“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”.
There is much research and commentary around teacher talk-time versus student-talk time. There are even lesson planning and observation tools that allow teachers to monitor their talking time in lessons. It is certainly useful and worth keeping an eye on to make sure that teachers are not doing all the talking and learning time becomes lectures.
John Hattie (2012) says that teachers talk far too much:
- “Teachers talk between 70 and 80% of class time”.
- Student engagement is higher when teachers talk less, this is especially true for at-risk students.
- To combat classrooms dominated by teacher talk, more listening is necessary. This gives students the chance to speak, and more importantly, “impose their own prior achievement, understanding, sequencing, and questions”
Teacher talk time is particularly crucial when questioning, which we will explore now. Questioning is a vital part of a teacher’s role and with proper planning and execution, can greatly enhance learning.
Dylan Wiliam argues that the two reasons to ask questions is to gather evidence of student learning and / or to cause thinking. With this in mind, the first thing a teacher must do to use teacher talk time effectively is:
Plan questioning intervals within the lesson with clear questions in mind.
Ensure that all students are engaged and listening. Ask your question and then utilise adequate wait time. Wait time allows students time to think and therefore to produce answers. Not everyone in the class thinks at the same speed or in the same way – waiting allows students to build their thoughts and explore what has been asked. A strategy to keep this in mind is:
POSE. PAUSE. POUNCE. BOUNCE.
- Pose the question.
- Pause for wait time (3-4 seconds)
- Pounce by choosing a student to answer.
- Bounce by choosing another student to share their thoughts and / or clarify previous students answer. This reduces teacher response to student answers.
To summarise, it is necessary to point out that an absence of teacher talk is not what is needed; but an awareness and aim towards quality over quantity.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. New York, NY: Routledge.