Cognitive presence is central to successful student learning. The quality of cognitive presence reflects the quality and quantity of critical thinking, collaborative problem-solving, and construction of meaning occurring in student↔student and student↔faculty interactions. You can model and support cognitive presence in your interactions with students in discussions, assignment feedback, and other communications.
Cognitive presence is based on the iterative relationship between personal understanding and shared dialogue. Building on the work of John Dewey, Garrison proposed the Practical Inquiry Model. This model integrates these two aspects in a cycle beginning with a question or puzzle – called a triggering event – or just a general awareness that something isn’t making sense. The learner then explores the available information and alternatives to make sense of the problem and connects this new information to previously learned concepts. Finally, the learner takes action to solve the problem or answer the question based on their newly integrated understanding.
The overlap between cognitive presence and teaching presence, labeled “Regulating Learning” in the Community of Inquiry diagram on the first page of this module, focuses on the co-regulation of learning and metacognition by both the instructor and the students. Paz and Pereira (2015) found several categories within Regulating Learning including:
- Confirming understanding of tasks
- Assessing learning strategies and work processes and/or proposing corrections to those processes
- Reminding others of tasks and encouraging them to focus on or contribute to tasks, resources, and activities
- Helping with tasks, processes, or products of learning
- Managing the movement through learning phases or tasks
Students also exhibit some of these aspects as self-regulation and as co-regulation in groups.
Depending on the course and the instructor, the amount of learning regulation will vary. More self-directed graduate students will need less co-regulation than first-year undergraduate students. For example, effectively moderating online discussion is an important strategy for supporting cognitive presence. Moderating and modeling the way in which a beginner in the field should be thinking through a question, problem, or case may occur more often in undergraduate classes as the students begin to learn how to learn in the field. It is important to realize that simply interacting with others or with the content does not automatically translate into critical discourse or the integration of ideas into meaningful constructs (Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005).
Social presence is important especially at the beginning of the semester when students are getting to know and trust both you and one another. If students can make interpersonal connections with others, they are more likely to engage with the course and the content. Indicators of Social Presence include
- Affective responses such as expressing emotion and using humor
- Interactive responses such as continuing a discussion thread, referring to other students in a message or post, asking questions, and expressing agreement or appreciations
- Cohesive responses such as using other students’ names, using inclusive pronouns to refer to their group or class, and engaging in small talk
The overlap of social and teaching presence, labeled as “Setting Climate” in the Community of Inquiry diagram, includes critical aspects of building a positive learning environment. Parker and Harrington’s (2015) research indicates four main aspects.
- Creating a usable learning environment
- Building a positive rapport by using open, friendly communication, being approachable, and showing respect, courtesy, and patience
- Engendering a sense of belonging by addressing students by name, encouraging participation, and publicly or privately recognizing progress and achievement
- Promoting a sense of purpose by regularly monitoring student performance, providing constructive and timely feedback, and clearly articulating course goals,
Students also exhibit some of these aspects when working in groups. Behaviors such as monitoring each other’s progress and holding each other accountable for work quality and deadlines in groups sets the climate for their group. Effective group work also hinges on trust and comfort level with other students so building positive rapport and a sense of belonging is vital to setting group norms and participating in efficient collaboration.
In an online class, it is difficult but not impossible for students to get to know each other and you on a more personal level. Providing a space for students to introduce themselves to the class – preferably with video – is a good start to help students see each other as “real people” and not just a name on a screen. Students can record and embed videos of themselves in discussions and assignments within Canvas using Studio .
The content found here was designed by Indiana University and adapted for use by the Institute for Faculty Development at Vanguard University. This material is offered under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license and should be considered under this license unless otherwise noted. The original content was imported from “Designing and Teaching for Impact in Online Courses” from within Canvas Commons.