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D. Randy Garrison
October 6, 2022

Recently a graduate student interviewed me about the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework and the issue of motivation. This caused me to reflect on work that I had done on the topic of motivation earlier in my career that had indirectly contributed to foundational ideas associated with the CoI framework (Garrison & Archer, 2000). Motivation has been associated with teaching and social presence in terms of learner satisfaction; moreover, teaching and social presence are crucial for motivation and engagement (Turk, Heddy & Danielson, 2022). Nasir and Ngah (2022) also found “that teaching, social, and cognitive presence in the CoI have a significant influence on students’ satisfaction” (Abstract) and argued that “increased satisfaction would decrease dropout rates and withdrawal from online courses” (Discussion). They concluded that future research should explore the relationship of the CoI framework to other variables, such as motivation.

In another study of motivation and the CoI framework, Lee and Lim (2022) investigated “how the features of motivation develop in online courses during the semester and how students’ perceived teaching and social presences influence their motivational growth in online learning” (Abstract). They found that teaching and social presence predicted motivational growth. Specific to social presence it was found that motivation was increased by community and collaboration. From a teaching presence perspective (design and facilitation), it predicted self-regulation and motivational development. Teaching presence appears to be crucial at the outset to clarify expectancies as well as maintain feedback and support (task motivation). The authors concluded that “the findings from our research show that students’ perceived teaching presence and social presence play crucial roles in their initial level of motivation and its development as the course progresses” (Discussion).

These studies suggest that motivation should be an important focus for future research into the success of a community of inquiry. A community of inquiry plays a unique role in that “motivation grows as a result of being a contributing and valued member of a learning community” (Garrison, 2017, p. 64). The reason is that motivation has enormous influence in both initiating and sustaining personal and shared learning. Motivational considerations are crucial in that collaborative-constructivist approaches to learning (foundational premise of a CoI) depend upon learners taking responsibility and control for constructing personal meaning and shared understanding in the inquiry process. Moreover, “Motivation is associated with social presence but is particularly associated with the commitment and persistence to metacognitively monitor and manage the inquiry process [and] is essential for active participation in a collaborative learning environment (Garrison,2017, p. 44). In short, motivation drives initial (entering) interest and sustains effort (volition) throughout the inquiry cycle.

Motivation is bi-directional in that it influences and emerges from all three presences (i.e., co-determinative). From a cognitive and teaching perspective, motivation is essential to both engage in a learning community AND it significantly influences the persistence and depth of thinking and learning. Motivation is “enhanced when teaching presence addresses expectations, interests and support; and when cognitive presence successfully achieves intended learning goals” (Garrison, 2017, p. 65). This reflects the need to consider two types of motivation – entering and task. Entering or goal motivation is particularly associated with teaching presence while task motivation is strongly associated with both teaching and social presence. While the focus in a community of inquiry is sustained task involvement, entering motivation or interest greatly influences task motivation in terms of engagement and persistence. Entering motivation is dependent upon the attraction of the educational goal and the expectancy of success. On the other hand, task motivation is dependent upon task engagement and sustained effort or volition that in turn enhances motivation.

Engagement and collaborative control of learning tasks associated with sustaining motivation raise issues of shared metacognition and regulation of learning. From a shared metacognitive perspective, motivation has enormous practical importance as it reflects perceived value and mediates between the management and monitoring (self and co-regulation) of learning tasks. Therefore, when considering motivational influences there is a need to recognize that motivation “plays a very significant role in the initiation of interest and maintenance of effort with regard to the achievement of learning goals” (Garrison & Archer, 2000, p.1000).

I have argued that a fundamental question in a community of inquiry is how we create the conditions where learners are intrinsically motivated to take responsibility and control to construct meaning and collaboratively share their thinking. In this regard, a productive community of inquiry creates the conditions for learners to collaboratively engage in the planning and implementation of the educational experience such that it will encourage intrinsically motivated learning (Garrison & Archer, 2000). To be clear, the motivational influence of an educational experience is determined by the learner’s “interest in the short and long term goals (extrinsic motivation) and the meaning the individual attaches to the event (intrinsic motivation) through their efforts” (Garrison & Archer, 2000, p. 109).

My final consideration is the link between emotion and motivation. Intuitively it would seem that there must be an intimate connection between motivation and emotion that would inform sustaining collaborative inquiry. Commitment to engaging in rational academic goals suggests an emotional strength that translates into motivational action. Motivation reflects an emotional state that is relevant to collaborative inquiry-based learning as it directly influences issues of responsibility and regulation of learning in collaborative inquiry processes. Deep and meaningful approaches to learning are dependent upon emotions associated with interest (task direction) and support.

