Having spent many years as a K-12 educator, I now work as an Edtech Trainer with a company that provides learning management systems to K-12, Higher Ed, and business sectors. For this assignment, I will focus on incorporating the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework into training sessions that I facilitate with K-12 teachers that occur in three, synchronous, two-hour-long sessions. The CoI model integrates three core elements: teacher presence, social presence, and cognitive presence (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000).
Teaching presence is the “binding element” to facilitating a successful CoI (Garrison et al., 2000, p. 96). Instructors (facilitators) first need to establish a clear agenda and structure for the session to assist learners to engage in cognitive presence (“Online Discussions: Tips for Instructors”, n.d., para. 12). A clear agenda includes what Bull (2013) refers to as valve control, a necessary “regulation of the amount of content [to be] covered” (Garrison et al., 2000, p. 96). Secondly, Vaughan et al. (2000) encourage the instructor “to be real and affective”, encouraging a community of learners, whereby the facilitator is not only what Bull (2013) refers to as a co-learner, but also a tour-guide that is appropriately responsive to the group’s learning dynamics (p. 57). Garrison et al. (2000) posit that “facilitation is necessary to set in motion the inquiry dynamics, but direct instruction may be employed where facilitation of discourse no longer moves the inquiry to integration and resolution” (p. 55). Lastly, providing a summary of learning and discussions helps learners to frame the content and prepare for the next session (Vaughan et al., 2013, pp. 55, 59).
An effective online learning experience creates the space for virtual introductions at the outset of the development of the Community (Vaughan et al., 2013, p. 50). Garrison et al. (2000) define social presence “as the ability of participants in the CoI to project their personal characteristics into the community” (p. 89). A vital role of the instructor is to encourage reflective questions, to create opportunities for the Community to interact; however, if there is not social presence of learners, questions will not be as dynamic or reflective of all voices in the Community.
A CoI functions optimally when group norms and learning outcomes are shared at the outset (Vaughan, 2013, p. 50). A scaffolded model of learning (also shared as an element of teaching presence) can ease learner-anxiety about the cognitive load or content, setting the stage for cognitive presence. The instructor plays an essential role in mitigating challenges in the group’s cognitive presence by keeping discussions focused (Richardson, Caskurlu, & Ashby, 2018, para. 4). As much as maintaining a focus in discussions is essential, an instructor also needs to provide opportunities for exploration and integration of new content “to elicit multiple levels of critical thinking” (Richardson, Sadaf, & Ertmer, 2012, as cited in Richardson, 2018, para. 1).
Garrison et al. (2000) articulate a “collaborative constructionist perspective” that will guide my efforts to apply empathy and effective facilitation considering “the learner’s personal world (reflective and meaning-focused) as well as the shared world (collaborative and knowledge-focused)” (p. 92). My goals revolve around sharing skills to best assist K-12 educators in the revolutionary shift in educational practices that have been created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bull, B. (2013, June 3). Eight Roles of an Effective Online Teacher. Online Education: Faculty Focus—Higher Ed Teaching Strategies from Magna Publication. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/eight-roles-of-an-effective-online-teacher/
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), pp. 87-105. Retrieved from http://cde.athabascau.ca/coi_site/documents/Garrison_Anderson_Archer_Critical_Inquiry_model.pdf
Mintz, S. (2020, February). Beyond the discussion board. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/higher-ed-gamma/beyond-discussion-board
Online Discussions: Tips for Instructors (n.d.). Retrieved from https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/alternatives-lecturing/discussions/online-discussions-tips-for-instructors
Richardson J. (2018). Varying your discussion prompts as an instructional strategy. Collaborative Online Learning: Fostering Effective Discussions. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo. Retrieved from https://www.purdue.edu/innovativelearning/supporting-instruction/portal/files/8.1_Varying_your_Discussion_Prompts_as_an_Instructional_Strategy.pdf
Richardson, J., Caskurlu, S., & Ashby, I. (2018). Facilitating your online discussions. Collaborative Online Learning: Fostering Effective Discussions. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo. Retrieved from https://www.purdue.edu/innovativelearning/supportinginstruction/portal/files/8_Discussion_Board_Facilitation.pdf
Selwyn, N. (2020). Online learning: Rethinking teachers’ ‘digital competence’ in light of Covid-19. Lens: Monash University. Retrieved from https://lens.monash.edu/@education/2020/04/30/1380217/online-learning-rethinking-teachers-digital-competence-in-light-of-covid-19
Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Retrieved from https://www.aupress.ca/books/120229-teaching-in-blended-learning-environments/