Wait-time is the amount
of time that elapses between an instructor-initiated question and the next verbal
behavior (e.g., a student response or question, the instructor talks again).
Allow at least 5 seconds
of wait-time after asking a question.
It has been reported that
most instructors allow their students less than one second of wait-time. When
wait-time is increased to three to five seconds, the following changes have
been found to occur. Some of these changes are fairly immediate, while others
occur over time.
- The number of student
responses increases, and the incidence of non-response decreases.
- Students offer more
evidence in support of their responses, offer more speculative thoughts, and
give more complex answers. There is also evidence that student confidence
increases (i.e., the number of "Is this right?" intonations decreases).
- Student-to-student interactions
increases as do conversational sequences (i.e., sequences of three or more
related interchanges increase in number).
It is not uncommon for
instructors to comment that it is initially difficult to increase their wait-time.
If you think about it, it is likely that your own wait-time patterns extend
beyond your teaching and into your everyday interactions. Many people indicate
that they are uncomfortable with "long" silences. Thus, allowing such
silences in your teaching can be unsettling at first.
When you begin experimenting
with wait-time, you might find it useful to count the seconds out in your head.
(For example, one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc. If you have the urge
to break the silence simply bite your tongue!) You might use this time to study
the faces of your students for indications of confusion or comprehension.
WHAT TO DO WHEN STUDENTS
If there are no student
responses after five to ten seconds of wait-time, you might want to do one or
more of the following:
- repeat the question;
- rephrase the question;
- simplify the question;
- ask a student to attempt
a rephrasing of your question;
- break the question down
into its component parts;
- make your question more
- ask students what it
is about the question that they are finding difficult.
After each of the above
alternatives, it is recommended that you allow another 5-10 seconds wait- time.
ORIENTING STUDENTS TO
A CHANGE IN PRACTICE:
Since the classroom is
a social system, it's very easy for TA's and students to quickly learn to expect
certain behaviors of one another. When students are not used to having an instructor
give them sufficient wait-time, they may not immediately respond to the opportunity
to think, respond or ask questions. Students, much like their instructors, may
at first be uncomfortable with the added seconds of silence. Therefore, it may
be a good idea to tell students that you are experimenting with giving them
more time to think and respond to your questions.
Letting students know the
purpose of any changes you plan to make in the classroom or in your teaching
behavior helps orient students to the change.
Written by Drs. Nancy Lorsch
and Shirley Ronkowski, 1982. Instructional Development, University of California,
Rowe, Mary Budd. "Wait-Time
and rewards as instructional variables, their influence on language, logic,
and fate control: part one - wait-time. "Journal of Research in Science
Teaching, 1974, 11, (2), 81-94. This study was conducted with elementary teachers
and students. Studies with high school populations found similar results.