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Facilitating Think/Pair/Share active learning activities in physically-distanced learning spaces

Time and Effort

Instructor Prep TimeLow
Student Activity TimeLow
Instructor Response TimeLow
Complexity of ActivityLow


Think/Pair/Share poses a question, asks students to reflect on the question, and has them share their ideas with others. Think has students reflect on their responses to the question before speaking to organize their thoughts. Pair and Share ask students to compare and contrast their thoughts with a small group (often a single partner) and rehearse their responses before sharing with a larger group or whole class.


Use it when you want...

  • To create an opportunity for students to listen to and practice comments with a peer,
  • To increases students’ willingness and readiness to speak in a larger group,
  • To improve the quality of students’ contributions, or
  • To engage students in a warm-up activity before a whole-class discussion.

What students will need


The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Think/Pair/Share active learning activity within a classroom with a physical distancing layout.


  • Identify an engaging question or problem that has many potential responses. Try responding to the question yourself.
  • Decide how you are going to present the question (e.g., verbally, worksheet, presentation slide, or whiteboard) and how or if students will report results out to the whole class.
  • Prepare technology solutions to be leveraged in the classroom.


  • The instructor directs students to move to a seat next to another student (using only assigned seat locations).
  • The instructor poses the question to the class. Gives students time to think and often write about the question and devise individual responses.
  • Students are asked to pair up with another student nearby.
    • Option 1: Students speak with one another across the empty seats.
    • Option 2: Students use their laptops or mobile phone and use Google Docs to share their thoughts with their partners.
    • Option 3: Students use their laptops or mobile phones and use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra breakout rooms to share their thoughts with their partners using the Chat feature. Note: Breakout groups are only available in sessions with 250 or fewer attendees. You can create up to 20 breakout rooms. There is no limit to the number of attendees you can put in each group.
  • Student A is asked to share his/her responses with Student B. Student B shares his/her ideas with Student A. If the two students disagree, they clarify their positions so they are ready to explain their differences.
  • In some cases, each pair of students creates a joint response by building on each other’s ideas.
  • Students share responses in larger class discussion.
    • Option 1: Students remain in their seats and share their responses (making sure they speak loudly enough for all students to hear).
    • Option 2: Students use the Top Hat discussion question type to share their positions with the class while remaining in their seats.
    • Option 3: The instructor displays the Google Docs document on the screen and facilitates a discussion while students remain in their seats.
  • The instructor reviews and synthesizes the results — drawing conclusions from the activity or using results to guide another activity in response.


  • The instructor or students review the outcomes of the activity and post a response.

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 Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.
  • 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 Documents

Video Examples


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 153-158.

See Also:

Keywords:active learning, think/pair/share, learning spaces, activities   Doc ID:103870
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Remote Instruction
Created:2020-07-10 12:59 CDTUpdated:2020-10-30 13:44 CDT
Sites:Remote Instruction
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