New Variations of Think-Pair-Share

Asking students to discuss course material with each other, before sharing with the whole course or participating in a wider discussion, promotes deeper thought and analysis of discussion questions.
by LSA Learning & Teaching Technology Consultants

The popular Think-Pair-Share model first asks students to consider a question on their own, and then provides an opportunity for students to discuss it in pairs, and finally together with the whole class. This activity works ideally with questions that encourage deeper thinking, problem-solving, and/or critical analysis.

Think Pair Share

For 30 seconds to 1 minute

During class

With a pen and paper

On a laptop 

As you doodle

Group size 2-4

Come to a consensus

Agree to disagree

Explain your reasoning

Share your opinion

Verbally or in writing
Via whiteboard

Anonymously with polling software

With the whole class

With a small group

This is a popular approach precisely because it works so well, but too much repetition can get dull for students. Here are three new approaches to freshen-up a think-pair-share experience.

  1. Think-Pair-Square: In this version, after students finish their paired discussion, they pair with another group and discuss the differences between each pair’s point of view.

  2. Sticky Note Version: In this version, students work in groups of 3-4. As students are thinking independently, they generate as many sticky notes as they can, one idea per sticky note. Then the group arranges the sticky notes and discusses each topic.

  3. Pair-Share-Listen: In this version, students pair and share with the idea that they will only be sharing their partner’s point of view, requiring critical listening skills.

TPS (Think-Pair-Share) techniques are recommended for topics that students find particularly challenging. Much of the research has been focussed on Math, Physics, and Chemistry, but the technique is equally applicable to any conceptually demanding material.1

There are also a few challenges for the instructor, in applying TPS instructional strategy. One of the challenges was to get the students really engaged during the discussion. Careful shaping of the prompt question will help with this. The other major drawback that has been noted is the noise level during the discussion with each other of the students, which can disrupt concentration.2 If there is sufficient space in a classroom, asking pairs to spread out a bit can help, but that is not always possible. In the event that your students have trouble with the noise level, you may want to use one of the writing-oriented versions, such as the sticky-note version. If you would like to discuss what approach may work best for you, feel free to come talk to one of the LTC consultants!



  1. Dol, S. M. (2018). Animated flowchart with example followed by think-pair-share activity for teaching algorithms of engineering courses. Piscataway: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE). Retrieved from

  2. Gok, T. (2018). The evaluation of conceptual learning and epistemological beliefs on physics learning by think-pair-share. Journal of Education in Science, Environment and Health (JESEH), 4(1), 69-80. DOI:10.21891/jeseh.387489 

Release Date: 02/06/2020
Category: Learning & Teaching Consulting; Teaching Tips
Tags: Technology Services