Wait Time : What and Why?

In the first micromodule, we came across the concept of ‘wait time’. In this micromodule, let us dig deeper into this concept and the research behind it.

Before we start, think about some questions. You can type in your responses.

As discussed earlier, wait time is the time that a teacher waits before calling on a student in class or for an individual student to respond. For example, a teacher presenting a lesson on different types of seasons, may ask, “How many different seasons does India have?” The amount of time that a teacher gives students to think of the answer and raise their hands is called wait time. 

The concept of ‘wait time’ is based on research that was published in the early 1970s and mid-1990s and is a critical instructional tool still used in classrooms! Let us again watch the same video from micromodule 1 to understand what ‘wait time’ is and how it can make our teaching very impactful  – 


We usually feel that if our students have immediately responded to our questions, they have mastered the learning being assessed. But research shows that this is rarely true! When a question is asked, every student takes time to recall and process what they have learnt earlier and answer accordingly. And every student’s brain may process this at different speeds.  Wait time allows students to take their time to process information and reinforce learning before they respond. You can also continue engaging them during this wait time period by talking or even using music maybe if you do not want a silent class. But your questions are truly effective not when students immediately respond to them, but when they are given enough time to process it and it is reinforced before they answer. 

A particular research done on ‘wait time’ reports several of the changes that came about when students were provided wait time:

  • The length and correctness of student responses increased.
  • The number of no answers or “I don’t know” responses by students decreased.
  • The number of students who volunteered answers greatly increased.
  • Academic achievement test scores tended to increase.

So next time you ask a question to your students, do not allow them to answer too quickly! Use this simple technique of wait time to help reinforce learning. 

Watch the short video below which demonstrates what an example vs non-example of wait time in a classroom looks like – 


As you can see, executing ‘wait time’ in the classroom not only provides an opportunity for more students to share or for students to process prior learning. It also prevents students from getting disengaged when they know they can get an opportunity to share too or when their response is acknowledged by the teacher.


Next time you plan on asking your students questions, use the technique of ‘wait time’. Observe if you notice any differences than allowing students to immediately respond. Discuss with your mentor what is/are the changes you observed.


You can read more about ‘wait time’ and different techniques to carry out wait time in this short read. You can also watch the below video for similar information.

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