How much time do you give your students to answer questions you pose in class? Most teachers give students a second or less to respond, but a large body of research shows that this is far too little. Studies have found that teachers achieve the best results when they pause for three to seven seconds after asking a higher-level question. When given this time, students respond more thoughtfully and are able to make more meaningful connections to the content.
But more time isn’t always better. Studies also show that waiting too long creates apathy and boredom in the classroom. Giving students seven seconds to answer a straight-forward question is probably far too much. What’s the optimal amount of time for students to respond? The best solution is to vary the response time according to the difficulty of the question while closely monitor your students’ level of engagement. When engagement decreases, you may need to move more quickly or ask questions that are more or less challenging.
“Specifically, when students are given 3 or more seconds of undisturbed “wait-time,” there are certain positive outcomes:
* The length and correctness of their responses increase.
* The number of their “I don’t know” and no answer responses decreases.
* The number of volunteered, appropriate answers by larger numbers of students greatly increases.
* The scores of students on academic achievement tests tend to increase.
When teachers wait patiently in silence for 3 or more seconds at appropriate places, positive changes in their own teacher behaviors also occur:
* Their questioning strategies tend to be more varied and flexible.
* They decrease the quantity and increase the quality and variety of their questions.
* They ask additional questions that require more complex information processing and higher-level thinking on the part of students.”