional enquiry will answer what happens when more wait-time is used during questioning in the classroom.


The purpose of this enquiry was to use and extend wait time within the secondary classroom setting and summarise the impact this had on teaching and learning in terms of:

  • The quality of pupils’ answers,
  • if the number of volunteers changed, and
  • if pupil’s confidence differed.

The enquiry also looked at the types of questions given and the answers in response to those questions when wait time was extended in the classroom.

Download Practitioner Enquiry