Using pair share for group work practice

group work practiceI’m a big fan of the core facilitation technique pair share. After pairing up participants and providing a short time for thinking about a topic or question, each pair member takes a minute or so, in turn, to share their thoughts with their partner. I use pair share regularly to move participants’ brains into active learning, introduce them to someone new, and share relevant ideas and information about what we’re currently exploring together. But there’s always more for me to learn. Last week, a client pointed out that we can use pair share for group work practice too!

Rachel and I were preparing for another core facilitation technique I use at the start of meetings: The Three Questions. Participants think about their answers to the questions and then share their answers, in turn, with the group. We were reviewing Rachel’s outline and I came across an addition to the process.

“Practice Round (3 minutes). Now, turn to the person next to you and in 60 seconds or less, share your answers. Ask for feedback.”

Rachel had added a pair share to allow all participants to practice their answers before sharing with the entire group.

I immediately loved and saw the value of her idea!

I devised The Three Questions thirty years ago and have run it hundreds of times, but I’d never considered this improvement. Though I mention common slip-ups to participants, such as spending too long on the first question, they sometimes still occur. Allowing everyone to practice their answers with one other person before group sharing is a simple and effective way to help each participant:

  • Feel more confident about their answers;
  • Get personal feedback; and
  • Provide better answers to the group.


I will be adding Rachel’s small but valuable improvement to my future sessions of The Three Questions. As a proponent of lifelong learning, I’m happy to use observations, feedback, and trying new things to continually refine what I do. A generous hat tip to Rachel LaForgia, Senior Program Director of the Peace and Security Funders Group, for sharing this simple application of pair share for group work practice with me!

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