CENTRE FOR TEACHING EXCELLENCETeach | Community of Inquiry
Envisioning Your Course as a Community of Inquiry
What is it?
Envision your course as a Community of Inquiry that is comprised of opportunities for students to engage collaboratively with the course content, with each other, and with you (Garrison, Anderson, Archer, 1999). This requires you to be intentional in your course design. Although the Community of Inquiry Framework was originally designed for online courses, it is applicable to all learning environments.
A Community of Inquiry is comprised of these three components: Cognitive Presence, Social Presence, and Teaching Presence.
- Cognitive Presence: Encourage opportunities for learners to reflect on course content, to connect deeply with course topics, and to be open to new ideas that explore new ways of knowing.
- Social Presence: Co-create a learning environment with your students that fosters opportunities for them to get to know each other as learners and as individuals.
- Teaching Presence: Build on cognitive and social presence to achieve student learning outcomes and student success. Your presence and connection to students and their interactions with the course content can provide for a safe, comfortable, respectful learning environment that can foster students’ successful achievement of course learning outcomes.
Why does it matter?
In addition to fostering opportunities for student engagement with course content, with each other, and with you, a Community of Inquiry is key to students’ experiencing a sense of belonging and success in the course.
While the Community of Inquiry Framework was developed with online teaching as its core, the framework serves to emphasize the importance of building community in your classes whether your course is online, face-to-face, or blended.
A social theory of learning that reinforces the Community of Inquiry Framework is Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, which values students working in collaboration with peers and their instructor to achieve their full cognitive potential (Darby & Lange 2019). Consequently, a Community of Inquiry envisions opportunities for students to be more like co-researchers or co-creators of the course by seeking their input, for example, on assessment/project design with opportunities for students to share their learning projects more widely. As co-creators, students are more deeply involved in the learning process thereby enhancing their learning experience, motivation and commitment to the course.
How do I get started?
Begin by reading Chapter 4 of Small Teaching Online by Darby, F. and Lange, J. (2019) available as an e-book through the Capilano University Library. The information presented in this chapter will really prepare you well for thinking about how to use the Community of Inquiry framework for your course. Although the book focuses on teaching online, the techniques and ideas presented are applicable to all learning environments.
How are instructors using it?
Instructors are intentionally reflecting on how their course design fits into the Community of Inquiry Framework; consequently, they are deliberate about creating meaningful opportunities for students to:
Engage collectively with the course content (discussion forums, summary activities, concept maps)
Build relationships with each other (students may create short introduction videos, participate in authentic (non-disposable) projects
Build a relationship with the instructor since a visible, engaging teaching presence will go a long way to creating an interactive, enjoyable online learning environment that fosters students achieving their full cognitive potential
Where can I go for a deeper dive?
- Bali, M. Caines, A., & Zamora, M. (2021, February 18) Episode 349: Community Building Activities. Inside Higher Education.
- The Community of Inquiry, Athabasca University
- Chapter 4 of Small Teaching Online by Darby, F. and Lange, J. (2019) available as an e-book through the Capilano University Library.
- Chapter 6 (pp. 131-134 only) of Nilson, L.B. & Goodson, L.A. (2017). Chapter 6 Developing Interactivity, Social Connections, and Community in Online Teaching at its Best: Merging Instructional Design with Teaching and Learning Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation, University of Toronto. Community of Inquiry Framework
- Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2 (2-3), 87-105.
- Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development – see Chapter 4 of Small Teaching Online by Darby, F. and Lange, J. (2019) available as an e-book through the Capilano University Library.