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PRESENCESSocial Presence, Cognitive Presence, Teaching Presence

In Ireland, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that in 2012, 98% of 15-year-old pupils have at least one computer at home, but only 64% of pupils reported that they use a computer, laptop, or tablet at school. These findings are based on an analysis of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) data and show that despite the pervasiveness of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in pupils’ daily lives, such technologies have not yet been as widely adopted within the classrooms of formal second level education. When they are used in the classroom, their impact on pupil learning is mixed at best. Yet, the debate about the use of ICT in schools has been replaced by a discourse of inevitability, where schools of the future are presented as ICT rich sites of learning. The ‘space’ created in this discourse of inevitability enables schools and teachers to integrate systems of ICT without guiding epistemological or pedagogical frameworks. 

This study recognised the potential of the Community of Inquiry framework (Garrison et al. 2000) as a model for guiding ICT-supported learning in second level education. When first considering using the CoI framework as a model for the integration of ICT, teaching presence, (i.e., the design, facilitation, and direction of social and cognitive processes) would have a significant influence on the teaching and learning experience. Further, if the design, facilitation, and direction of social and cognitive processes were to play such a key role in teaching and learning, then it made sense to first look at the intersection that is between social and cognitive presence (i.e., supporting discourse). Therefore, in the context of supporting discourse between teachers and learners, the aim of this research was to conduct an exploratory study, which investigated the development of a conceptual model for enhancing practice in second level education.

In conjunction with a learning management system, this study implemented ‘learning protocols’, as both a pedagogical and technological approach for supporting discourse. The research participants were senior-cycle pupils (n = 87) of second level education and the research method adopted a design experiments approach with mixed-methods. The learning management system used in this study offered a message-based approach that allowed this research to use individual posts and comments as the unit of analysis. The CoI coding scheme was employed to code the elements of social, cognitive, and teaching presence and the CoI survey instrument (adapted for second level education) was used to measure the perception of the individual elements of the CoI framework.

The relationship between the frequency of codes assigned to social, cognitive, and teaching presence and the participants’ use of learning protocols generated a common language of progression around the intended learning outcomes of the study, revealing evidence of an iterative and interactive process of learning. This was possible because the use of protocols allowed the reader to see and understand the process of learning, and in turn informed a person’s capacity to identify current and targeted progressions and whether or not they should or shouldn’t intervene within the process of learning. In comparing the frequency of protocols assigned by participants and the researcher, a clear sense of hierarchical development within the learning protocols was identified which further enabled participants to evidence their thinking in terms of progression. However, the classification of this hierarchy revealed similar issues that concern the CoI, (i.e., learners are not reaching higher phases of critical thinking and reflection). However, the results of the transcript analysis showed that in schools where teachers recorded high percentages of learning protocols the pupils showed a greater capacity to move beyond exploration into the integration and resolution of cognitive presence. 

The results of the exploratory factor analysis confirmed the hypothesised relationships among social, cognitive, and teaching presence and the CoI survey items. Perceptions of teaching presence indicated a significant effect on perceptions of cognitive presence and perceptions of teaching presence were notably associated with social presence. The mediating effects of social presence on cognitive presence were also confirmed. However, it was shown that a four, rather than a three factor model was of best fit. This model identified the affective category of social presence as a separate factor, which suggests that because of the physical environment of second level education, as opposed to the virtual settings of online education, “getting to know other pupils” and “forming clear impressions of other pupils”, presented itself as a distinct factor. This could suggest that learning protocols shifted the responsibility (i.e., teaching presence) to pupils to ensure interactions remained meaningful and educationally worthwhile, alleviating concerns that affective interaction would undermine the learning process.

Hence, the use of learning protocols to support discourse between teachers and pupils’ based on the Community of Inquiry framework as a model for ICT-supported learning, enhances and extends the development of teaching presence which supports the design, facilitation, and direction of social and cognitive processes in second level education.

