Michael Yat Bikpo
Kaduna State College of Education,
Gidan Waya, Kafanchan
E-mail Address: Michaelbikpo@gmail.com
This article examined in depth the concept of wait-time and made a distinction between wait-time I and wait-time II and wait-time span. It went on to discuss the importance of wait-time span in Basic science teaching, citing relevant research findings, which indicate that a longer wait-time span is desired for effective teaching of most topics in Basic Science. The article suggested that Basic Science teachers in Nigeria should be trained and retrained in effective utilization of wait-time so that Basic Science teaching and learning would be more effective.
Many variables have been found to affect students’ classroom learning in Basic Science, namely shortage of qualified teachers, use of unqualified teachers, use of inappropriate teaching strategies, lack of adequate instructional materials, lack of laboratory exercises, lack of adequate laboratories, poor management of science resources, large or overcroweded classrooms,excessive work load, and so on.
In this article, we take a look at Wait-Time Span and how it affects students’ learning in Basic science. This is discussed under the following subheadings:
- Concept of wait-time span
- Effect of extended wait-time span
- Wait-time and student learning in basic science
Concept of Wait-Time Span
Wait-time is defined as the pause between asking a question and eliciting a response. The length of time that follows the presentation of a question to a particular student up to the time the same question is passed on to another student, or an entirely new question is presented to the same or another student, without any response being given to the first question, is known as wait-time (Tobin, 1980). According to Rowe (1974), wait-time is the amount of time, in seconds, from the time the teacher finishes asking a question till the student responds or the teacher speaks again. As it sometimes happens, the teacher asks a question, pauses, calls on a student and pauses again, the two pauses identify two types of wait-time:
Wait-time 1: The length of time a teacher pauses after asking a question. It is also called a teacher’s wait-time.
Wait-time II: The length of time a teacher waits after pupils’ responses before a comment is made or another question is asked.
Wait-time span generally refers to the length of wait-time in seconds.
The concept of “wait-time” as an instructional variable was suggested by Rowe in 1972. The “wait-time” periods she found, i.e. periods of silence that followed teachers’ questions, and students’ completed responses-rarely lasted more than 1.5 seconds in typical classrooms. She discovered, however that when these periods of silence lasted at least 3 seconds, many positive things happened to students’ and teachers’ behaviours and attitudes. To attain these benefits, teachers were urged to “wait” in silence for 3 or more seconds after their questions and after students completed their response (Rowe 1972; Tobin, 1987; Stahl, 1990). For example when students are given 3 or more seconds of undisturbed “wait-time” there are certain positive outcomes such as:
- The length and correctness of their responses increase,
- The number of their “I don’t know” and no answer responses decrease and.
- The score of students on academic achievement tests tends to increase.
When teachers wait patiently in silence for 3 or more seconds at appropriate times, positive changes in their own teacher behaviour also occur:
- Their questioning strategies tend to be more varied and flexible,
ii. They decrease the quantity and increase the quality and variety of their questions, and
- They ask additional questions that require more complex information processing and high-level thinking on the part of the students. (Stahl, 1994).
The convention is to use 3 seconds as the minimum time period because this time length represents a significant breakthrough (or threshold) point: after at least 3 seconds a significant number of very positive things happen to students and teachers. The concern here is not that 2.9 seconds is bad, while 3 seconds is good, and 5.3 seconds of silence is even better. The concern is to provide the period of time that will most effectively assist nearly every student to complete the cognitive tasks needed in the particular situation. The teacher’s job is to manage and guide what occurs prior to and immediately following each period of silence so that the processing that needs to occur is completed.
Effect of extended wait-time on Effective Teaching and Learning of Basic Science
In addition to the descriptive studies on wait-time carried out by (Rowe, 1974, Tobin, 1987), other intervention studies have been conducted to explore the changes in the teacher-student interaction when the wait-time was extended. Thus, Stahl (1990) supplemented the factor “wait-time” (after a teacher’s question or a student’s response) and defined the factor “think time”; as a distinct period of uninterrupted silence by the teacher and all students so that they both can complete appropriate information processing tasks, feelings, oral responses, and actions. Think time comprises eight categories which encompass the classical wait-time and, is related to other kinds of pauses during the classroom studies on extended wait-time in which effects of a manipulated wait-time (average duration beyond three seconds) had been analysed in comparison to normal wait-time. A consistently reported result is the decrease of the number of teachers’ questions. (Tobin, 1986). There is also a change in the quality of teacher questions: the cognitive level increases and leading memory level questions or leading questions are posed (Swift & Gooding, 1983; Deture & Miller, 1985). Furthermore, Tobin (1986) observed that extended wait-time is associated with a tendency for teachers to ask for more input from students(probing questions).
