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D. Randy Garrison
April 26, 2018

Nothing may be more central to the success of a community of inquiry than facilitation. Yes, design is a crucial predicate; however, if design is congruent with the purpose and CoI principles, then the ensuing dynamics are dependent upon the participatory facilitation of all group members and their willingness to assume responsibility for the personal and collaborative learning dynamic.

From this perspective I want to highlight the findings of a study that explored the dynamics of facilitating discourse in a community of inquiry. Specifically the study compared peer-directed and instructor-directed facilitation strategies using the Cognitive Presence (Practical Inquiry) model. The research concluded that "a peer-facilitation approach is more effective for fostering critical thinking and collaborative discourse" (Oh et al., 2018).

Similarly, another study looking at social presence found that fostering creative collaboration with less directive approaches can be effective. They concluded that "Any time that we direct the social or cognitive aspects of the learning environment, ultimately we are taking away those opportunities for the students to take full responsibility over negotiating the needed solutions to the challenges they face" (Hod, et al., 2018, p. 12).

These are important findings that provide confirmation to previous theoretical speculations with regard to encouraging participation. The reality is that students feel more at ease expressing themselves in a peer-facilitated environment where they are more willing to respond to and question their peers compared to the instructor. Unfortunately a common mistake is for the instructor to be excessively present with the result that it inhibits open communication and critical discourse. Students are naturally hesitant to challenge the instructor. At the same time, we must not ignore the essential role and responsibility of the instructor in terms of instructional design and direction to guide collaborative inquiry to resolution.

With that I welcome other perspectives on the challenge of getting participants in a CoI to exercise responsibility and control of the discourse. One question that I have is how might metacognitive awareness of the inquiry process enhance peer-facilitation (Garrison & Akyol, 2015).


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

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

Hod, Y., Basil-Shachar, & Sagy, O. (2018). The role of productive social failure in fostering creative collaboration: A grounded study exploring a classroom learning community. Thinking Skills and Creativity. Retrieved April 23, 2018 from:

Oh, E. G., Huang, W. D., Mehdiabadi, A. H., & Ju, B. (2018). Facilitating critical thinking in asynchronous online discussion: Comparison between peer- and instructor-redirection. Journal of Computing in Higher Education. Retrieved April 23, 2018 from:



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 fifteen books; 94 articles; 68 book chapters; 40 conference proceedings; and more than 100 academic presentations. His major books are: Garrison, D. R. (2017). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Community of Inquiry Framework for Research and Practice (3rd Edition); Garrison, D. R. (2016). Thinking Collaboratively: Learning in a Community of Inquiry; Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. (2008). Blended learning in higher education: Framework, principles and guidelines; Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2000). A transactional perspective on teaching-learning: A framework for adult and higher education. Curriculum vitae



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The Community of Inquiry is a project of Athabasca University, Mount Royal University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, as well as researchers and members of the CoI community.