The Power of Pausing

Decorative: A large button with "Pause" written on it


"The Power of Pausing" (post) outlines the research-based value of pausing during lectures (spoiler alert: it increases both short-term and long-term retention) and introduces several, easy-to-implement "techniques that will encourage students to process the information just learned.."

A. The Research

1. In one study, "students ... given three 2-minute pauses during a lecture to review what was just learned ... [and] were asked to share and compare their notes with a classmate" [See Ruhl, Hughes, and Schloss (1987)].

  • "[T]he pause group were able to immediately recall more concepts learned (22.97) ... [and]  outperformed the non-pause group ([84.39 to] 76.28) on a test taken twelve days later."
  • "Thus six minutes of less teaching resulted in increased learning almost two weeks later."

2. "During a 21 minute video, students in the write a summary and review your notes groups had 2 four minute pauses while the no pause group just watched the video without any pauses."

  • "Not surprisingly, the no pause group performed the worst on a free recall test 12 days later."
  • "The written summary group performed the best, demonstrating the importance of written summaries" [See Davis and Hult (1997)].
  • "Written summaries were also found to be more effective than just thinking about the content in a study ... students in the writing condition outperformed the thinking condition on both factual and conceptual tasks" [See Drabick, Weisberg, Paul, and Bubier (2007)].

B. The Application

"Consider pausing two or three times during every class period ... [and] use a variety of techniques that will encourage students to process the information just learned."

  • Written Summaries: "[A]sk students to summarize what they learned in their own words."
  • Share and Compare Notes:."[A]sk students to partner with a classmate and share and compare their notes ... [to] fill in any information gaps and ... discuss the key concepts learned."
  • Highlight Important Points: "[A]sk students to use this time to highlight the main points in their notes and mark topics that they may need to further explore after class."
  • Five Paper Fast Pass: "Have students write down three main points just learned on an index card or piece of paper. Students can then quickly exchange papers five times. Students can then partner with a classmate to discuss the concepts on their cards."

"After the brief processing time, you can ask students if they have any questions about the content just discussed."

  • "[C]onsider collecting the index cards with key points or scanning their notebooks as a quick formative assessment technique that will help you know what concepts students found important."
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