What Is the Value of Wait Time?


"Wait Time" refers to that period of teacher silence that follows the posing of a question (Wait Time I) as well as that following an initial student response (Wait Time II). Extensive research has consistently demonstrated that the quality of student verbal responses improves when teachers regularly employ the "Wait Time" technique.

Rowe (1974) analyzed over 300 classroom tape recordings of classroom teachers and discovered a mean Wait Time I of one second and a mean Wait Time II of .9 seconds. However, when the average wait for both types was extended beyond three seconds, a variety of significant improvements were observed. A synthesis of studies of Wait Time by Tobin and Capie (1980) confirms the following benefits of Wait Time use by teachers:

  1. The length of student responses increased.

  2. More frequent, unsolicited contributions (relevant to the discussion) were made.

  3. An increase in the logical consistency of students' explanations occurred.

  4. Students voluntarily increased the use of evidence to support inferences.

  5. The incidence of speculative response increased.

  6. The number of questions asked by students increased.

  7. Greater participation by all learners occurred.


Advantages of Wait Time

A. Wait Time - Before Calling on Student:

  1. Gives the teacher time to count those students who have been answering questions and those who have not.

  2. Gives the teacher time to assess which students might answer the question correctly.

B. Wait Time I - After Calling on Student:

  1. Gives student time to frame an answer.

  2. Gives teacher time to think of what a comprehensive answer could be.

C. Wait Time II - After Student Answer:

  1. Gives the student time to elaborate on or complete an answer.

  2. Gives the teacher time to think about whether the answer was correct, incorrect, partially correct or evasive.

  3. Provides time for the teacher to frame a response.

Source: Better Thinking and Learning (MSDE)

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This site was developed by the Department of Staff Development, in collaboration with the Division of Instruction. Questions, comments, and other inquiries may be addressed to Allene Chriest (achriest@pgcps.org) or Jeff Maher  (jmaher@pgcps.org).