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Collaborative problem-solving strategy that allows learners to work in pairs to solve a series of given problems. One person plays the role of Problem Solver and verbalizes his/her solution to another learner playing the role of Listener. Problem Solver’s task consists in articulating all ideas he/she is thinking about, while the Listener must follow all the steps and concentrate in understanding the Problem Solver’s thoughts and catching his/her errors. The Listener can ask the Problem Solver for clarification but is not allowed to correct his/her errors or to give suggestions.

The roles of Problem Solver and Listener should switch with each problem in order to give the participants the opportunity to learn the skills related to both roles.

TAPPS should encourage the development of analytical reasoning skills, since learners are obliged to examine and clarify their ideas in the light of another person’s perspective. [1]

Toolkit.png Conducting a Thinking-Aloud-Pair session

Step by Step

  1. Let the participants pair off.
  2. Give a list of problems to solve to each pair.
  3. In each pair, assign the role of “Listener” and the role of “Problem Solver”.
  4. Explain the participants how to play both roles: the Problem Solver should make the effort of explaining his solution in a clear way and the Listener should follow each step and ask for clarification if needed. The Lister is not allowed to help the Problem Solver to correct his/her mistakes.
  5. Let the participants switch their roles with each new problem.
  6. Be aware that the role of Listener is crucial.

Listener's role

  • Listen carefully to the Problem Solver.
  • If needed, ask the Problem Solver to repeat statements or to speak slower.
  • Encourage the Problem Solver to verbalize his/her thoughts (e.g. ask “What are you thinking?”).
  • Ask the Problem Solver to clarify his/her ideas (e.g. ask “Can you add more on this concept?” or “What do you mean?”).
  • Avoid giving suggestions.
  • Avoid solving the problem in your own way.
  • Avoid correcting Problem Solver’s errors. [2]

Job Aid

Pdf.png Conducting a Thinking-Aloud-Pair session


  1. (2 September 2009) (2 September 2009), (2 September 2009)