D. Randy Garrison
October 23, 2018

If I had to pick an area of research with the greatest potential for understanding thinking and learning in a collaborative setting it would have to be shared metacognition. The primary reason for this is that deep and meaningful learning (ie, critical thinking) is best achieved through discourse and an ability to monitor and manage collaborative inquiry. Furthermore, considering our connective society, there are both theoretical and practical reasons to understand shared metacognition in collaborative learning environments. Theoretically, I believe shared metacognition offers great promise to understand thinking and learning collaboratively. On the other hand, from a practical perspective, knowledge of shared metacognition can increase students’ awareness of collaborative inquiry and set the stage for effectively monitoring and regulating learning in a community of learners. Finally, from an educational perspective, knowledge of shared metacognition can help identify and implement effective facilitation techniques to implement collaborative inquiry processes and achieve deep and meaningful learning outcomes.

In a previous publication we described shared metacognition (MC) as an awareness of one’s learning in the process of constructing meaning and creating understanding associated with self and others. More specifically, we have defined the Shared MC construct as including “two interdependent elements: self and co-regulation of cognition ... [each exhibiting] a monitoring (awareness) and a managing (strategic action) function” (Garrison & Akyol, 2015a, p. 68). This construct was operationalized in terms of a questionnaire and validated quantitatively (Garrison & Akyol,2015a; 2015b). It should be noted that the Shared MC construct and the Shared MC Questionnaire has been further validated through confirmatory factor analysis (Kilis & Yildirim, 2018a). This reinforces our expectation that this questionnaire is a worthwhile tool to research the dynamics of shared MC in collaborative learning environments that go beyond individual regulation of learning.

Furthermore, the Shared MC construct has considerable potential to develop the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework. The essence of the CoI framework is the connectedness of the participants that stimulate insight and innovative thinking through critical discourse. The CoI framework sets the conditions for thinking and learning collaboratively. As such it shapes the learning dynamic but not in an entirely predictable or immutable manner. Inquiry provides the process for exploration and discovery in ways often unanticipated in traditional information transmission contexts. Inquiry necessitates participants taking responsibility and control for the learning transaction. To take responsibility and control for collaborative inquiry requires an awareness and responsibility for monitoring and managing a complex shared learning dynamic. Providing insight into this shared metacognitive dynamic is the contribution of the Shared MC construct.

From this perspective I was pleased to see a recent article that explored the influence of self-regulation, metacognition and motivation in a community of inquiry and validated the Shared MC construct (Kilis & Yildirim, 2018b). However, as I examined the article I realized that self-regulation was a stronger predictor of a community of inquiry than shared metacognition. The apparent importance of self-regulation in a collaborative learning environment seemed to me to be somewhat anomalous. That is, if in fact this was an authentic community of inquiry, then shared MC should have been a stronger predictor than self-direction alone. For this reason I directed my focus to the nature of the courses to see if this was truly an authentic collaborative learning experience. From the course description it was not clear to me the nature of the design and delivery of the four computer technology courses and whether they lent themselves to an authentic collaborative learning experience. The most probable explanation is that these courses relied on optional discussion forums and resolution was likely individually determined. Therefore, I suspect the considerable reliance on self-regulated learning best explains the findings and shared MC (fusion of self and co-regulation) will likely only emerge in an authentic collaborative learning environment.

Based on their findings, the authors argued for the inclusion of self-regulated learning in a community of inquiry.This harkens back to the arguments of those who advocated for self-regulation and learner presence that we have addressed and questioned previously (see October 24, 2017 editorial post). A community of inquiry has a place for self-regulation but only in concert with co-regulation if there is to be collaborative inquiry. To their credit, the authors concede that further research needs to focus on co-regulation and “its position, role and interaction with the other constructs [that] form areas of concentration for further, more complex research” (p. 62). This more complex research must be conducted in a truly collaborative learning environment and with a construct that reflects shared metacognition. We cannot expect to find shared MC in a context where learners at best engage in optional discussion forums and are judged on surface outcomes.

The challenge in developing and understanding the benefits of the CoI framework is to search for the essential elements and dynamic constants in a truly collaborative learning environment. For example, we need to explore the constants of the interplay between personal reflection and shared discourse. This is the essence of a community of inquiry that thrives in a climate of trust and curiosity and represents the interplay between cognitive and teaching presence; the intersection of which defines the Shared MC construct. For shared MC to apply to an educational setting, it must go beyond self-direction or self-regulation. This motivation is what precipitated our work in developing the Shared MC construct that could be consistent with the foundational assumptions of the CoI framework.

Metacognition is central to any form of learning but is essential to inquiry. A community of inquiry, however, adds an important complication to metacognition in that monitoring and regulating learning collaboratively is both a personal and shared experience. For this reason I believe shared MC is a crucial line of research in the psychology of thinking and learning. The power of the CoI framework is the connectedness of the participants which have the enormous advantage for thinking critically and stimulating innovation. As such the Shared MC construct has enormous potential to refine and expand our understanding of the core dynamic of a community of inquiry (collaborative inquiry) and to inform both the theoretical and practical implications of learning in a collaborative environment.

In conclusion, I would like to offer a note to graduate students. I would strongly recommend shared metacognition as an area of study for those interested in thinking and learning collaboratively and looking for a dissertation topic in this area. Shared metacognition provides the construct to study how learners actively manage discourse and constructing meaning responsibly. The Shared MC construct provides a solid theoretical foundation and instrument to explore the complex transaction of a community of inquiry. From the perspective of a graduate student this framework and construct can be helpful in expediting the approval of a research proposal and the implementation and analysis of a worthwhile study.


Garrison, D. R., & Akyol, Z. (2015a). Toward the development of a metacognition construct for the community of inquiry framework. (Developing a shared metacognition construct and instrument: Conceptualizing and assessing metacognition in a community of inquiry). Internet and Higher Education, 24, 66-71.

Garrison, D. R., & Akyol, Z. (2015b). Corrigendum to ‘Toward the development of a metacognition construct for communities of inquiry.’ The Internet and Higher Education, 26, 56.

Kilis, S., & Yildirim, Z. (2018a). Metacognition within a communities of inquiry questionnaire: Validity and reliability study of Turkish adaptation. KEFAD, 19(1), 680-690.

Kilis, S., & Yildirim, Z. (2018b). Investigation of community of inquiry framework in regard to self-regulation, metacognition and motivation. Computers & Education, 126, 53-64.



D. Randy Garrison
Professor Emeritus, University of Calgary
D. Randy Garrison is professor emeritus at the University of Calgary.Dr. Garrison has published extensively on teaching and learning in adult, higher and distance education contexts. He has authored, co-authored or edited twelve books and well over 100 refereed articles/chapters.His recent books are Thinking Collaboratively: Learning in a Community of Inquiry (2016) and E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Community of Inquiry Framework for Research and Practice (3rd Edition) (2017), and he recently won the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Division of Distance Learning Book Award (2nd place), 2017.



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The Community of Inquiry is a project of the Centre for Distance Education at Athabasca University, researchers of the Community of Inquiry framework, and members of the CoI community.