Throughout the last couple of weeks, my research question and sub-questions changed. Now, my main research question is:  What might an online virtual leadership program look like for managers and supervisors who work in smaller municipalities in Ontario? My three sub questions include (a) How might the COI framework be incorporated within the virtual leadership training program? (b) What are the best practices related to online teaching methods that might be used in a virtual leadership training program and what criteria might be used to select them? and (c) What are the best practices in terms of instructional design and the instructional design process that might be used in the development of a virtual leadership program?

The theoretical framework for my research proposal is social constructivism. Social constructivism approaches education from the perspective that students create their own knowledge through interaction, collaboration and dialogue with others. It encompasses three elements which include scaffolding of information, the Zone of Proximal Development, and the co-creation of knowledge through interactions with peers and mentors. Firstly, the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is the variance between what a student can accomplish on her own based on her specific cognitive abilities versus what she can achieve through problem solving with mentors, more capable peers and/or teacher guidance (Chandler & Teckchandani, 2015; Barak, 2017). ZPD allows those students who are more knowledgeable on a topic to share their perspectives which in turn allows others who may not have the same knowledge to consider a different point of view.

Secondly, scaffolding of information occurs through group work, instructor led assignments and dialogue among the group. In its simplest form, students’ pair new information from group work, assignments and dialogue with existing knowledge or personal experiences and the new information is then stored in a student’s memory for access at a later date (Chandler & Teckchandani, 2015 p. 333). Scaffolding is an element of social constructivism that supports students to obtain and retain new perspectives and information.

Thirdly, students co-create knowledge when they are actively engaged in dialogue and interactions with each other as well as the instructor. The co-creation of knowledge lends itself to augment cognitive development between community members through group dissonance as students are required to work together to make sense of their world and to consider the perspectives of others (Kleinsasser & Hong, 2016). A difference of opinion in a group allows for each individual to share their perspective on a subject. It highlights the fact that knowledge creation occurs through all different types of viewpoints, content and interactions.

In a social constructivist approach, the instructor’s role is pivotal to student outcomes. The instructor creates opportunities and activities for students to learn from each other, scaffolds information and promotes the co-creation of knowledge within the group. The instructor guides student learning through group interactions and student reflection.

Social constructivism is an appropriate choice as a theoretical framework as my research questions are related to instructional design and teaching methods. Social constructivism is focused on the learner creating knowledge rather than the facilitator providing the knowledge to learners. Best practices related to methods of teaching and instructional design may be linked to social constructivism. In addition, I’m interested in how the COI framework might be incorporated in a virtual leadership program. Social constructivism involves interaction, collaboration and dialogue and the COI framework is focused on social, teaching and cognitive presence which involves collaboration and interaction with others.  Social constructivism will be used as a springboard for my research. I’m interested to determine if any of the literature aligns with this theoretical framework.


Barak, M. (2017). Science teacher education in the twenty-first century: A pedagogical framework for technology-integrated social constructivism. Research in Science Education, 47(2), 283–303.

Chandler, J. D., & Teckchandani, A. (2015). Using social constructivist pedagogy to implement liberal learning in business education. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 13(3), 327–348.

Kleinsasser, R., & Hong, Y. C. (2016). Online group work design: Processes, complexities, and intricacies. TechTrends, 60(6), 569–576.