Sparked by a Sparkshop: Rethinking Think-Pair-Share

By Kara Clevinger

Think-Pair-Share is an inclusive learning strategy that has evolved quite a bit since Frank Lyman first introduced it in 1981. Lyman’s approach was originally presented as Listen-Think-Pair-Share: students listen to a question posed by the instructor, take some time to think about it, pair up with a peer to discuss their answers, and then share out what they discussed to the full class. The goals were to encourage peer-to-peer interaction and greater class participation by giving students processing time, an opportunity to learn from each other, and more confidence to speak up in class.

Over the years, educators have shortened the approach to Think-Pair-Share and successfully adapted it in various ways. “Think” might be individual writing time and more like Write-Pair-Share. “Pair” might be adjusted to small group discussion or problem-solving. Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (1991) developed Formulate-Share-Listen-Create where students individually formulate their answers to a question, share with a peer, listen to their peer’s answer, and create a new answer that synthesizes the two responses. No doubt, Think-Pair-Share is an evidence-based practice and fan favorite for instructors seeking to increase student engagement.

But what about the “Share” part? Have educators reimagined how students share their responses beyond volunteering or being called on to report out what they discussed to the full class?

Enter Funmi Amobi, Ed.D., Instructional Consultant and College Liaison in the Center for Teaching and Learning, with her October 13 Sparkshop, Rethinking the share component of think-pair-share (TPS): Structure and alternatives. Drawing from current research, Funmi invites us to consider why it’s worth rethinking how students share their answers and responses from the Think-Pair-Share activity. Relying on volunteers to report out, Funmi notes, might perpetuate classroom inequities by “filter[ing] out certain voices and promot[ing] unrepresentative sampling of student thinking.” Calling on students might also “generate new forms of classroom inequities because of some students’ anxiety and fear of speaking in front of the class” (Amobi, 2023).

What are more inclusive alternatives to reporting out or calling on students for the share portion? Funmi suggests modifying the share by giving students the choice to be called on or not, having pairs combine to share their answers, or rotating students through other pairs to hear what more of their peers discussed. Other suggestions include using classroom polling, listening in to pairs and then synthesizing student discussions for the class, or having students asynchronously report out on a Canvas discussion board or shared doc/PowerPoint.

In my English and Writing classes, I have student pairs or small groups share out highlights from their discussion on the board, provided I have enough board space in the classroom. We can discuss similarities and differences as a class and I synthesize their responses onto a new board. Sometimes I’ll take pictures of their board work and post these to Canvas, especially if it’s ideas I want them to return to in an assignment or discussion board.

Additionally, having students use ChatGPT or another AI tool could be an interesting way to rethink the “Think” component. First, give students time to think about their answer to the question, next have them ask ChatGPT, and then pair them up with a peer to discuss. It’s a neat way to have students engage with AI as a brainstorming tool.

What new strategies from Funmi’s presentation might you adopt to create livelier, more inclusive sharing out in your classroom? Do you have other strategies you’re already using or want to use for Think-Pair-Share? Drop them in the comments below!

Mark your calendars for Funmi’s next Sparkshop! Promoting active student engagement through interteaching: Structure and tips on Friday, November 3, 12 to 12:20 p.m. Register now.


Amobi, F. (2023, October 13). Rethinking the share component of think-pair-share (TPS): Structure and alternatives. Oregon State University.

Cooper, K.M., Schinske, J.N., & Tanner, K.D. (2021). Reconsidering the share of a think–pair–Share: Emerging limitations, alternatives. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 20(1), 1-10.

Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., & Smith, K.A. (1991). Active learning: Cooperation in the college classroom. Interaction Book Company.

Lyman, F. (1981). The responsive classroom discussion: The inclusion of all students. Mainstreaming Digest, 109-113.

About the author: Kara Clevinger, Ph.D., is Assistant Director of Pedagogical Support and Development in the Center for Teaching and Learning and has used variations of Think-Pair-Share to engage students in her English and Writing classes.

Image: Thinking about Think-Pair-Share by Derek Bruff. Agile Learning.

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