However, not only changes in the teachers’ behaviour were observed, but also changes in student variables. Rowe (1974) described that the students are more involved in classroom discourse: their responses are longer and on a higher cognitive level and the number of student utterance increase (Swift & Goodings 1983, Tobin, 1987 Mansfield, 1996). Tobin (1987) also reported in his review that there are several students who indicate that an extended wait-time is associated with an increase of students’ achievement. Tobin (1980, 1986) reported relationship between teacher wait-time and science achievement. This agrees with Lake (1973) who demonstrated that the use of extended wait-time led to an increase in the cognitive complexity of students responses. Studies reported by (Tobin, 1980; Tobin & Capie, 1980), have indicated that teachers’ wait-time was a valuable variable in understanding classroom processes.
Wait – Time and Students Learning in Basic Science
An understanding of classroom learning requires careful analysis of the variables that constitute the learning environment. One of the variables that is more likely to influence learning is the verbal behaviour, since verbal interaction is the principal mode of communication in most classrooms. The variable called wait-time has been shown to have consistent effects on the quality of verbal interaction and the amount of achievement that occurs in the science classroom (Azubuike, 2010).
The teaching-learning procedure for Basic science is supposed to be based on problem solving activities, involving the pupils in a lot of activities. The classroom science activities are to be child-centred, because learning by doing is better than learning by memorizing. It is further observed that the acquisition of the habit of scientific thought is a gradual process that depends on a consistent and cumulative exposure to appropriate materials in an appropriate manner (Balogun, 1995).
According to STAN (1972), the essence of an introductory course in science is to begin to teach students what science is and how a scientists work. Thus students are to be engaged in science activities within the classroom, and outside the classroom as often as possible, to enable them learn the processes of science and to work like the scientist does. The explosion of student enrolment at primary and secondary levels, insufficient facilities, equipment and materials for teaching science make it necessary to improve on teacher/students verbal interaction.
The teaching of science is expected to elicit thinking in the learner and one of the ways teachers employ to provoke students’ thoughts and increase students’ participation in classroom instructions is asking questions. When a question is asked, there is always a time lag before a response is made. This time is used by pupils for cognitive processes; especially when higher cognitive domain objectives are the focus of the question. If the time is very short, there may be no response and when attempts are made, the answers are not well articulated. On the other hand, if lapse-time is sufficiently increased, responses become more meaningful, directional and purposeful (Tobin, 1980, Azubuike, 2010). Students are reported to take more time to commence responses at the analysis level than responses on knowledge and comprehension, levels. Also longer student responses were associated with the rise of extended wait-time and physics content was perceived to be less difficult in extended wait-time classes (Anderson, 1978).
According to Uche (1990), teachers trained in questioning and wait-time used more extended wait-time than those not trained and their pupils also performed significantly better in their responses to teachers’ question. Similarly Azubuike’s (2010) study also showed that the extension of teacher wait-time from three to six seconds resulted in greater student achievement in science. Riley (1980) reported that a decrease in achievement occurred when wait-time extended from medium to long for low level questions, but increase when wait-time was extended for high and mixed cognitive questions. It therefore follows that the optimal wait-time to be used may be dependent on the cognitive level of the questions and the outcome to be expected.
The teaching of science is expected to elicit thinking in the learner and one of the ways teachers employ to provoke students’ thoughts and increase students’ participation in classroom instructions is asking questions. When a question is asked, there is always a time lag before a response is made. This is used by pupils for cognitive processes; especially when higher cognitive domain objectives are the focus of the questions. Thus, Nigerian teachers should be trained and retained in the use of wait-time span for effective teaching of Basic science at the junior secondary school level.
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