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D. Randy Garrison
January 25, 2023

The cognitive presence (CP) construct describes the essence of the inquiry process within a community of learners. That is, it reflects a process that fuses individual reflection in constructing personal meaning with collaboratively confirming understanding amongst other learners through critical discourse. This includes the dynamic and responsibility of self and co-regulation of purposeful inquiry. From a broader perspective, cognitive presence “is a self-correcting process where members of the community challenge beliefs, suggest alternative perspectives for exploration and negotiate understanding” (Garrison, 2017, p.51). To be clear, the CP construct is operationalized by the Practical Inquiry model and its four phases of collaborative inquiry (Triggering Event, Exploration, Integration, Resolution). The challenge that we experienced in our early community of inquiry (CoI) research was moving students expeditiously through to resolution (

For those interested in the theoretical basis of the CP construct, I would note that generically it evolved from Dewey’s work on reflective thinking and his conception of the practical inquiry process. While we borrowed the term community of inquiry from Matthew Lipman and we generically use the term critical thinking, the CP construct did not evolve directly from these sources. As I have stated in a previous post “cognitive presence is a process of inquiry that includes thinking, listening and expressing thoughts in the process of critical discourse” (, CP is strongly shaped by social and educational dynamics (i.e., social and teaching presence). Moreover:

“Implementing and assessing the quality and sustainability of CP (practical inquiry) bring into play the essential elements of teaching presence and social presence. CP cannot be understood in isolation; it is a purposeful and collaborative process interdependent with teaching and social presence (

From a validity perspective, the CP construct may be the least theoretically challenged of the three CoI presences. The construct was initially confirmed in one of the seminal articles associated with the CoI framework (Garrison, Anderson &Archer, 2001). Studies have since supported this construct. For example, a confirmatory factor analysis empirically supported the conceptualization of the CP construct along with the other CoI presences (, it should not be lost that indirectly the CP construct has been confirmed through the extensive empirical validation of the CoI survey instrument ( a practical perspective, recent research has added to the credibility of the CP construct by demonstrating its significant effect on critical thinking and learning results (SP, Sholeh, & Hermanto, 2021). Other research reports on a panel exploring studies regarding the “design and facilitation of cognitive presence for collaborative learning” and concludes there is evidence for the importance of teaching presence design and facilitation for CP (Olesovaet al., in press, Abstract). The link to teaching presence (TP) raises the important role of regulation in a community of inquiry.

When analyzing cognitive presence from a TP or implementation perspective it is important to understand that in a community of inquiry, CP cannot be understood in the absence of the inherent influence of regulation manifested through the teaching presence construct. The influence of TP was made evident in a recent study concerning the quality of learning focusing on CP (Maranna et al., 2022). Another study has also shown that teaching presence has a strong relationship with CP (Li,2022). Conversely, it has been shown that inadequate CP growth was mainly due to inadequate teaching presence (Alharbi, 2022). These findings strongly indicate the influence of teaching presence on the inquiry process manifested by CP operationalized by the Practical Inquiry model. Moreover, these findings also support my position that to understand collaborative inquiry the purposeful regulation of the learning process must be recognized. This connection introduces the importance of the role of metacognition in an inquiry approach to learning. The issue of metacognition and the regulation of inquiry was explored explicitly though in the development of the Shared Metacognition construct crucial to effectively operationalizing CP in a dynamic learning community.

Shared Metacognition

An update on CP would be deficient if it did not include developments associated with metacognition in a collaborative learning environment. This is the focus of the Shared Metacognition construct (Garrison & Akyol,2015a; 2015b). Shared metacognition is critical to understand and implement CP effectively in a community of learners. The reason is that it reflects an awareness of the inquiry process that is essential to the process of constructing personal meaning and collaborative confirming understanding. We have defined the Shared Metacognitive construct as “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). It is crucial to appreciate that metacognition must go beyond self-direction or self-regulation if it is to apply to a collaborative constructivist learning community. Collaborative inquiry provides a rich environment for regulatory practices to emerge where strategies can be identified and explored in constructing meaning and confirming understanding. Learners in a community of inquiry assess and merge their personal choices and collaborative strategies. Critical discourse is essential in this process to realizing both self and co-regulation of inquiry (, it is important to note that the Shared Metacognition construct was operationalized and validated in a quantitative questionnaire (Garrison &Akyol,2015a; 2015b) and was further validated through confirmatory factor analysis (Kilis & Yildirim, 2018a).

