D. Randy Garrison
January 16, 2021
I want to draw your attention to a theoretically and pragmatically significant meta-analysis of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) teaching presence construct. I describe teaching presence (TP) as the connective tissue of a functional community of inquiry. For this reason I was pleased to see a meta-analysis of TP with regard to student satisfaction and perceived learning (Caskurlu, Maeda, Richardson, & Lv, 2020).

I was also pleased to see that the authors set the stage with an analysis of critiques of the CoI framework and the TP construct. Critiques regarding additions and modifications to the framework and alternative theoretical perspectives have been largely explained as a result of differences in design, course level, and subject matter. However, the crucial point is that previous critiques of the framework have either violated the core premise and therefore integrity of the framework regarding the collaborative-constructivist assumption; or they compromised the principle of parsimony for a useful theoretical framework. For example, with regard to the collaborative-constructivist premise, it is antithetical to add an individual learner or teacher presence construct as well as unnecessarily complicating the framework. In a collaborative or shared thinking and learning experience, such an individual perspective as learner presence is inconsistent with the essence of a community of learners. To be clear, teachING presence consists of three sub-elements or dimensions – design, facilitation and direct instruction – that are the shared responsibility of the participants in the learning community. This issue was explored and explained more fully through the shared metacognition construct (see http://www.thecommunityofinquiry.org/editorial24)

The primary finding of the meta-analysis in the Caskurlu et al. (2020) study was “a moderately strong correlation” between TP and perceived learning and satisfaction. This correlation held for the sub-elements as well. Therefore, it was concluded that “these results suggest the importance of taking TP into account for understanding and promoting students’ perceived learning and satisfaction in fully online courses” (p. 9). Consistent with our previous observation regarding influences in a CoI learning experience, the study concludes “... that effect sizes vary across research contexts for all of the relationships” (p. 9). For example, discipline area, course length and course level affected the strength of correlation as well as the instrument used to measure TP. Finally, and of significant importance here, the authors concluded that “the results of this meta-analysis aligned with the theoretical assumptions of the CoI framework” (p. 10).

While student satisfaction and perceived learning are important outcomes of a CoI learning experience (see http://www.thecommunityofinquiry.org/editorial13), it is valuable to understand in greater detail how the dynamics of a CoI lead to positive outcomes. In a previous editorial I addressed research at the time that addressed the impact of TP in pre-course design and the facilitating role of collaboration in the construction of meaning and understanding (http://www.thecommunityofinquiry.org/editorial8). Consistent with previous research, it has been reinforced that TP is complex and challenging (Abbitt & Boone, 2020) and that too much or too little TP can be detrimental to a successful CoI learning experience. Too much TP will assuredly curtail discourse; however, on the other hand, “... diminished teacher presence can encourage students to become active and independent learning agents” (Kuznetcova, Lin, & Glassman, 2020, Abstract).

To be clear, leadership manifested as TP is essential to initiate and sustain critical inquiry in an educational environment. Facilitation by instructor or peer, influences perceived learning outcomes within a community of inquiry (Lindberg & Brown, 2020). This was reinforced in a study of the importance of the roles of facilitators to encourage interaction and participation in online learning (Lee, 2020). The study concluded “that student performance and academic achievement in online classes are not independent of facilitator engagement” (p. 723). Regarding student satisfaction, a study by Choo et al., (2020) found that, teaching presence is an important predictor of students’ satisfaction in online undergraduate business courses.

In conclusion, it must be noted that as important as TP is to the success of a CoI, there is a strong interdependence among all the presences. However, the emphasis and influence of each presence shifts as the community matures and new academic challenges emerge.


Abbitt, J. T., Boone, W. J. (2021). Gaining insight from survey data: an analysis of the community of inquiry survey using Rasch measurement techniques. Journal of Computing in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12528-020-09268-6

Caskurlu S., Maeda Y., Richardson J. C., & Lv, J. (2020). A meta-analysis addressing the relationship between teaching presence and students’ satisfaction and learning. Computers and Education, 157, 1-16.

Choo, J., Bakir, N., Scagnoli, N. I., Ju, B., & Tong, X. (2020). Using the Community of Inquiry Framework to understand students’ learning experience in online undergraduate business courses. Tech Trends, 64(1), 172-181.

Lee, J. W. (2020). The Roles of Online Instructional Facilitators and Student Performance of Online Class Activity. The Journal of Asian Finance, Economics and Business, 7(8), 723-733.

Lindberg, R., & Brown, R. D. (2020). A Model for Effective Asynchronous Online Discussion within the Community of Inquiry Framework. Journal for Research and Practice in College Teaching, 5(1), 126-153.

Martin, F., Wang, C., & Sadaf, A. (2020). Facilitation Matters: Instructor Perception of Helpfulness of Facilitation Strategies in Online Courses. Online Learning Journal, 24(1), 28-49.

Anastasios Katsaris · 3 months ago
Thank you professor.
Reply · Recommend


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); for which he won second place for the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Division of Distance Learning Book Award, 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.