John Sullivan Notices Increase in Attendance and Class Spirit After Using Think-Pair-Share

Filed in engaging students in class by on January 17, 2016 0 Comments


In A-term 2015 I used the “think-pair-share” social learning strategy for my ES3001 Thermodynamics class with an enrollment circa 60.  Traditionally, I’d ask the class if they had any questions from last lecture.  If I’d get one hand raised, it would be a surprise.  This A-term, I displayed on the screen a book back-of-chapter question.  I asked the class to discuss the problem with their immediate neighbor and jointly come up with an answer.  I told them they were not being graded, other than being present (if even that).

The lecture hall was a raised auditorium style (HL116).  The activity and noise level rose as conversations increased.  Within about 5 minutes the noise level began to diminish.  I used that as the indicator that it was time to close the exercise.  Many groups then were happy to present their solutions to the problem.   Simply having the students pair up, discuss the problem and then propose a solution was incredibly well received.  The time commitment from start to finish never exceeded 10 minutes.

I used a similar tactic before exams.  I’d present a typical exam question.  Have them read it and think about it for 2 minutes only.  Then I’d pair them up (simply their adjacent student).  But I’d tell them the bell will ring in 4 minutes.  You don’t have time to finish the question before the exam period is over.  So HOW can you gain the most partial credit?  I’d have the pairs break down the problem – Identify the 1st law of thermodynamics, determine which terms were not significant, determine which energy modalities were most significant.  Within 5 minutes max. the entire class (in groups) were confident that they’d get at least 70% partial credit without doing any calculations.

I will continue to use these and other social learning strategies.  The attendance and spirit of the class was definitely uplifted from the norm.

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