Activity 5

Questioning and Wait Time

Black and Wiliam maintain that teachers can achieve richer insights into levels of classroom understanding through thoughtful open questioning which explores critical issues in learning.

Open questions might take the form of prompts such as ‘Why’, ‘How,’ or ‘Explain your answer’ to encourage deeper thinking.

One of the key findings of AfL is that the most effective teacher questioning allows time for reflection; richer classroom dialogues can be generated by better teacher use of ‘wait time’.

“Research has shown that many teachers leave less than one second after asking a question before, if no answer is forthcoming, asking another question, or answering their own question" (Rowe 1974).
There are two sorts of wait time.

  • There is the gap between the end of the teacher question and the start of pupil response which allows the first opportunity for reflection.
  • There is also the gap between the end of the student response and the start of the teacher response which allows pupils to extend and elaborate their thinking.

REFLECT: Do you think that each kind of ‘wait time’ would be equally effective?


  • Record one of your own lessons in the near future on an audio-recorder. Work out the average wait-time between your questions and pupils’ answers.
  • Over a sequence of lessons, work on different ways of trying to develop “an unrushed quality of questioning” which allows pupils space for thought.
  • Experiment with the various approaches to questioning explained by the teachers in this link. [pages 5-7 of ‘Inside the Black Box]
  • At the end of this sequence, record another one of your lessons and work out whether there has been any change in the average wait-time and whether there has been any change in the quality of teacher pupil dialogue.

WRITE: Sum up this section on questioning and wait-time by writing about the following quotation in the light of your own classroom action research.

“The effect of the AfL project might be summarised as making pupils’ voices louder and making the teachers’ hearing better”.

How far have pupil voices become “louder”? How far has your own “hearing” as a teacher improved?

(Allow 50 minutes)