Think-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving

Facilitating a Think-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving active learning activity in a physically-distanced learning space

Time and Effort

Instructor Prep TimeMedium
Student Activity TimeLow
Instructor Response TimeMedium
Complexity of ActivityMedium


Think-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving has student pairs receive a series of problems and are assigned specific roles that change with each question. The problem-solver thinks aloud about his/her problem-solving process. The partner listens, tries to understand the reasoning behind the steps, and offers suggestions if there are missteps.


Use it when you want...

  • Students to articulate their problem-solving process and listen to another’s process,
  • To increase students’ awareness of the range of problem-solving approaches, or
  • To improve students' analytical skills by helping them formulate ideas, understand the sequence of steps underlying their thinking, and identify errors in another's reasoning.

What students will need


The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Think-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving learning activity within a classroom with a physical distancing layout.


  • Develop a set of field-related problems that students can solve within a limited time frame. The topic should engage students in all stages of problem-solving skills: identifying the nature of a problem, analyzing the knowledge and skills required to reach a solution, identifying potential solutions, choosing the best solution, and evaluating outcomes.
  • Develop handouts for the problem to guide students’ analysis using Google Docs and/or create a Zoom session in which students will work collaboratively.


  • Ask students to form pairs.
  • Explain to them the roles of problem-solver and listener. Problem-solvers read the problem aloud and talk through the reasoning process in attempting to solve the problem. Listeners encourage the problem-solver to think aloud, ask clarification questions, offer suggestions, but refrain from solving the problem.
  • Share the method students will use to work collaboratively on the activity.
    • Option 1: Students speak with one another across the empty seats.
    • Option 2: Groups follow a link that creates a new version of the template in Google Docs. The document is shared among the group members and with the instructor.
    • Option 3: Direct students to the Canvas course space and into the Zoom session. Create breakout rooms spaces for each group. 
  • Ask students to solve a set of problems, alternating roles with each new problem.
  • End the activity when students have solved all problems.
  • Review the students’ solutions to the problems they studied.
  • Review the outcomes of the activity.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • Classroom furniture is not to be rearranged to facilitate activities. If you need a different general assignment classroom to meet your instructional needs, contact your curricular representative.
  • If students are to move around the room during an activity, consider the mobility, location, equipment, and furniture needs of all students.
  • The physical distance between students (particularly in large lecture halls) may make it difficult for students to hear one another when they are asked to speak.
  • This same physical distance may increase the noise level in the room as students try to speak to one another. This noise level may cause issues for some students. To this end, it is recommended that group size be limited to pairs (ideally) or triads at most. Activities requiring larger group sizes should utilize text-based chat solutions like those found in Zoom.
  • The technologies recommended here should meet most campus accessibility requirements. However, you should check with the McBurney Disability Resources Center for guidance on any specific accommodations for your students.

Technical Documentation


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 226-231.

See Also:

Keywords:think-aloud pair problem-solving, problem-solving, active learning, remote instruction, physical distance   Doc ID:104148
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Remote Instruction
Created:2020-07-20 10:21 CDTUpdated:2021-06-29 10:01 CDT
Sites:Remote Instruction
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