My Best Lesson


Pippa Speed, D&T Team Leader shares a simple formula that maximises student learning.

My best lesson?

Really simple actually…  Think, Pair, Share

After our recent advisory subject inspection in Design and Technology by Ofsted inspector Peter Cox I received some excellent feedback on my lesson and started to realise that this very simple formula of Think, Pair, Share could work so well in so many subject areas that I had to share myself.

Think, Pair, Share is a structure first developed by Professor Frank Lyman at the University of Maryland in 1981 and adopted by many writers in the field of co-operative learning since then. It introduces into the peer interaction element of co-operative learning the idea of ‘wait or think’ time, which has been demonstrated to be a powerful factor in improving student responses to questions.

It is a simple strategy, effective from early childhood through all subsequent phases of education and beyond.

PURPOSE: Processing information, communication, developing thinking.

RELEVANT SKILLS: Sharing information, listening, asking questions, summarising others’ ideas, paraphrasing.


  1. Teacher poses a problem or asks an open-ended question to which there may be a variety of answers.
  2. Teacher gives the students ‘think time’ and directs them to think about the question.
  3. Following the ‘think time’ students turn to face their Learning Partner and work together, sharing ideas, discussing, clarifying and challenging.
  4. The pair then share their ideas with another pair, or with the whole class. It is important that students need to be able to share their partner’s ideas as well as their own.

Benefits to using this teaching technique…

Positive interdependence: The students are able to learn from each other Individual accountability: Students are accountable to each other for sharing ideas. The student may also be required to share their partner’s ideas to another pair or whole group.

Equal participation: Each student within the group has an equal opportunity to share. It is possible that one student may try to dominate. The teacher can check this does not happen.

Simultaneous interaction: High degrees of interaction. At any one moment all of the students will be actively engaged in purposeful speaking and listening. Compare this with the usual practice of teacher questioning where only one or two students would be actively engaged.


  • Before a lesson or topic to orient the class (previous knowledge etc).
  • During teacher modelling or explanation.
  • Any time, to check understanding of material.
  • At the end of a teacher explanation, demonstration etc., to enable students to cognitively process the material.
  •  To break up a long period of sustained activity.
  • Whenever it is helpful to share ideas.
  •  For clarification of instructions, rules of a game, homework etc.
  • For the beginning of a plenary session.


I often use this technique when asking students to think about the construction of an object whether it be made from food, textiles or resistant materials. Think, Pair, Share can be used in all curriculum areas and is limited only by the creativity of the teacher.

New Ofsted School Inspection Handbook: September 2012

Here is a copy of Ofsted’s new school inspection handbook (PDF) from September 2012.  Of particular note are pages 34 to 37 where updated guidelines are set out with regards to the quality of teaching, observing learning, observing learning over time and the grade descriptors from outstanding (1) to good (2) to requires improvement (3) and inadequate (4).

Has anything changed? Are there any additions or things taken out from the previous Ofsted literature?