Best Practice

Wait a second? Let’s think about giving students time to think

Research suggests that the average wait time we afford students after asking a question is just one second – when it should be as long as 15. Jon Tait looks at how teachers can ensure sufficient wait time after asking a question
Image: Adobe Stock

One of the more worrying pieces of research into how we teach and ask questions in our classrooms suggests that on average, teachers give students less than one second to think before asking them to answer a question (Rowe, 1986).

Just stop and think about that for, erm, a second (or a bit longer). We give students less than one second to give us their best answer.

Imagine going to a job interview where somebody asks you a tough question and then expects your best answer to roll off your tongue less than a second after they have finished their enquiry?

Why does this happen? Well, unfortunately too many teachers are still using the very traditional and basic questioning strategy of a hands-up approach. It happens in the blink of an eye and goes something like this.

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