As teachers, we learn to consciously add a pause after our questions and after students’ responses to increase student thinking. We can increase the thinking students do by teaching and coaching students how to use the time. What are the learning production behaviors that empower students for future learning?
Subscribe to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast on iTunes or visit BarkleyPD.com to find new episodes!
Ad: 00:00 Are you ready to take your career to a whole new level PLS classes can help you get there. A resource designed to empower and advance educators. PLS classes offers online on site and remote courses that will elevate your professional expertise by enrolling in a course through one of our accredited college partners, you will learn research based strategies that you can apply in the classroom to learn more, visit PLS classes.com today, your future awaits.
Steve [Intro]: 00:29 Hello and welcome to the teacher edition of Steve Barkley. Ponders out loud. The complexity of teaching is both challenging and rewarding. And my curiosity is peaked. Whenever I explore with teachers, the multiple pathways for facilitating student engagement in the exciting world of learning this podcast looks to serve teachers as they motivate and support their learners. Thanks for listening. I’m delighted that you’re here.
Steve: 01:04 Teaching students to use think time. Many years back I studied what was at the time, called wait time and sometimes pause time and looked at ways to implement it in my own classroom when questioning students and I taught the content and coached the content to to many teachers. The early studies were done by Mary Bud-Row, and she studied the effects on a concept that she labeled as wait time. Her research demonstrated that if teachers can increase the average length of the pauses at two different points, one, after interrogation or after the question. And the second, after a student’s response, these extra pauses of two to three seconds could produce pronounce changes, usually regarded as improvements in students’ use of language and logic, as well as in student and teacher attitudes and expectations. My early study, I was surprised and wondered that one such practice could produce so many different positive effects. Row identified that as a result of wait time, we could gain an increase in the length of student responses, an increase in the number of unsolicited, but appropriate student responses, an increase in speculative responses, a decrease in the number of students failing to respond, an increase in the number of responses by students identified by their teachers previously as “slow learners,” and an increase in the scores of students on academic achievement test later.
Steve: 03:26 Studies also indicated that when teachers practiced wait time, positive changes occurred in the teacher’s own behavior. Their questioning strategies tended to be more varied and more flexible. They decreased the quantity and increased the quality and variety of their questions. They asked additional questions that required more complex information processing and higher level thinking on the part of students. In other words, teachers used the pause time themselves to implement their own thinking, which positively impacted the teacher’s next move. A recent post on the ASCD website titled, “Applying Think Time to Formative Feedback” connected with my earlier learning and connected with my work in the area of student learning production behaviors. In other words, what is it that students do that advance their learning? The link for the article is in the lead-in to this podcast. The article shares the work of Jackie Acree-Walsh, an ASCD author and presenter.
Steve: 04:57 She extends the impact of teachers pausing by identifying what we should be teaching students about how to use the time the teacher is providing. That’s the part that hits student learning production behaviors. Before we look at the pause slash think time, I want to spotlight another suggestion from Walsh that caught my attention. She shared that a change in our language as a starter could help communicate to students why think time is needed. Asking students for a response instead of a straight answer is one way. Think about what might happen if instead of asking students for an answer to a question, we were asking them for a response. For me, that word change seems powerful. An answer suggests that I know the answer, I know the solution. A response could be to describe what it is I’m thinking. The first pause is the pause that the teacher provides after asking a question.
Steve: 06:18 The initial research identified that often, it was less than a second pause before a teacher called on a student. The pause that follows your question communicates to students that the question is valuable and worthy of some thinking. I often laughed when I was teaching first grade, I’d be seated – the students around me on the floor and I’d make a comment. I have a great question that I want you to think about. And at that point, I’d have kids with their hands up and I hadn’t even been able to share what the question is yet. And I used to stop at that point and talk to my students about think time and even nonverbally show them what think time looked like as I took on the the posture of the statue of the thinker.
Steve: 07:24 In my coaching sessions, I frequently ask teachers, if you could put a finger on a student’s head and hear what’s going on inside, what would you want to hear? That question is generally an indicator of the kind of thinking you are hoping that your question has sparked within your students. Walsh provides questions to share with students as questions they can ask themselves when the teacher provides that first pause. One, what do I think the question is asking. Two, what connection can I make with what I know? Three, how can I best express what I’m thinking to this question? And fourth, what question, if any, do I have about this? So I’ve asked my question. I’ve now extended my pause, hopefully two to three seconds longer than usual. And during that time, the student can ponder those four questions. When I then call on a student, I recommend the teacher consciously thinking about adding an additional pause so that the student who was called on can reframe, think through, gain confidence, bring back the thoughts that they had because sometimes, especially if the teacher’s using random questioning, there’s this kind of blank that hits me when I hear my name.
Steve: 09:15 The next pause that was in Mary Bud-Row’s and Walsh’s work describes is a pause that comes after the student stops responding. So there’s a pause before the teacher gives any indication about the accuracy or the probing of that student and the teacher allows the student’s words to lie there, both for the student to still be thinking, and for other students. If this second pause is new to your students, you’ll find that very often, they quickly will change their answer because having not gotten immediate positive feedback from the teacher, they make an assumption that their answer was wrong and they switch it. So you’ll find some students are going to need to experience your practice longer so that they’re not making an incorrect judgment from your pause. Here are the questions that Walsh suggests the responder to the teacher can ask him or herself during that pause: Did I communicate clearly and completely? Do I want to change my response?
Steve: 10:46 What other information including evidence might I add? What do I wonder about this topic? Now, Walsh extends another set of questions for the other students in the class who have just heard the responders’ words. These questions help us as a teacher to communicate that everyone should be engaged throughout the conversation. It’s not that I’m on a break as soon as a different student has been called upon. Here’s the questions that she suggests we have for the rest of the class to be considering: What do I think the speaker meant? Do I agree? If so, why? Do I disagree? Why? If I agree, what can I add? If I disagree, what am I thinking is the response to the question? What questions do I have about what the speaker said? What questions do I have about this topic?
Steve: 12:04 Walsh recommends that we take the time to teach students how to use the pause time to understand why the teacher is providing this think time for students. And in my language of learning production behaviors, I would suggest we’re empowering the students with a critical, lifelong skill that’s connected to learning. It’s the way that I learn in almost any audience that I’m seated in, in a presentation or in a small conversation with colleagues. I can envision the questions that she’s provided being supplied to students as almost a cheat sheet, a reference. So we’re going to be going into a a class discussion piece here, you might wanna pull out your reference for thinking questions as part of our conversation today.. Consider the payoff for you and your students of investing time in teaching, practicing, and coaching students in learning how to increase their learning outcomes by using their own personal questions furing the think time that’s provided. Good luck promoting thinking. I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can reach me at barkleypd.com. Thanks for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 13:44 Thanks for listening in folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter at Steve barky, or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at Barkley PD.