What are users thinking in a virtual world lesson? Using stimulated recall interviews to report student cognition, and its triggers

Lyn Henderson, Michael Henderson, Scott Grant, Hui Huang


Stimulated recall is an empirically rigorous introspection data collection tool that allows the interviewer to elicit, identify and explore participants’ thinking. In this study it was used to identify the types of thinking skills and strategies employed by first year university students engaged in a Chinese language and culture lesson in Second Life. A valuable affordance of this technique is the ability to account for stimuli from both the virtual and physical environments, thus strengthening the researchers’ claims about the relationship between thinking and instructional design. This was accomplished through the use of screen capture software to record both the avatar’s on-screen activity in Second Life as well as the face of the participant (via the web camera). This data was then used during the interview, within strict methodological protocols, to stimulate participants’ recall of their thinking at the time of doing the activity. The value of stimulated recall over other introspection tools, within the context of this study, is discussed. In addition, methodological concerns, especially those relating to reliability and validity of data, are outlined in this article and data from the study is used to explicate strategies to minimize those concerns.


Stimulated recall; Introspective process tracing methodology; Second Life; Virtual World; Thinking skills; Think aloud; language acquisition; education; tertiary

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4101/jvwr.v3i1.823

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