Wait Time

In 1972, Mary Budd Rowe, University of Florida, coined the phrase “wait time” to describe the period of time between a teacher’s question and a student’s response. Rowe found that teachers typically wait between .7 seconds and 1.5 seconds before speaking after they have asked a question. However, when teachers utilize wait times of 3 seconds or more, Rowe found that there were demonstrated increases in student creativity and learning. Robert Stahl further expanded on Mary Budd Rowe’s concept in 1994 by coining the term “think time”—the period of uninterrupted silence for both teachers and students to reflect on and process their thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Stahl’s definition, although similar to “wait time,” more specifically labeled the action that teachers and students undergo during the period of silence as thinking.

  • Wait time 1 refers to the amount of time a teacher will wait for a student’s response to them asking a question before they will speak again.
  • Wait time 2 refers to the time a teacher waits following a student’s response before speaking.

Use Wait Time 1 to support learning

Mary Budd Rowe defined wait time as the time between when the teacher asks a question and the student responds. This is also called Wait Time 1. 

She found that, traditionally, wait time has been less that 1.5 seconds. However, by doubling wait time to 3 seconds, several positive effects were experienced:

  • the length of responses increased
  • the correctness of responses increased
  • more students volunteered answers
  • “I don’t know” responses decreased
  • student confidence increased

Even teacher behaviors benefit from extended wait time. The quality of teachers’ questions increases while the number of questions asked decreases. Quality over quantity!

Now add Wait Time 2 to support learning

Wait Time 2 is the time after the student responds and the teacher replies. 

Waiting an additional few seconds here can elicit an extended response from students. In some cases, the teacher may nod or give an “umm.” 

  • A nonverbal signal that the teacher is considering allows students an opportunity to continue responding. 
  • Students may not always be able to add any additional information, but Wait Time 2 is an opportunity for extra output and elaboration.