Marie Miliken

Primary Teacher

Knowetop Primary

  • Assessment For Learning

What Happens When Wait Time is Used in the Classroom?


Questioning is, arguably, the most widely used form of Formative Assessment (FA) within education. It is relentless, it is fundamental, and it is essential. Although questioning is informative of pupil knowledge acquisition, it is vital that professionals consider the dynamics of how they question young people. (Black and William, 1998, p.13) recognised that “the effectiveness of formative assessment will depend upon several detailed features of its quality, and not on its mere existence”.

Wallace, McKie, Houston & Osborne (2007, p.33) identify four processes necessary to engage in thorough FA “questioning, giving feedback, self- and peer- assessment and using summative tests formatively”. The term Formative Assessment was first introduced by Scriven in 1967 (Allal & Lopez, 2004, p.2). This was very quickly incorporated in Blooms (1968) Model of Mastery Learning. He stated that “…effective formative assessment is a key component of effective mastery” (Black & William, 1998, p.41). With regards to questioning, we must recognise that the thought processes and immediate problem-solving abilities of children do not occur simultaneously. As educators, we must consider the factors which impact on this to ensure we are providing equity of all learners.

Analysis of formative assessment processes (including questioning) is part of our School Improvement Plan. As it is a whole school focus, I evaluated my own practice and selected specific parts of my own systematic FA procedures to ascertain what I could personally improve on. I have become increasingly aware of the pattern which is arising within my classroom. There are children who are always keen to answer questions. However, there are other children who very rarely, willingly and enthusiastically, volunteer an answer to a verbal question. These children vary in their level of support needs, academic abilities and self- confidence. Rowe (1974) studies showed that teachers, on average, leave less than half a second for children to consider a response. I have found myself wondering whether the time I naturally award to consider the answer is at the root of this inequality of opportunity.


The aim of this enquiry was to collect data on how varying wait times will impact on the level of response received within class, in relation to verbal questioning. A second aim was to consider the quality of these answers.

Download Practitioner Enquiry