Motivation is the encompassing and essential emotion that initiates and shapes a learning experience. Emotions are a result of internal assessments of situations that provide incentives or disincentives to act. It is the oxygen of a purposeful learning experience. Emotional presence can assist in holding a community of learners together. It influences cohesion through identity to the community, by stimulating interest, and providing motivation for sustained discourse and reflection. Motivation reflects a range of emotions that feed into the desire to engage and persist in constructing meaning and sharing understanding. This dynamic is enhanced and sustained through the collaboration of others with the shared purpose of constructing meaning and validating understanding through discourse. Motivation brings together and sustains a learning community and provides the momentum that directs and facilitates collaborative inquiry to achieve intended learning outcomes. Motivation is the manifestation of emotion relevant for learning generally but essential to assume responsibility to regulate inquiry and achieve deep and meaningful learning outcomes.

From an educational or learning perspective, understanding emotions can assist in both initiating and sustaining thinking and reasoning. In this sense “emotion and cognition are innately intertwined” (Cleveland-Innes & Campbell, 2012, Emotion and Online Learning). Dell (2021) goes further when she suggests that emotion can contribute to self and co-regulative practices in a community of inquiry. In her doctoral dissertation she found “several emotional indicators that contributed to regulating learning ... [including] igniting motivation by choosing discussion prompts, acknowledging learning is emotional, seeing learners as whole beings, modeling emotional reaction to the content, and encouraging learners as teachers” (Dell, 2021, p. 106). All of which suggests supporting future research that explores the connection of emotion and motivation. It seems to me that motivation bridges emotion and academic goals.


As stated previously, motivation is bi-directional. Entering motivation positively influence engagement in purposeful inquiry, while on the other hand community and collaboration among learners can significantly enhance motivation. Motivation is essential to assuming responsibility for self and co-regulated (shared metacognition) approaches to learning. Conversely, self and co-regulation is conducive to enhancing motivation. It is important to appreciate that collaborative inquiry through shared metacognitive regulation of learning is intrinsically and extrinsically motivational. The challenge is to explain how and why motivation influences initiating and sustaining learning as well as being a process outcome (sustained learning) of collaborative inquiry. Shared metacognition could play a key role in this exploration. For the reasons noted, understanding a community of inquiry from a motivational perspective is a worthwhile future research endeavor.


Cleveland-Innes, M., & Campbell, P. (2012). Emotional presence, learning, and the online learning environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(4), 269-292.

Dell, D. (2021). Emotional presence in Community of Inquiry: A scoping review and Delphi study. Doctoral Dissertation, Athabasca University.

Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2000). A transactional perspective on teaching-learning: A framework for adult and higher education. Oxford, UK: Pergamon.

Garrison, D. R., & Akyol, Z. (2015). 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.) The 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.

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. See pp. 64-65.

Garrison, D. R. (2022). Shared Metacognition in a Community of Inquiry. Online Learning Journal, 26(1).

Lee, M., & Lim, J. (2022) Do online teaching and social presences contribute to motivational growth? Distance Education.

Nasir MKM, Ngah AH. (2022). The Sustainability of a Community of Inquiry in Online Course Satisfaction in Virtual Learning Environments in Higher Education. Sustainability, 14(15), 9633.

Turk, M., Heddy, B. C., & Danielson, R. W. (2022). Teaching and social presences supporting basic needs satisfaction in online learning environments: How can presences and basic needs happily meet online? Computers & Education, (180), 104432.

Minghui Ye · 1 month ago
Dear professor, recently i have read the community of inquiry that created by Lipman decades years ago. So, I am wondering the relationship between your community framework and Lipman's. Are there some relationship between learning community(Dewey) , community of inquiry(Lipman) and community of inquiry (yours)? Looking forward to your reply, thanks a lot.
D. Randy Garrison · 1 month ago
Thanks for your question. While this deserves a more extended response, let be briefly say that both Lipman's work and the CoI framework is grounded generally in Dewey's work, although Dewey did not used this term explicitly. We borrowed the term community of inquiry from Lipman (2003) as this reflected my previous work related to collaboration and the inquiry process. Lipman focused on an educational method for critical or reflective thinking. On the other hand, we focused on the environment for inquiry as indispensable to a worthwhile educational experience. In short, we did not rely directly on Lipman's conceptualization but expanded and explicitly defined a CoI for a broader audience. I hope this is a start.


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.