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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.
Evidence of Positive Effects of Wait Time
Studies compiled by Robert J. Stahl, a Professor in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction at Arizona State University, show that increasing wait time to 3 or more seconds results in positive effects for both teacher and student. Typically, a teacher waits between 0.7 and 1.4 seconds after a question before beginning to talk again. Stahl proposes increasing this wait time to 3-7 seconds. For students, increasing wait time increases the length and accuracy of question responses, increases the number of appropriate responses volunteered by students, and increases the academic achievement level (e.g., test scores) of the students. Additionally, teachers who implement a longer wait time also tend to ask higher quality questions, vary their questioning strategies, and ask questions that challenge students to use more complex information processing skills.
Example of the Effects of Wait Time Among Minority Students
Studies have shown that teachers devote a differential amounts of wait time to male/female students and students of minority race/Caucasian students. Myra Sadker, a former professor of Education and Dean of the School of Education at American Univeristy, and David Sadker, also a professor of Education at American University, investigated the effect of these differential wait times 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, motivate participation. This bias in favor of white male students' participation in class ultimately disadvantages the success of women and students of minority races.
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.
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.
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, Kenneth. "The Role of Wait Time in Higher Cognitive Level Learning." Review of Educational Research. American Educational Research Association, 1 Jan. 1987. Web. 27 Oct. 2011. <http://rer.sagepub.com/content/57/1/69>