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Think, Pair, Share: More Engaging Class Discussions

Think, Pair, Share: More Engaging Class Discussions

Does getting your students to participate in class discussions feel like pulling teeth? Have you ever struggled leading a class discussion?

entrepreneurship lesson plans

We’ve discussed before how to inspire the entrepreneurial mindset in your students but most of us struggle with engaging all of their students, especially during in-class discussions.

Some students are naturally involved in classroom discussions, while for others, the call for participation can lead to dropped gazes, hunched postures, and impenetrable silence. Why?

Students don’t feel safe.

We’ve all been in group situations where we’ve been called to participate and we are reluctant to share. Think about the last conference you attended, where the presenter asked for volunteers. Or the last meeting you attended where you were asked to share your thoughts.

Just like us, our students sometimes don’t feel confident that what they have to share will benefit the class or worry about how they will be perceived. When that happens, the glassy stares and stony faces of our students can leave us feeling frustrated and disheartened. Not only that, but without a game plan, a few disengaged students can hinder the engagement for our entire classroom.

With the Think, Pair, Share process, we’ll show you how to bypass what stops your students from participating and deepen their commitment to showing up 100% in your course. Specifically, we’ll help you flip the script on how you facilitate discussions, so students feel confident and safe participating in your discussion. This results in a livelier classroom. 

entrepreneurial lesson plans

3 Steps to Lively Class Discussions

An engaged discussion with your students starts with you as the instructor and how well you prepare to promote the exchange of diverse ideas. Imagine you want to have a discussion where students come up with a business to start on campus or to discuss last night’s reading.

If you start off your discussion with a generic question about the main takeaway from the reading, you’ll likely have your usual suspects raise their hands to share their thoughts. The rest of your class may keep their heads down hoping you won’t call on them. Instead of just jumping into a group discussion, try this 3-step process and see how it improves the engagement of your entire class.

Step 1: Think

Rather than announcing that you’d like your class to discuss a topic, you’ll start by telling your students you’d like them to reflect on what they read last night. For example, ask them to come up with 1-2 takeaways from last night’s reading and write them down. Tell them you will give them 1-2 minutes to think about this.

Tell the students they are going to have a specified amount of time to reflect on the topic for discussion and encourage them to write down their thoughts. 

It’s important to keep this reflection time quiet and discourage any conversation so each student has a chance to reflect on their own.

Step 2: Pair

Once you’ve given the students adequate time to reflect and organize their thoughts on the topic, connect them with a partner give them 2-3 minutes each to share their thoughts. 

The Pair step is fundamental to the process’ success because:

  1. Sharing with a partner is less intimidating than speaking in front of the entire class.
  2. It gives the students practice putting their ideas into words and clarify their thoughts.
  3. It gives the students validation as they discover what they have to say is well-received and makes sense to someone else.
  4. (BONUS) As soon as you’ve created your pairs, you’ll notice that your entire class is instantly engaged.
Make sure the students understand how much time each of them will have to share their ideas and remind them to switch roles halfway through.

Step 3: Share

Now that your students have finished with their partner, it’s time for the main event. In this step, you’ll find that your students feel safer participating with the entire class because they’ve practiced sharing their thoughts which were validated by their partner. In addition to sharing their own ideas, they may be inspired to share their partner’s thoughts.

Invite the students to share their thoughts on the subject with the entire class. There are a few sharing options that you can utilize, depending on what feels right for you and the energy of your class:

  • Ask them to raise their hands to share their thoughts
  • Invite them to spontaneously shout out their thoughts, sometimes with leading questions (à la popcorn style)
  • Use technology like a mindmapping tool to organize their different ideas
A sharing option for one class may not work for another. It’s important to practice different sharing options to find what will work best for a specific class.

Key Takeaways

Because students are given space to ease into discussions with this process, you’ll find that the majority of your students will begin to participate easily and quickly.

Through these steps, students will gain clarity and confidence in expressing their ideas on any given topic. Use this technique not just for discussion-leading, but for:

  • Coming up with business ideas
  • Brainstorming solutions for problems
  • Discussing why some solutions fail and some don’t
Anytime you want your students to share thoughts, use Think, Pair, Share to boost student engagement. 

This will also help them prepare for speaking and presenting beyond the classroom and into a workplace setting. 

As the instructor, you’ll get more engaged students and lively classroom discussions.

Get the “Think, Pair, Share” Worksheet

We’ve created a detailed “Think, Pair, Share” worksheet. This exercise walks you through the process of facilitating a successful group discussion step-by-step and gives you the tools to assess and evaluate what works well for any particular class.

