Community of Inquiry Framework: Presence

I mainly teach introductory courses to high school and undergraduate students on many different subjects ranging from mathematics to English. Regardless of the subject, the main purpose of most courses I teach is to introduce and to lay down the fundamental concepts of the subject. Since the majority of my students are just starting their course of education at its early stage, I try to keep things interesting and more interactive to maintain the students to be motivated and engaged.

The Community of Inquiry Framework Model is a process of creating a deep and meaningful learning experience through the development of three interdependent elements – cognitive, teaching, and social presence. When all three types of presence exist, the most meaningful educational environment can be obtained.

Social presence is the ability of participants to identify with the community, communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop inter-personal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities. I believe that the three main aspects of social presence, as defined here, are effective communication, open communication, and group cohesion. This is mainly achieved by discussion boards and group projects in all of my courses regardless of the subjects’ nature.

Cognitive Presence is the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse, and it is a core concept in defining a community of inquiry. It is defined as the exploration, construction, resolution, and confirmation of understanding through collaboration and reflection. In order for my students to apply the lectured material, they are sometimes given a final project to incorporate everything they have learned. For example, my introductory physics students are asked to build a theoretic representation of a device which reflects and applies the laws of physics.

Teaching Presence is the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes. Teaching presence should focus on design, facilitation and direct instruction in addition to the validity of construct. I believe that this is usually achieved by clear instructions with sufficient feedback from the instructor (myself) and between students.

3 Replies to “Community of Inquiry Framework: Presence”

  1. Cindy,
    Do you find that the three branches of the community manifest themselves differently when you teach courses with different subjects? For instance as a student, I found social interactions in humanities disciplines easier than in scientific disciplines do to the nature of the subjects and the different teaching approaches.

    1. James,
      As you may already have suspected, I definitely do see that the COI branches present differently for different subjects. Social presence is definitely the predominating branch in humanities and liberal arts subjects whereas cognitive presence predominates in sciences and technology subjects. The nature of the topic taught has tremendous influence over not only the COI branches but also the students’ development process of personality and thought processes.

  2. Great discussion here. I think it’s so interesting that our disciplines seem more or less social in different ways whether in the classroom or in research. I see what you mean about looking for ways to include more social aspects in the science/math classroom, but isn’t it fascinating that as researchers you probably both have much more collaborative experience than your colleagues in the humanities? Coauthoring is so common in your fields, but single author articles tend to be the norm in some humanities. Hopefully we’ll change that and get more collaboration in the humanities.

    With all this, I wonder what might be the best way to promote the educational experience in your disciplines. How might you encourage social presence in your respective biology and math courses? What kind of collaborative assignments could you use to help students practice skills in the profession. What kind of scientific outreach assignments could you use? How would the lab part of a biology class fit into the COI model?

    Jade Florence created an outreach blog for her botany work that might be useful (

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