Reflecting on the think‐aloud method for evaluating e‐learning

University of Plymouth, Plymouth, England, United Kingdom
British Journal of Educational Technology (Impact Factor: 1.54). 11/2005; 37(1):45 - 54. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2005.00521.x


E-learning is increasingly being used in higher education settings, yet research examining how students use e-resources is frequently limited. Some previous studies have used the think-aloud method (an approach with origins in cognitive psychology) as an alternative to the more usual questionnaire or focus groups, but there is little discussion in the educational literature about the advantages and disadvantages of this approach. In this paper, we discuss our experience of using the think-aloud method in a recent study, and we reflect on its potential contribution as a research method. A number of concerns about the method arose during our study, including the level of guidance given to participants, observer influence, and the complexity of data analysis. We conclude, however, that the richness of the data collected outweighs these constraints, and that the think-aloud method has the potential to enhance research in this field.

Download full-text


Available from: Debby R E Cotton, Oct 01, 2015
169 Reads
  • Source
    • "Some scholars argue that thinking aloud while performing tasks may feel unnatural and thus may threaten test validity by altering what participants say and do [4]. Others contend that CTA protocol produces data mainly relating to descriptions of actions and procedures and does not yield more detailed explanatory data which usability evaluators often need to collect [5]. "
    • "Following the initial meeting, the first author drafted a provisional list of 118 individual items to assess fully these nine areas. These items were comprehensively debated and discussed by the ART using concurrent think-aloud procedures (Cotton and Gresty 2006; Banning 2008). The pilot questionnaire was devised using established methods of questionnaire construction. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Clinical educators play an important role in the development of clinical skills during health care undergraduates’ practice placements. The supportiveness of the learning environment and the attitude of the clinical educator towards student development are considered to be important factors that impact upon practice placement experience, although these influences are multi-factorial. This pilot study is the first phase of an action research project exploring practice placements in podiatry. The aim of this pilot study is to develop a scale to measure podiatrists’ capacity to engage in clinical education using criteria considered to contribute to overall clinical educator capability. An online survey consisting of 74 questions was developed and clinical educators from the podiatry services of 25 English National Health Service (NHS) Trusts were targeted. There was a 66 per cent response rate to the survey. Item–total correlations were calculated and nine subscales identified, all with Cronbach’s alpha coefficients above 0.7. The scale can be used to explore the factors that influence podiatrists’ capacity to engage with clinical education. It may also be utilised in the recognition and prediction of other potential variables that influence clinical educators’ capacity to undertake the role. This may therefore be used to identify support and training requirements. The scale could be adapted for application to other health care professions.
    Journal of Further and Higher Education 03/2015; 39(2). DOI:10.1080/0309877X.2013.817006 · 0.59 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "The think-aloud method seemed to work as an effective way to gain access to the nurses' cognitive processes used in their clinical reasoning. However, observation might have an effect on behaviour and there could be a risk that they may say what they think we want them to say instead of reporting what they really think (Cotton and Gretsy, 2006). Even if only tape recording was used and not video recordings, some RNs were a bit hesitant at the start of the VP encounters, maybe because they thought that they were being tested on their skills. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In health-care education, it is important to assess the competencies that are essential for the professional role. To develop clinical reasoning skills is crucial for nursing practice and therefore an important learning outcome in nursing education programmes. Virtual patients (VPs) are interactive computer simulations of real-life clinical scenarios and have been suggested for use not only for learning, but also for assessment of clinical reasoning. The aim of this study was to investigate how experienced paediatric nurses reason regarding complex VP cases and how they make clinical decisions. The study was also aimed to give information about possible issues that should be assessed in clinical reasoning exams for post-graduate students in diploma specialist paediatric nursing education. The information from this study is believed to be of high value when developing scoring and grading models for a VP-based examination for the specialist diploma in paediatric nursing education. Using the think-aloud method, data were collected from 30 RNs working in Swedish paediatric departments, and child or school health-care centres. Content analysis was used to analyse the data. The results indicate that experienced nurses try to consolidate their hypotheses by seeing a pattern and judging the value of signs, symptoms, physical examinations, laboratory tests and radiology. They show high specific competence but earlier experience of similar cases was also of importance for the decision making. The nurses thought it was an innovative assessment focusing on clinical reasoning and clinical decision making. They thought it was an enjoyable way to be assessed and that all three main issues could be assessed using VPs. In conclusion, VPs seem to be a possible model for assessing the clinical reasoning process and clinical decision making, but how to score and grade such exams needs further research.
    Nurse education today 07/2013; 34(4). DOI:10.1016/j.nedt.2013.07.010 · 1.36 Impact Factor
Show more