Get the Worksheet

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.

We’ve incorporated Think, Pair, Share into several of the exercises that are in our fully experiential curriculum. If you’d like to see how Think, Pair, Share is leveraged in a structured lesson, click to learn more.

Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

    Back to Back Winners at USASBE 2020

    Back to Back Winners at USASBE 2020

    At this year’s USASBE conference, we were incredibly humbled to win the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises Awards again, this time with our Lottery Ticket Dilemma lesson plan!

    Winning the 3E competition is the highest achievement an entrepreneurship exercise designer can win – we like to think of it as the Super Bowl for entrepreneurial pedagogy nerds (that’s us!).

    We were privileged to have 4 out of the 10 exercises selected for the awards, including our popular 60 Minute MVP lesson plan which was a finalist and has recently been published in the Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy Journal. Slides for all of these lessons are available below.

    One of our founders, Doan Winkel, became President-Elect of USASBE. We look forward to his leadership of this great organization.
    Educational Materials

    In addition to our annual happy hour, we hosted our first-ever Innovator’s dinner.

    Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

    This definitely was our favorite conference yet. USASBE gives us a space to share and learn. We came away from the conference reinvigorated to continue improving our product to provide you and your students even more value.

    This year we:

    • Hosted our annual happy hour and first Innovator’s dinner
    • Ran six sessions, featuring experiential entrepreneurship exercises from our ExEC curriculum
    • And the pièce de résistance…
    We won the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises (3E) competition again!
    Teaching Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans
    Winning this award has validated we are on the right track when it comes to creating truly innovative entrepreneurship programs.

    After winning the 3E competition, we were delighted to join our fellow educators at the USASBE Gala.

    Thanks to your engagement in our events, we had a fantastic conversation that covered:

    • what we wish for our students and entrepreneurship education as a whole,
    • what we wish for ourselves as entrepreneurship educators,
    • the barriers to creating engaging curriculum
    • how to make entrepreneurial skills accessible to all students

    We had a wonderful time hosting happy hour as well as our inaugural Innovator’s dinner on Friday night. It was wonderful connect with other educator’s with an aligned vision and we enjoyed demoing our financial simulator:

    Education Lesson Plans
    Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

    As always, thank you for supporting us, challenging us, and for sharing our passion for engaging students everywhere.

    New Orleans was an amazing host, but we’re already planning for next year’s USASBE conference in Los Angeles. We hope you join us!

    Entrepreneurship Education Online
    If you want access to our slides from USASBE, you can access them here.
    Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans
    2019’s Most Popular Lesson Plans

    2019’s Most Popular Lesson Plans

    “This approach to learning is just what students need.” – Eric Liguori, Rowan University

    From enabling students to discover ideas that are meaningful to them to improving customer interviews, we design lesson plans to enhance engagement and improve skill-building. The following are our 5 most popular lesson plans from 2019 to transform your students’ experience as they practice generating ideas, interviewing customers, identifying early adopters, and validating assumptions.

    5. Increase the Quality of Your Student’s Ideas

    One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurship professors tell us is inspiring students to come up with ideas that are impactful or solution-centered. 

    How do you get your students to focus on problems, not products?

    So often, students are attracted to low-impact products without a clear idea of who their customer is, much less why they would want to buy into the idea. We want them to understand that customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems.

    Student Idea Generation Lesson

    The Student Idea Generation lesson plan sparks your student’s idea generation so they can identify what problems they want to solve. 

    Rather than leading a brainstorming session in which students develop business ideas on their own (which can result in unactionable ideas), the Student Idea Generation lesson plan:

    • Instructs students how to pinpoint the customers they’re passionate about helping
    • Leads the students to identify the biggest challenges or problems they want to solve for these groups

    In this lesson plan, students first discover the customers they are passionate about helping and the problems/emotions they want to help them with. Students then determine solutions they can use to create a successful business.

    After this lesson, your students’ ideas will be:

    • More focused because they’ve identified the specific group they want to help
    • More practical because they’ll be solution-focused
    • More innovative because they’re inspired to solve problems

    View Idea Generation Lesson Plan

    4. Transform Your Student’s Customer Interviews

    Nothing can make some students more uncomfortable than not knowing what to ask during customer interviews.

