Wait-time is the amount of time that elapses between a tutor-initiated question and the next verbal behavior (e.g., a student response).

Recommended Practice:

Allow at least 5 seconds of wait-time after asking a question.

Research Finding:

It has been reported that most tutors allow their students less than one second of wait-time. When wait-time is increased to three to five seconds, the following changes have been found to occur. Some of these changes are fairly immediate, while others occur over time.

  • The number of student responses increases and the incidence of non-response decreases.
  • Students offer more evidence in support of their responses, offer more speculative thoughts, and give more complex answers. There is also evidence that student confidence increases (i.e., the number of “Is this right?” intonations decreases).

Increasing Your Wait-Time:

It is not uncommon for tutors to comment that it is initially difficult to increase their wait-time. If you think about it, it is likely that your own wait-time patterns extend beyond your tutoring and into your everyday interactions. Many people indicate that they are uncomfortable with “long” silences. Thus, allowing such silences in your tutoring can be unsettling at first.

When you begin experimenting with wait-time, you might find it useful to count the seconds out in your head. (For example, one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc. If you have the urge to break the silence simply bite your tongue!) You might use this time to study the face of your student for indications of confusion or comprehension.

What To Do When Students Don’t Respond:

If there is no response after five to ten seconds of wait-time, you might want to do one or more of the following:

  • repeat the question;
  • rephrase the question;
  • simplify the question;
  • break the question down into its component parts;
  • make your question more specific;

After each of the above alternatives, it is recommended that you allow another 5-10 seconds wait-time.