Exploring casual relationships among Teaching, Cognitive and Social Presence

Reflection on: Exploring casual relationships among teaching, cognitive and social presence: Student perceptions of the community of inquiry framework by Garrison et. al (2009)

Teaching Presence in Online Learning

This paper discusses the need to have a holistic framework to facilitate the integration of pedagogy and technology. The Community of Inquiry (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000) provides such a framework and blends the idea of online learning with collaborative constructivist approaches to teaching and learning. Most of the research in this area has been qualitative, focusing on individual elements (teaching, cognitive and social presence). However, this paper quantitatively explores the casual relationships among the three elements: “…it was shown through student perceptions that teaching presence directly influences the perception of social and cognitive presence. Perceptions of social presence also significantly predict perceptions of cognitive presence” (p35). And overall,

“It reinforces the central role of teaching presence to establishing and sustaining an online learning environment and realising intended learning outcomes.”

This makes sense to me as what comes up time and again in my readings (and my own experience) is that responsibility falls to the teacher to acquire new knowledge and integrate it into the learning environment (with or without institutional support).

Unexplored research areas in Online Learning

This paper points to lesser researched areas which I can explore further as areas for my own dissertation research. For example, “…exploring the dynamic relationships among the presences across disciplines and institutions” (p35). However, the point of writing dissertation proposal number 2 is that is simpler than number 1, thus doing anything across disciplines and institutions would be a project too big for me to take on. “Moreover, each of the presences represent complex concepts consisting of sub-elements (i.e. categories) that need further study to confirm the existence of these categories and explore the dynamic relationships of specific categories across the presences.” I think that would be more of interest to me, to delve deeper into one of the categories. The authors suggest the following questions for further exploration:

  • Is perception of teaching presence associated with establishing open and purposeful communication in social presence?
  • Is direct instruction in teaching presence associated with integration or resolution in cognitive presence?
  • Is establishing communication and group cohesion of greater priority than developing interpersonal relationships for perceived cognitive presence?
  • What is the dimensionality of teaching presence and how do these categories shape social presence?

Gender in Online Learning

Early on in this paper I read: “Not only is there a gender imbalance in favour of women in online learning, the perceived benefits of participation differ across gender”p32 (Kramarae, 2007). And “Women have been found to describe the online experience as socially richer than do men” (Rovai & Baker, 2005). Whereas it is easy to understand that program/course design is strongly associated with cognitive presence, It is interesting to note that there were no differences across gender. The authors suggest this may be because online CoI (Community of Inquiry) allows for individualisation. In terms of my personal learning experiences in higher and further  education, I was always part of balanced gender groups (Open University, University of Nottingham). However, in terms of teaching adult members of a mobile language learning group (yoli), I found that fewer men joined the group overall, and for those who joined close to 0% participated in group activities. The cultural and social context of these Chinese learners must be considered, though, where “losing face” may be more detrimental to men, than women. The female members with whom I interacted were shy but eventually accepted they had to participate if they wanted to make progress, which they did. The men on the other hand were stuck at the first hurdle of Foreign Language Anxiety where they remained observers, at best, rather than participators. Thus missing out on the valuable learning loop of getting feedback and correcting the mistake. In this particular case a separation of the sexes may benefit lower level students to gain confidence and reduce inhibitions. However, at a certain (immediate) level I would re-integrate learners back into a mixed sex environment, one that mirrors the dynamics of modern society.

Women in ELT

The role of women in society, women in business, equality, egalitarianism, these words ring loud in my mind of late. International Women’s Day is coming up – March 8th I believe. I remember this day, this time last year in China. I was teaching a group of young adults (majority female) and wanted to find out what they would be doing to celebrate: “Shopping!” were the cries that reached my ears. I was slightly disappointed. I don’t know why – protests and marches in China are out of the question, after all. How else celebrate your freedom? Hmmm. (Scratching of chin.) Anyway, this year I plan to join the Women of the World festival, 10-12 March at the South Bank Centre in London which celebrates the power and potential of girls and women and confronts the causes of inequality. And through a connection in Brazil (Braz-Tesol) I may have the opportunity to attend an online event discussion on April 1st with a SIG (Special Interest Group) called Voices, which focuses on the power of ELT women. More on that exciting opportunity closer to the time.


Garrison, D.R., Cleveland Innes, M. & Fung, T.S. (2010). Exploring causal relationships among teaching, cognitive and social presence: Student perceptions of the community of inquiry model. Internet and Higher Education, 13, 31 36.

Kramarae, C. (2007). Gender matters in online learning. In M.G.Moore (Ed.), Handbook of distance education (pp. 169-180)., 2nd ed. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,Publishers.

Rover, A., & Baker, J. (2005). Gender differences in online learning: Sense of community, perceived learning and interpersonal interactions. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 6 (1), 31-44.


‘Teacher’ by Peter Hershey at www.unsplash.com

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