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Wait! Slow down.

Don’t be too quick to call on the first hand that goes up. By doing so, you signal to other students that they should stop thinking of an answer. Experts suggest that you extend your wait time to 5 to 10 seconds!

This assertion is supported in several research reports, including: Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Volume 17, Issue 5, pages 469–475, September 1980

Rowe (1987, p.97-98) has reported that when teachers were able to extend their wait times to three seconds or more, one or more of the following things happened.

  1. The length of student responses increased.
  2. The number of unsolicited but appropriate responses by students increased.
  3. Failures to respond decreased.
  4. Confidence, as reflected in fewer inflected responses, increased.
  5. The incidence of speculative thinking increased.
  6. Teacher-centered show-and-tell decreased and student-student comparing increased.
  7. The number of inferences and inferences supported by evidence increased.
  8. The number of questions students asked increased, as did the number of experiments they proposed.
  9. Contributions by slow learners increased.
  10. Disciplinary moves decreased.

“How To Ask the Right Questions,” Patricia E. Blosser, NSTA, 2000. ISBN 0-87355-102-8, page 6

Tobin (1987) reported similar findings from a review of 50 published studies of wait-time research. His review (1987, p.76-79) also reported of the change in behaviour of teachers who were able to increase their wait time.

According to Tobin, they …

  1. Decreased the amount of teacher talk during the lesson.
  2. Repeated themselves less
  3. Asked fewer questions per class
  4. Asked more questions that allowed for responses from more than one student
  5. Asked fewer lower-level questions
  6. Asked more probing questions
  7. Did less repeating of students’ responses
  8. Asked more application questions
  9. Reported some increase in anxiety as they began to try to extend their wait time.

Ibid, page 7


But wait! Slow down! It’s always best to test it yourself and see what works best for your group and your topic, as the results were not replicated in a study of university students.


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