Shared metacognition offers great promise to understand thinking and learning collaboratively. Knowledge of shared metacognition can increase students’ awareness of collaborative inquiry and set the stage for effectively monitoring and managing learning in a community of learners. Moreover, 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. Cognitive presence through practical inquiry necessitates monitoring and regulating the learning dynamic collaboratively. For this reason, shared metacognition is a crucial line of research in the psychology of thinking and learning collaboratively. The Shared Metacognition construct has enormous potential to refine and expand our understanding of collaborative inquiry and to inform the practical implications of learning in a collaborative environment (

From a research perspective it has been demonstrated that there is a strong positive relationship between metacognitive awareness and academic self-efficacy as well as a moderate positive relationship between community of inquiry and academic self-efficacy (Karaoglan-Yilmaz, Ustun, Zhang, & Yilmaz, 2022). More specifically to the previous discussion, a study of shared metacognition found that learners perceived CP to be higher in the context of the CoI presences (teaching and social presence) and shared metacognition (Sadaf, Kim, & Olesova, 2022). Interestingly, the study found that “co-regulation showed stronger relationships with the three online presences (social, teaching, and cognitive) than self-regulation” (p. 76). This provides credence to the original position to explore shared metacognition and draw attention to the importance of co-regulation in a community of inquiry (Akyol & Garrison, 2011; Garrison & Akyol, 2013). At the same time, Sadif et al. (2022) found that social presence was strongly associated with both self and co-regulation which requires further reflection. This should not be surprising considering the collaborative nature of CP and more specifically the crucial role of co-regulation in a community of inquiry. In this regard, the authors state that this “emphasizes the importance of collaboration … an opportunity for students to become aware of and engaged with others' metacognitive thoughts and activities in addition to their personal reflections” (p. 90).

The Shared Metacognition questionnaire offers great potential to conduct worthwhile and potentially insightful research into the challenges of collaboratively regulating inquiry. The first challenge in my mind is to understand the effect of introducing learners to the idea of shared metacognition and how taking individual and collaborative responsibility for regulation of inquiry is essential for deep and meaningful approaches to learning in a community of inquiry. In short, we need to understand the impact of the awareness of shared metacognition is on taking responsibility to progress effectively and efficiently through the phases of inquiry. This would complement exploring in greater detail the conditions for collaborative or team regulation. In this regard, a recent study found that learners who were involved in team regulation significantly enhanced their learning outcomes (Tsai, 2022). To the purpose of stimulating research in this area, I have shared a sample of possible research questions ( understanding regulation design principles. We should also not neglect to emphasize that the Shared Metacognition construct itself would also benefit from further development and refinement. I have addressed this issue in a recent post in terms of conceptually appreciating the strategic importance of regulation (


The focus of this post was to direct attention to recent developments associated with cognitive presence and why it is important to continue to explore theoretical and pragmatic implications of this construct. I also argue that this must include a focus on understanding the role of metacognition and regulation of inquiry in learning collaboratively. This raises the practical issues of monitoring and managing the inquiry process in a community of learners. In support of this position, it has been noted that it is “reasonable to pay closer attention to the type of the inquiry task and how it facilitates the process of cognitive presence” (Olesova et al., 2022, Conclusion).Moreover, from a research perspective, it was stated that “studies can examine how intentionally designed collaborative inquiry learning environments allow learners to regulate cognitive processes” (Olesova et al., 2022, Conclusion). This is the focus of the Shared Metacognition construct and may be the future to better understand and guide the progression of cognitive presence in a community of inquiry. 

