ThinkAloud Pair ProblemSolving (ALC)
This KB document is part of a larger collection of documents on active learning activities that take place in Active Learning Classrooms (ALC). More Active Learning documents
Using ThinkAloud Pair ProblemSolving activity to facilitate problemsolving skills in Active Learning Classrooms
Instructor Prep Time  Medium 

Student Activity Time  Low 
Instructor Response Time  Low 
Complexity of Activity  Medium 
Description
ThinkAloud Pair ProblemSolving has student pairs receive a series of problems and are assigned specific roles that change with each question. The problemsolver thinks aloud about his/her problemsolving 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 problemsolving process and listen to another student's process,
 To increase students’ awareness of the range of problemsolving approaches, or
 To improve students' analytical skills by helping them formulate ideas, understand the sequence of steps underlying their thinking, and identify errors in reasoning.
What students will need
 No special requirements for this approach.
Workflow
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a ThinkAloud Pair ProblemSolving learning activity within an Active Learning Classroom.
PreClass
 Develop a set of fieldrelated problems that students can solve within a limited time frame. The topic should engage students in all stages of problemsolving 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.
InClass
 Ask students to form pairs at their tables.
 Explain to them the roles of problemsolver and listener. Problemsolvers read the problem aloud and talk through the reasoning process in attempting to solve the problem. Listeners encourage the problemsolver to think aloud, ask clarification questions, and offer suggestions but refrain from solving the problem.
 Ask students to solve a set of problems, alternating roles with each new problem.
 When each pair is done, each student shares their solution with the table using the same listener role. The table then agrees on one solution they will share with the class.
 End the activity.
 If your problems provide students with defined solutions (ex. a, b, c) consider Using Top Hat to Report Results from Group Activities. Discuss the results if groups identified different solutions.
 If solutions are more complex, call on one or two tables to present their findings. Ask the rest of the class if they had solutions that were not represented by the reporting groups.
 Review the students’ solutions to the problems they studied.
 Review the outcomes of the activity.
Accessibility and Room Considerations
 None
Technical Documentation
Examples
Example 1
In Developing Language Skills for International Students, the professor is teaching grammar skills to English as a Second Language (ESL) students. He uses the ThinkAloud Pair ProblemSolving approach to create an activity in which students use sentence diagramming to help them understand the relationship to the various parts of speech. First, he explains the process of diagramming. Next, he demonstrates the process by parsing and graphing several examples on the board. Finally, he has students work in pairs at their tables and gives each pair a set of sentences for them to the diagram. Students should talk out loud as they make decisions while their partner listens and offers suggestions when necessary. After they complete all sentences, they select one sentence, diagram it on the board, and share the process and rationale behind their solution with their table (Modified from Barkley 227228).
Example 2
In Introduction to Statistics, the professor has students review a video lecture on regression analysis before class. In class, she uses ThinkAloud Pair ProblemSolving to have students practice the process. She prepares a slide that includes problems and shares a spreadsheet of data. Students work in pairs at each table and use this data to solve ten problems. Students pair with the student next to them. She explains the roles of the problemsolver and the listener. The students work on the problems, alternating between roles until all ten problems are solved. She spends the remaining time in a wholeclass discussion to review the answers and clarify questions regarding the problemsolving process (Modified from Barkley 228229).
Citation/Source
Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 226231.