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Wait time is the duration of a pause after a question is posed. Students of color and female students respond positively when wait time is increased.
Sadker and Sadker investigated the effect of wait time (the duration of a pause after a question is posed) on differential participation in the class discussion. Their study and observation of undergraduate classrooms found that teachers unconsciously give white males more wait time than female students and students of color. Sadker and Sadker hypothesize that longer pauses after questions convey a "vote of confidence" for the student's answer and thus motivate participation.
How to incorporate wait time
To be more mindful of differential teacher-student interactions in the classroom, undergraduate professors could track and codify participation in class discussion, formulate plans to randomize grouped class seating, include group and presentation work, and, of course, increase wait times for all students.
Various studies by Stahl have shown that increasing wait times to 3 or more seconds has numerous positive effects for both teacher and student in class discussion across diverse ages and disciplines. These benefits include increased number and length of relevant responses volunteered as well as improved questioning techniques by the teacher. Typical increased wait times lasted between 3 and 7 seconds for high-level questions, as opposed to the <1 second wait time for all questions observed in many classrooms.
- Sadker, and Sadker, D. (1994)
- Stahl, R. (1994). Using "think-time" and "wait-time" skillfully in the classroom. ERIC Digest. Bloomington, IN: ERIC clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education. ED370885. <www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed370885.html>
Comments: Sadker article cited in this entry may be iffy since only summaries and review of research were available online; the article is well-received however and cited multiple times throughout literature online. The issue of wait time is well-researched across ages and disciplines [see additional resources below]. Simply counting "one Mississippi, two Mississippi..." after posing a question seems to be a very practical and accessible (yet still unknown) teaching practice for professors.
- Rowe, M. (1987). Wait-time: Slowing down may be a way of speeding up. American Educator, 11, 38-43.
- Tobin. K. (1987). The role of wait time in higher cognitive learning. Review of educational research,57, 69-95.
- Swift, J. Nathan; Gooding, C. Thomas "Interaction of wait time feedback and questioning instruction on middle school science teaching" Journal of Research in Science Teaching, vol. 20, Issue 8, pp.721-730