Think, Pair, Share

View printable Think, Pair, Share (PDF)


Think-Pair-Share (TPS) is a cooperative learning activity that can work in varied size classrooms and in any subject. Instructors pose a question, students first THINK to themselves prior to being instructed to discuss their response with a person sitting near them (PAIR). Finally, the groups SHARE out what they discussed with their partner to the entire class and discussion continues. Students get time to think critically, creating a learning environment that encourages high quality responses (Rowe, 1972). TPS provides an opportunity for students to work in groups toward a common goal, increasing their own and others’ understanding in a safe environment to make mistakes (Johnson & Johnson, 1999).


TPS was for described in 1982 by Frank Lyman and is an active-learning technique in which students are motivated to participate even if they have little intrinsic interest in the topic (Lyman, 1982; Marzano & Pickering, 2005). Students not only process the topic but practice their communication and problem-solving skills. Preparation is simple and implementation has shown success by increasing student engagement, and improving student learning outcomes across learning environments (Fitzgerald, 2013; Goodwin, 1999; Raba, 2017; Razak, 2016; Sampsel, 2013). Questions posed are typically related to higher order thinking skills. TPS can be a 5-minute activity or something that takes 30 minutes or more. The key to a successful TPS activity is alignment; the question posed must be challenging and align with the instructional goal of the day/week (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998).


  1. Describe TPS to your students, why you are doing it (how it helps learning) and acknowledge that it may be out of a student’s comfort zone to participate.
  2. Pose an open-ended question for students to answer (aligned with instructional goal) and ask them to think to themselves for about a minute and write down their thoughts. Alternative – have students turn in a copy of their thoughts prior to pairing.
  3. Ask them to turn to the person next to them (groups of 2 or 3 only) and share their thought process/answer with each other. Alternative – have students take notes on their partner’s process/answer.
  4. Let students know how they should be spending the time throughout: Let them know it is time they should be switching who is talking if they haven’t already, let them know when they should be finishing up their thoughts.
  5. Prompt students to report out on “behalf” of their group. Summary could include differences in thought process and whether or not the group was in agreement.

Frequently Asked Questions

My students are not talking to each other, how do I get them to start talking and engage in the activity?

  • You could do an ice-breaker, add an incentive (points for participation), mention that these TPS questions could be on the exam, or demonstrate and practice what they should do. More information can be found by reviewing the techniques within the starting conversations document.

Discussion could go on for the entire class, how do we get back to the lecture?

  • It sounds like your students are engaged and that is something to celebrate. Limiting the scope of the question and putting time boundaries on the conversation can help. A quick, “one last point… this has been a useful conversation and it relates directly to ___”

How could I use TPS as an assessment?

  • You could have students turn in their responses written during the THINK time, the group’s answer from the PAIR time or a reflection following the SHARE time. These can be considered low-stakes if graded for completion or something more substantial if you evaluate their responses in more depth.

I feel like I want to do more with the PAIR time, is it appropriate for students to use their phones and computers to answer questions?

  • TPS can be as simple and as complicated as you care to make it. If you want students to be able to use resources to look up something online or even go to the library to work on something, just be sure this complication is necessary and useful for the learning objective.

Other Resources

Central Michigan University TPS and Variations Implementation Guide

Brown University  
and further into that site SERC info

U Texas at Austin

UC Berkeley


Johnson, D., Johnson, R. (1999). Making Cooperative Learning Work: Theory into Practice, 38 (2), 67-73. Fitzgerald, D. (2013). Employing think-pair-share in associate degree nursing curriculum. Teaching & Learning in Nursing. 8, 3, p 88-90.

Goodwin, M. (1999). Cooperative learning and social skills: What skills to teach and how to teach them. Intervention in School & Clinic, 35 (1), 29.

Lyman, F. (1981). The responsive classroom discussions: the inclusion of all students. A. Anderson (Ed.), Mainstreaming Digest, College Park: University of Maryland Press, pp. 109-113.

Marzano, R., Pickering, D. (2005). Building academic vocabulary. VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. McTighe, J., Lyman, J. (1988). Cueing thinking in the Classroom: the promise of theory-embedded tools. Educational Leadership, 45 (7), 18.

Raba, A. (2017). The Influence of Think-Pair-Share (TPS) on Improving Students’ Oral Communication Skills in EFL Classrooms. Creative Education, 8, 12-23.

Razak, F. (2016). The Effect of cooperative learning on mathematics learning outcomes viewed from students learning motivation. Journal of Research and Advances in Mathematics Education.

Rowe, M. (1972). Wait time and rewards as instructional variables: their influence on language, logic and fate control.

Sampsel, A. (2013). Finding the effectives of think-pair-share on student confidence and participation. Bowling Green State University, Honors Project. 

Cite this resource: Lightner, J., Tomaswick, L. (2017). Active Learning – Think, Pair, Share. Kent State University Center for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved [today's date] from