Learning Strategy Purpose:
Think-Pair-Share is a highly flexible active learning strategy that can utilized to achieve a wide range of intended purposes. Students are much more likely to engage and think about the question when the dialogue is reduced to pairs. In large class discussions, much fewer students actually speak to a larger class and the same students typically respond. This strategy encourages greater student accountability and pushes each student to think and make sense of the question posed. The question itself, if aimed at complex and higher level thinking, can help students think more deeply about content read before class, new material introduced in class through lecture, media, student presentations, guest speakers, demonstrations, or other activities. In addition, it is difficult for students to disengage when using Think-Pair-Share. The activity can enable students to connect concepts to their lives, to prior concepts, solve problems, uncover confusion or misconceptions, and affirm their grasp of ideas introduced.
- Before beginning this activity, the instructor should begin the class by asking everyone to be seated next to at least one other person in order to be close enough to introduce this activity. This way, the instructor does not need to uproot students from their seats as part of the activity.
- The instructor prompts student thinking with an open-ended question (online or face to face) and asks students to think about their response. Very often, instructors will ask students to jot down their response. The written responses may be collected if the instructor would like to use their individual notes as the basis or portion of points earned for in class low stakes activities rather than take attendance. In this case, the students need to be told to include their name on the handed in response.
- After an appropriate time of thinking, the instructor asks students to turn to a partner and form a
- The instructor asks each pair to take turns sharing their responses.
- It is helpful to include the instructions on a slide on the screen or handout and to tell them how much time they will have. The instructor may want to tell students when half of the allotted time has passed in order to ensure that both members can have the opportunity to share their thinking.
- The instructor should roam around the room while the pairs are sharing in order to gauge the time allotted and to gain a sense of what the students are sharing.
- Once the sharing has concluded, the instructor may choose to follow the activity by asking some of the pairs to share their responses. The instructor may wish to gather the variation among the students or highlight the commonalities. If the complexity of the question has raised misunderstandings among the students and made them more visible to the instructor, he or she can raise those concerns and clarify the ideas or invite students to help explain their own thinking.
Think-Pair-Share Class Size:
This strategy is used well in very small or very large classes.
In an asynchronous online environment, Think-Pair-Share can be used by structuring the interaction between the pairs. The instructor may pre-arrange students in pairs in order to utilize pairs frequently throughout the course. The exchange between the paired members can then be read only by the instructor and two members of each pair. This would prove logistically cumbersome for a very large class. Give the lack of time limitations, online Think-Share can be done in groups of three. Small groups are ideal in or out of class when the exchange needs to reach a complex, higher level of learning as fewer voices are coming in and out of the conversation.
The time needed for this activity can range from a very few minutes (Think – 1; Pair-1; Share:2) to a rather lengthy interactive exercise, depending on the question and its complexity. If the instructor chooses for students to jot down their thoughts, more time may be needed.
The success of this activity is very likely. Whereas full class discussions can be risky and involve awkward pauses, this activity easily starts students talking and the room soon buzzes with their voices. However, it is critical that the instructor has outlined the learning outcomes for the activity in order to ensure that the activity achieves its intended purpose(s), If the question is too simple or the students are allotted too little or too much time, it may seem like busy work or not very useful.
Additional Relevant Resources and Links
- How to do a Think Pair Share – TeachLikeThis (Video Clip)
- CETL Face-to-face workshops:
- CETL Online workshops:
- CETL Website/Virtual Teaching Commons materials: