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Pedagogical Development Office

Teaching Tip: Think-Pair-Share

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Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan/ Freedigitalphotos.net

Would you like to increase student participation in discussions, encourage students to think about and engage with course material, and have a great, fast change of pace when your students’ attention starts to fade? Then you might want to consider the THINK-PAIR-SHARE technique, a simple teaching technique developed by Professor Frank Lyman and colleagues at the University of Maryland.


1.  Tell the students you are going to get them to think about something, but that they won’t be allowed to discuss it yet.

2.  Ask your question: out loud, on the board, or on a slide. Your “question” can be just about anything: pose a problem; ask for a summary, an explanation, or for questions about a topic you’re introducing; get students to re-explain instructions you’ve just given; or have them justify why you’re asking them to do a task a certain way … the possibilities are endless!

3.  Givestudents a set amount of time to think silently or write down their ideas about the question. It can be as brief as 20 seconds or as long as a few minutes. Try to keep the timing under the amount of time you think everyone would need to finish it – you want a sense of urgency, and minimal time-wasting behaviour.


4. Tell the students to pair up with one classmate, and share their thinking or work. (Working in pairs means nobody can be passive!) Give them a set amount of time to do this, but again, keep it brief. During this time, you can walk around to observe, guide and keep everyone on track, especially if the problem you’ve given the class is a substantial one.


5.  Ask students to share their ideas/solutions/summaries/questions with the class. You can ask for volunteers – you should get many more responses than if you had just thrown the question out to the class. Alternatively, work your way systematically through the pairs, having them explain the response they worked out together, or to encourage better listening and accountability, have students tell the class what their partner came up with.

Pedagogical Development Office
Vanier College