The Importance of "Wait Time" in the Technology-Based Classroom

The Importance of "Wait Time" in the Technology-Based Classroom
Contributed By

Hannah Whiteoak

Contributing Writer

The Importance of "Wait Time" in the Technology-Based Classroom

Posted in Evolving Ed | February 21, 2018

First introduced by Mary Budd Rowe in 1972, "wait time" has become an important concept in the classroom. When instructors leave a period of silence between posing a question and calling on a student to respond, students are more likely to volunteer appropriate answers and less likely to say "I don't know." Research shows that a wait time of at least three seconds is most beneficial to students' learning.

In the technology-based classroom, wait time can shrink out of existence. The nature of digital classroom tools encourages a rapid exchange of information and ideas. While this can create an exciting learning environment, it is important not to let wait time disappear from the classroom. Here are some reasons why wait time matters more than ever in the digital age.

Students Need a Chance to Process Information

Students need time to absorb new information, think about how it relates to what they know or are learning, and then come up with an appropriate response. Students typically provide higher-level, longer responses when the teacher gives them a brief wait time. This mental incubation also leads to higher engagement throughout the lesson because all students consider how they would respond to a question before the teacher calls on someone to give a response.

Students Need a Chance to Interact Appropriately With Technology

Technology in classrooms can be a valuable digital learning tool. However, it also has the potential to be a distraction. Educators need to create a culture of digital citizenship, in which students learn how to use technology safely and responsibly.

Wait time allows students to consider when and how they can use technology to support their learning. Rather than automatically reaching for technology, students must be able to decide when to use a technological tool to help them answer a specific question and when to develop their own thoughts and responses to the information presented in the classroom.

Students Need a Chance to Practice Patience in Decision Making

One of the effects of technology on modern society is that people expect information to be instantly available at all times. While it is fantastic to have all the information that exists in the world immediately available, this situation can lead to students failing to develop the valuable skill of patience. Wait time demonstrates that sometimes there is value in taking time to think about a question for yourself before using technology to find the answer.

5 Best Practices for Incorporating Wait Time in the Classroom

These five best practices can help you or your instructors incorporate wait time into your classrooms.

Implement a Wait Time After Posing a Question

After posing a question, a wait time of between three and five seconds can encourage students to give more considered answers. This kind of wait time is called Wait Time 1.This gives students a chance to recall information, leading to better answers. You can also encourages students to interact with each other during this time, creating an interesting discussion that helps everyone learn.

Don't Forget About Wait Time 2

The other kind of wait time is called Wait Time 2. This is a brief period of silence after a student responds to a question. By pausing before they react to a student's response, instructors give students an opportunity to complete or elaborate on their answers.

A Little Wait Time Goes a Long Way

A wait time of a few seconds gives students the space they need to respond thoughtfully. However, it is possible to pause for too long. Students often interpret a wait time of 20 seconds or more as threatening. Avoid creating a 'threatening' environment in the classroom by avoiding the use of excessively long wait times.

Ask Open-Ended Questions to the Entire Class

Directing a question to a single student can make that student feel intimidated. Meanwhile, other students may disengage when they know they will not be called on to give a response. Direct questions to the entire class to encourage everyone to think about the question and formulate their own responses.

Where possible, try to ask open-ended questions. Questions that ask "why" or "how" often provoke more thoughtful, interesting discussions than closed questions that require a "yes," "no," or purely factual answer.

Get Back to Me

The "Get Back to Me" strategy is a form of wait time that can be useful in technology-based classrooms. If a student is not ready to give an answer, educators can say "would you like me to get back to you?" to give the student time to think. By going back to the student later to ask for their thoughts, instructors allow learners who are not as good at thinking on their feet as their peers to participate in the discussion. This strategy gives students a chance to share their thoughts when they're prepared.

It's very important for teachers to remember to return to the student. It's easy to forget or get distracted, which can teach students that saying "get back to me" is an easy way to get out of answering questions.

Time for Wait Time

Technology plays an important role in the modern classroom. However, it is important for educators to recognize that technology can crowd out wait time. By prioritizing wait time in the technology-based classroom, instructors promote thoughtful discussion and ensure technology is helping rather than hindering students' learning.

student engagement strategies

Join the Conversation