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Using Think-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving activity to facilitate problem-solving skills in Active Learning Classrooms
Time and Effort
|Instructor Prep Time||Medium|
|Student Activity Time||Low|
|Instructor Response Time||Low|
|Complexity of Activity||Medium|
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 student'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 reasoning.
What students will need
- No special requirements for this approach.
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Think-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving learning activity within an Active Learning Classroom.
- 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.
- Ask students to form pairs at their tables.
- 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, 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) use Top Hat and have groups report their solutions. 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
In Developing Language Skills for International Students, the professor is teaching grammar skills to English as a Second Language (ESL) students. He uses the Think-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving 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 227-228).
In Introduction to Statistics, the professor has students review a video lecture on regression analysis before class. In class, she uses Think-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving 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 problem-solver 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 whole-class discussion to review the answers and clarify questions regarding the problem-solving process (Modified from Barkley 228-229).
Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 226-231.