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Wait time is the duration of a pause after a question is posed. Studies have shown that students of color and female students respond positively when wait time is increased.
Sadker and Sadker investigated the effect of wait time on differential participation in the class discussion. Their study and observation of undergraduate classrooms found that teachers unconsciously gave 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 motivates participation.
How to incorporate wait time
- Try 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
- Increase wait times for all students.
Studies compiled by Robert J. Stahl, a Professor in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction at Arizona State University, have shown that increasing wait time to 3 or more seconds results in positive effects for both teacher and student. 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 most classrooms.
- Rowe, M. (1987). Wait-time: Slowing down may be a way of speeding up. American Educator, 11, 38-43.
- Sadker, D., Sadker, M. (1994) Failing at Fairness: How Our Schools Cheat Girls. Toronto, ON: Simon & Schuster Inc.
- 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.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/recordDetail?accno=ED370885
- 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
- Tobin. K. (1987). The role of wait time in higher cognitive learning. Review of educational research, 57, 69-95.