D. Randy Garrison
December 7, 2019
Metacognition is central to the awareness and success of inquiry learning. Moreover, it is the means in which we learn to learn so we can continue to meet new learning challenges. Practically it means taking responsibility to monitor and manage the learning process. In a collaborative learning environment such as a community of inquiry, metacognition is inherently a shared process. From the perspective of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework, this was conceptualized as the Shared Metacognition construct. Shared metacognition (MC) is described as an awareness of one’s learning in the process of constructing meaning and creating understanding associated with self and others. The development of the Shared MC construct has been described in a series of articles (Garrison & Akyol, 2015a; 2015b).

The Shared MC construct is a process of collaborative inquiry. As I stated in an editorial post:
… the CoI framework 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. (Editorial 16)
Shared metacognition reflects the dynamic dimensions of self and co-regulation each exhibiting a monitoring (awareness) and a managing (strategic action) function (see figure 1 below). The Shared MC construct has been tested for its structural and transactional integrity (Garrison & Akyol, 2015a; 2015b). Shared metacognition does not rely only on self-regulation and the knowledge of the individual. In an environment of collaborative inquiry there is the opportunity to fuse both self and co-regulation of the inquiry process. Feedback and adjustments are integral to the inquiry dynamic. Co-regulation inherently makes the inquiry process visible. Collaborative inquiry provides a richer environment for strategic and regulatory ideas to emerge. With clear goals and direction, strategies are naturally explored and developed as learners engage in collaborative inquiry. In this process learners are concurrently assessing and merging their personal choices and collaborative strategies. Critical discourse is essential to realizing self and co-regulation of inquiry. Without critical feedback generated through discourse one is limited in identifying misconceptions. In this way discourse is central to constructing deep and meaningful approaches to learning and developing metacognitive awareness and regulation strategies.

Figure 1: Shared metacognition construct

Of interest here is a study that used an inquiry-based learning approach to improve metacognitive knowledge and awareness. In this research, Asy’ari et al. (2019) applied an inquiry learning instructional model to teach metacognition ability. This inquiry approach involves students actively by focusing on questioning and discourse to shape deep understanding. Theoretically this is consistent with the Shared MC construct. The results of this study “concluded that the inquiry learning model was considered effective to increase students’ metacognition knowledge and awareness” (p. 465). This research provided an important insight into the value of awareness and understanding the inquiry process regarding the development of learner metacognition. Moreover, this supports further exploration of metacognitive awareness in the development of metacognitive abilities.

A Proposed Study

Developing metacognitive awareness is central to collaborative inquiry (i.e., cognitive presence and practical inquiry). The educational challenge is how best to develop the awareness and regulatory strategies to monitor and manage inquiry in a collaborative learning environment; that is, how do we develop shared metacognition in a community of inquiry? The goal is to establish a commitment to socially shared learning experiences and the development of self and co-regulatory awareness and responsibilities (i.e., shared MC). While awareness and regulatory strategies are developed through critical discourse in a CoI, it is hypothesized that a knowledge of the Shared MC construct would expedite the development of collaborative inquiry.
From this and other studies (see Zepeda et al., 2015), there is evidence that training can be effective in developing metacognitive awareness and regulation. The approach here is to focus on the Shared MC process in a collaborative inquiry environment (i.e., a CoI). This explicitly emphasizes collaboration and discourse in the development of learner metacognition. Discourse encourages students to think about their personal meaning and become open to sharing their thinking for mutual understanding. Regarding the research of Zepeda et al. (2019), I have argued:
This finding supports the argument that metacognitive talk concerning the inquiry process and task goals could have enormous value from a pragmatic perspective in understanding and promoting shared MC in a collaborative learning environment. As such, communities of inquiry have enormous potential to support shared MC through critical reflection and discourse that includes questioning, feedback and direction. (Editorial 19)
The hypothesis is that awareness of the Shared MC construct will inherently support collaborative inquiry. The treatment here is to introduce the Shared MC construct and an overview of the CoI framework to the treatment group. More specifically the design is to explore the influence of shared MC on collaborative inquiry. The metacognitive training will include an introduction to the construct and a collaborative exploration of the practical inquiry process (CP) in the context of a community of learners. The goal is to create the conditions for learners to take responsibility and control of personal and shared learning. At this point in time this is only a suggested research project designed to test the thesis that shared MC awareness will enhance a community of inquiry and provide data to further test the validity of the Shared MC construct. Possible research questions might include:
  • Will increasing awareness of shared metacognition enhance a community of inquiry over time compared to a control group (ie, increased social, teaching and cognitive presence)?
  • Will shared metacognition instruction expedite the inquiry process (move through phases efficiently) compared to a control group?
  • Will shared metacognition awareness enhance intended learning outcomes compared to a control group?
  • What effect will shared metacognitive awareness have on the dynamic balance of personal and shared metacognition throughout the duration of the course?
  • What is the perception of the learners regarding awareness of the Shared MC construct and the development of shared regulatory strategies?
Data will be gathered primarily through the Shared MC and CoI questionnaires. The questionnaires would be administered periodically during the duration of the course. An open-ended qualitative survey could also be included to gather perceptions of the participants regarding their impressions of the metacognitive training and the influence it had on their regulation of the inquiry dynamic. The primary analysis would be to see how shared MC awareness influences progression through the inquiry phases. That is not to say that this would limit a range of other analyses regarding the influence shared MC awareness has on the other CoI presences.

The Shared MC construct represents a macro inquiry strategy that reflects the monitoring and managing of both self and co-regulatory strategies specific to contextual challenges. The Shared MC construct is an important enhancement of the CoI theoretical framework and the effectiveness of collaborative inquiry. The expectation is that shared MC awareness provides a great advantage by encouraging learners to accept the responsibility to collaboratively plan, monitor and manage the inquiry process. In this way shared MC awareness has the potential to develop the regulatory strategies to achieve deep and meaningful learning outcomes. The challenge going forward is to conduct studies that will help us understand the influence of shared MC awareness in online and face-to-face learning communities.

Finally, my hope is that this discussion will encourage research into the shared MC construct through studies that explore developing metacognitive awareness in collaborative learning environments.

Asy’ari M., Ikhsan, M., & Muhali. (2019). The Effectiveness of Inquiry Learning Model in Improving Prospective Teachers’ Metacognition Knowledge and Metacognition Awareness. International Journal of Instruction, 12(2), 455-470.

Garrison, D. R. (2017). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Community of Inquiry Framework for Research and Practice (3rd Edition). London: Routledge/Taylor and Francis.

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.

Zepeda, C. D., Hlutkowsky, C. O., Partika, A. C., & Nokes-Malach, T. J. (2019). Identifying teachers’ supports of metacognition through classroom talk and its relation to rowth in onceptual learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 111(3), 522-541.

Zepeda, C. D., Richey, J. E., Ronevich, P., & Nokes-Malach, T. J. (2015). Direct instruction of metacognition benefits adolescent science learning, transfer, and motivation: An in vivo study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(4), 954-970.



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.