    A number of factors make a student wary of conducting customer interviews, including:

    • Talking to strangers gives them anxiety
    • They’re nervous because they’ve never conducted an interview and want to get it right
    • They don’t understand the benefit of interviews in the first place

    Because customer interviewing is so critical to building solutions people want, customer interviews are an integral part of the entrepreneurship curriculum. We designed the Customer Interview lesson plan to eliminate the barriers students have around performing customer interviews.

    This comprehensive lesson plan includes materials to prep before class, and step-by-step instructions for leading the lesson. After the lesson, students will walk away understanding:

    • Their role in the interview
    • What makes a successful interview
    • Preparation for real customer interviews
    • Specific interview questions

    The benefits of this lesson plan are two-fold:

    • Takes the guesswork out of customer interviews for the students 
    • Minimizes preparation for the instructor

    Get the “How to Interview Customers” Lesson Plan

    3. Experiential Exercise for Teaching About Early Adopters

    Another problem professors shared is teaching students how to identify early adopters. Early adopters are vital for the success of any product or service, but students often struggle in understanding the concept of an early adopter.

    Students understand the definition of Early Adopters easier if they’re led through this experiential exercise.
    Identifying Early Adopters Experiential Exercise

    The Finding Early Adopters lesson plan features a mechanical pencil challenge that introduces the concept of an early adopter and contrasts it with early majority and late majority customers. This exercise also demonstrates where and how to find early adopters.

    This exercise was a finalist in the prestigious 2019 USASBE 3E Competition, which recognizes the best experiential entrepreneurship exercises at the USASBE Annual Conference.

    After this lesson plan, students will be able to answer:

    • Who is the target for customer interviews?
    • How and where to find the best prospects for customer interviews?

    View the Finding Early Adopters Lesson Plan

    2. Coaching for Entrepreneurship Students

    While valuable, team projects can be a source of great anxiety for students. Many students working in teams:

    • Worry about their final grade
    • Fall behind with the coursework or understanding of the content
    • Are bored because their team has surpassed other teams’ progress

    Team projects can be problematic for professors to successfully meet students’ diverse needs. The How to Coach Your Students lesson plan provides a differentiated learning experience using individual team coaching sessions that provides a positive and productive team experience for all students.

    Popular Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans
    Individual coaching sessions allow students to quantify the skills they’ve built and identify next steps.

    Similar to a daily stand-up approach to scrum meetings, this lesson walks you step-by-step through a process to perform a Stand-Up Coaching session in 1 of 2 ways and discusses the pros and cons of each technique:

    • Coaching through simulation
    • Private team coaching

    After this lesson, students will:

    • Shift from searching for the right answer to asking the right questions
    • Focus on learning rather than earning a specific grade
    • Feel better equipped to prepare for their final presentation

    View the “Coach Your Students” Lesson Plan

    1. The True Meaning of Minimum Viable Product

    The 60 Minute MVP remains one of our most popular lesson plans. During this hour-long experience, students launch an MVP website, with an animated video and a way to take pre-orders, without any prior coding experience. 

    “One student described it as like a Navy Seal mental training exercise. Not sure it was that intense, but they were amazed and proud that they got it done.” –  ExEC Curriculum Professor
    Minimum Viable Product Experiential Exercise

    This class is the ultimate combination of engagement and skill-building as the students navigate each task. On the lesson plan page, you can view an example of a video students created based on actual customer problems in about 20 minutes.

    After this class, your students will understand:

    • The true meaning of Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
    • It’s easier to launch a product than they assume
    • Launching a product lays the foundation for their entire business

    View 60 Minute MVP Lesson Plan

    Bonus: The Power of Customer Observations

    In addition to teaching customer interviewing techniques, we developed a Teaching Customer Observations lesson plan because it helps solidify the student’s understanding of the importance of understanding their customer’s problems. In this lesson plan, students experience first-hand the value of seeing how their customers experience problems rather than just imagining certain scenarios.

    Customer Observations Lesson Plan

    The goal of this lesson is to teach students to have a clear picture of their customer’s problems before they try to come up with a solution. 

    After this class, students will understand

    • The value of observing customer behavior rather than trying to predict it
    • How to listen with their eyes to improve empathy for what their customers value and care about

    In addition to the positive feedback we’ve received from the community using this exercise,

    this lesson won first place in the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises Awards at the USASBE 2019 Annual Conference!

    View Teaching Customer Observations Lesson Plan

    Want an Experiential + Structured Curriculum?

    If you’re looking for a comprehensive, tested, experiential entrepreneurship curriculum to use next semester, that fully engages your students, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

    Check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum and we’ll get you set up!

    Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

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