Processing information requires time to think. Although several seconds of silent think-time can be uncomfortable for students and professors alike, extending the time between when you ask a question and receive an answer can increase the number of students who volunteer to participate and improve the quality of their responses. In this video, Christina “V” Villarreal describes her thought process behind strategically using wait-time at different points in a discussion.
Christina “V” Villarreal, Visiting Lecturer on Education
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Ethnic Studies and Education
Fall 2016, 23 students
- Be patient. After you ask a question, count several seconds in your head before calling on someone, even if several hands immediately go up.
- Make wait-time the norm, and tell students why you do it. Consistency and transparency will reduce pressure for students to be first respondents and will also underscore the value of “think-time.”
- Simply say less. Resist the temptation to fill dead air with a rephrased version of your question or to answer an unanswered question yourself.
- Numerous studies have established the benefits of wait-time for students in K-12 classrooms. Rowe reported than the typical instructor wait-time to student responses was one second, on average. Rowe found that increasing wait-time to three to five seconds was associated with increases in the length and quality of student responses and decreases in failures to respond (1974).
- Tobin found a positive link between higher mean wait-times and student science achievement in middle school students (1980)
- Dollan and Collins recommend using wait-time as one strategy to teach more effectively (2015)
- Associate Professor Mary Reda reflects on how she began to think about silence differently in her Chronicle of Higher Education piece “What's the Problem With Quiet Students? Anyone? Anyone?”
- A blog post from Stanford University’s Teaching Commons outlines best practices for “Engaging Introverts in Class Discussion”
- In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain describes how social institutions like schools and universities favor extroverts and provides suggestions for how schools can better support their introverted students