Understanding Teachers’ Cognitive Processes during Online Professional Learning: A Methodological Comparison

Pamela Beach, Dale Willows


This study examined the effectiveness of three types of think aloud methods for understanding elementary teachers’ cognitive processes as they used a professional development website. A methodology combining a retrospective think aloud procedure with screen capture technology (referred to as the virtual revisit) was compared with concurrent and retrospective think aloud procedures. Elementary teachers from a large metropolitan area were assigned to one of the three think aloud conditions (N = 45). Participants in the concurrent condition verbalized their thoughts while simultaneously navigating a professional development website for 20 minutes. Participants in the retrospective condition verbalized their thoughts following their 20-minute website navigation without any aids. Finally, participants in the virtual revisit condition verbalized their thoughts while viewing a screen recording of their website navigation. Think aloud protocols were analyzed to determine the frequency of cognitive processes verbalized by participants in each condition. The findings of this study indicated significant differences in the types of verbalizations produced by participants across the three think aloud conditions. In addition, findings reveal benefits and limitations of employing each type of think aloud method in the context of a professional development website.


online learning, teacher cognition, think aloud methodology, teacher professional development

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v21i1.949

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