Finally, I want to briefly draw your attention to the issue of learning analytics as a tool to efficiently monitor and manage collaborative inquiry. Facilitating collaborative inquiry is a complex task that would greatly benefit from an increased understanding of strategies and tactics in the regulation of collaborative inquiry. This point was made in a study assessing CP with the conclusion that while facilitation contributes to CP development, “a primary issue limiting quality and timely coaching is instructors' lack of tools to efficiently identify CP phases in massive discussion transcripts and effectively assess learners' cognitive development” (Ba et al., 2022, p. 1). This study offered a feasible path for adopting learning analytics. For a brief introduction to the topic of learning analytics I would refer you to two of my postings (;


Akyol, Z., & Garrison, D. R. (2011). Assessing metacognition in an online community of inquiry. Internet& Higher Education, 14(3), 183-190.

Alharbi, A. (2022). Asynchronous Discussions to Enhance Online Communities of Inquiry in the Saudi Higher ‎Education Context. International Journal of Higher Education, 11(6), 86-107.

Ba, S., Hu, X., Stein, D., & Liu, Q. (2022). Assessing cognitive presence in online inquiry‐based discussion through text classification and epistemic network analysis. British Journal of Educational Technology,00, 1-20.

Garrison, D. R., & Akyol, Z. (2013). Toward the development of a metacognition construct for the community of inquiry framework. Internet and Higher Education, 17, 84-89.

Garrison, D. R., & Akyol, Z. (2015a). Toward the development of a metacognition construct for the community of inquiry framework. The 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.

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., Anderson, T., and Archer, W. (2001). Critical thinking, cognitive presence and computer conferencing in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 15(1), 7-23.

Karaoglan-Yilmaz, F. G., Ustun, A. B.,Zhang, K., & Yilmaz, R. Metacognitive awareness, reflective thinking, problem solving, and community of inquiry as predictors of academic self-efficacy in blended learning: A correlational study. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 24(1), 20-36.

Li, F. (2022). “Are you there?”: Teaching presence and interaction in large online literature classes. Asian-Pacific Journal of Second and Foreign Language Education, 7(1), 1-15.

Maranna, S., Willison, J., Joksimovic, S., Parange, N., &Costabile, M. (2022). Factors that influence cognitive presence: A scoping review. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 38(4), 95-111.

Olesova, L., Sadaf, A., Kumar, S., Ozogul, G., Zhu, M., Moore, R.L., Miller, C., & Phillips, T. M. (preprint). Cognitive Presence in Online Courses: Design and Facilitation of Collaborative Learning.

Sadaf, A., Kim, S. Y., & Olesova, L.(2022). Relationship Between Metacognition and Online Community of Inquiry in an Online Case-Based Course. Online Learning,26(4), 78-93.

SP, E. F. J., Sholeh, M., & Hermanto, F. Y. (2021). How Inquiry Learning Model Affects Students’ Learning Results and Critical Thinking Skills in Covid-19 Pandemic?. Dinamika Pendidikan, 16(2), 113-123.

Tsai, C. W., Lee, L. Y., Cheng, Y. P., Lin, C. H., Hung, M. L.,& Lin, J. W. (2022). Integrating online meta-cognitive learning strategy and team regulation to develop students’ programming skills, academic motivation, and refusal self-efficacy of Internet use in a cloud classroom. Universal Access in the Information Society, 1-16.

FA Triatmoko HS · 6 months ago
Do you think that the 3 elements of CoI need to be explained in model which explain the correlation or causality? For examples, whether CP is as a dependent variable for TP and SP. Or is it that CP, TP and SP cannot be separated in research?
D. Randy Garrison · 6 months ago
The easy answer is that they cannot be easily separated; they overlap in the Venn diagram. According to the diagram and theory, each can have differing influence on the educational experience (dependent variable however it is defined).
Off the top I suppose that the correlation among the presences will depend on the particular context which may explain the learning dynamic. Causality may be explored but the complexity of the environment would likely preclude any definitive conclusion.
Best I can do without further reflection.


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.