Think-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving (classroom)

Active learning

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Using Think-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving activity to facilitate problem-solving in a classroom

Time and Effort
Instructor Prep Time Medium
Student Activity Time Low
Instructor Response Time Medium
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’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 another's 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 a 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.
  • 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.
  • End the activity when students have solved all problems.
  • Review the students’ solutions to the problems they studied.
  • Review the outcomes of the activity.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • None

Technical Documentation

  • None


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 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 form pairs 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 the class (Barkley 227-228).

Example 2

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 handing that includes problems with an attached printout of data. Students 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 (Barkley 228-229).


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 226-231.

See Also:

Keywords:think-aloud, pair, problem-solving, active learning   Doc ID:104148
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
Created:2020-07-20 10:21 CDTUpdated:2022-12-21 10:14 CDT
Sites:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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