Using Thinking Aloud Strategies to Create Equity in Distance Learning

Student learning online
Member Exclusive

By Prof. Dr. Eugene Allevato
Woodbury University



In education, equity means to ensure that every student has an equal chance for success based on their specific needs. Due to the recent pandemic, the transition to distance learning has caused the achievement gap to widen requiring new tools and strategies to reduce barriers, especially to underrepresented groups. Think aloud is a strategy that enhances student’s comprehension and intellectual growth by removing these barriers. By expressing one's thoughts while reading, students develop their reading skills because they can acquire information from what they read, add to their knowledge, enlarge their way of thinking and reasoning to advance toward academic excellence. In addition, this strategy provides a better way to assess students’ learning.

Before the pandemic, considering that social interaction is fundamental in the learning process, I was not in favor of online instruction because I thought that physical proximity was necessary for engagement and learning. Once I was forced to transition to virtual instruction and adapt to new technology and different tools, I realized the significance of online instruction. In fact, distance learning implementation, has the potential to cause disengagement and disconnect between teachers and students, due to the perceived lack of communication, physical contact, socio-economic inequity and the technology challenges. According to Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), more than 4.4 million students in grades 3-8 performed 5 to 10 percentile points lower in math for the fall 2020 school year, compared to their peers in fall 2019. In addition, researchers at NWEA believe that they may be underestimating the results for underrepresented and disadvantaged groups. On the other hand, if distance learning instruction is properly designed, online activities may encourage participation and peer-to-peer collaboration, depending on the instruction model and utilization of various forms of online resources. According to Garrison and Archer’s Handbook of distance education, students learn better and are more satisfied in online courses with consistent social, teaching, and cognitive presence, independent of the instruction delivery. The think aloud strategy explores all three dimensions and develops critical and reflective thinking.

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