Do you use think-pair-share in your classes? Are you doing it right?
Recently, I (virtually) saw Eric Mazur speak on Peer Instruction, his teaching technique that incorporates a variation of traditional think-pair-share (Mazur, 1997). This reminded me of key aspects of think-pair-share that I had either forgotten or haven’t always implemented. Thinking back to my experience as a student, I think instructors often miss key aspects of think-pair-share, reducing its effectiveness.
You may be thinking, “Really? Isn’t the process fully explained in the name?”
Sort of, but there is surprising nuance involved in well-executed think-pair-share, especially the highly effective version used in Peer Instruction.
Because experimental research in teaching and learning is a difficult undertaking (especially in actual classrooms rather than the laboratory), we lack evidence-based guidance for some aspects of our teaching. Where evidence does exist though, I strive to incorporate it into my practice. So what happens when I realize that my evidence-based practice is based on (apparently) fabricated data? First, I take a moment to appreciate the irony that the alleged fabrication was in a study of honesty.
Okay, like all things, this is more nuanced. When this question is posed, the intended point is often that students should be engaged in higher-order learning rather than spending all of their time memorizing disconnected facts. I generally agree with this sentiment, but in order to engage in higher-order learning, students need a solid grasp of the relevant facts and how they are related. In some ways this is obvious, but other reasons behind this may surprise you.
If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know I’m a big fan of applying cognitive psychology in my teaching. I’m a strong proponent of teaching students to use effective learning strategies, especially retrieval practice and distributed practice. I give a talk on the topic, often as a guest lecture. About a year ago, I recorded a video version of this talk, aimed at students. Please enjoy and share as you see fit.