Lindie · 3 years ago
Which level is the second level?
Rick Henderson · 6 years ago
Very interesting project Adrian. I'm very interested in the learning protocols you mention so I'll definitely be looking in to your research.
Martha Cleveland-Innes · 7 years ago
Thank you again, Adrian, for being the first to post a project on our new multi-authored blog. At recent workshops I've given on the CoI to faculty, discussion about levels of teaching presence has come up. Perhaps we could discuss your findings and how they can inform novice online/blended instructors' practice.
Hari Prasad Nepal · 7 years ago
Hi Adrin,
I am interested in your project! you raise a very practical issue.
I will be more than happy to work in your research team.
Adrian O'Connor · 7 years ago
Hi Hari,

If you would like to get in contact my email is:
D. Randy Garrison · 7 years ago
First let me thank Adrian, Niall and Donal for sharing this important project.
I am very interested in the context of this study; that is, the extent and influence of face-to-face interaction. This seems to be related to “‘learning protocols’, as both a pedagogical and technological approach for supporting discourse.” As Mary requested, we need to better appreciate what is meant by “learning protocols.” This is crucial as the context and learning protocols appear to be linked to the emergence of a fourth factor associated with social presence? Clearly we need to understand what may have influenced this and which has the potential to provide some very interesting insights to using the CoI framework in this context.
Moreover, what is of particular interest to me is the suggestion “that learning protocols shifted the responsibility (i.e., teaching presence) to pupils to ensure interactions remained meaningful and educationally worthwhile, alleviating concerns that affective interaction would undermine the learning process.” I would like to explore this further as interpersonal relationships undermining open discourse have been a theoretical concern of mine from the outset. So the question is do these personal relationships encourage greater discourse in this particular setting (dominated by face-to-face experiences?) and if so why?
Adrian O'Connor · 7 years ago
Thanks Randy for your comments and your interest in this project.

The results from the transcript analysis and frequency of codes assigned by element revealed that indicators of social presence had been assigned to 30% of all interactions. The findings indicated that participant activity occurred mostly in the interactive and cohesive categories of social presence, which included complimenting others or the contents of others’ messages and building or sustaining a sense of group commitment. The affective category, which includes use of emotions, humour, and self-disclosure was the least frequently coded category of social presence during these interactions. When affective interactions did occur, they were re-directed (i.e., teaching presence) by pupils using learning protocols because they had a shared language of progression which ensured interactions remained both meaningful and educationally worthwhile. In addition to generating a common language of understanding between participants the nature of discourse and the language of that discourse was shown to be cognitive. The results of a correlational analysis between the codes assigned to social, cognitive, and teaching presence indicated a significant positive correlation between learning protocols and the development of cognitive presence within the learning environment. Therefore, personal relationships did not encourage greater discourse in this particular setting, by giving pupils a language in which the process of learning becomes the focus of conversation, the interactions within the virtual environment remained task focused, which ultimately led to the development of greater discourse between teachers and pupils.
Mary Elizabeth McNabb · 7 years ago
Hi Adrian,

This is fascinating work. Having taught high school in Canada (your second level education) and as a doctoral candidate researching teaching presence in two un-paced undergraduate courses on the Landing at Athabasca U., I'm interested in what you mean by learning protocols. Would you address just what they encompass, please?

Mary McNabb
Adrian O'Connor · 7 years ago
Hi Mary,

Learning protocols are potential support tools from which teachers and pupils may select from to indicate what they consider useful (Wessner et al. 1999). At any time, pupils may choose from a menu of specific protocols which are then activated. These protocols are not forced onto the pupils but are an optional tool to use if needed during the course of an otherwise self-organised learning process (Pfister et al. 1998). In the context of this study, twelve learning protocols were developed as part of a conceptual framework for supporting discourse between teachers and pupils. The # symbol was utilised by teachers and pupils to self-code each of these learning protocols as well as to document evidence-based progress as part of the educational transaction. The emphasis was put on the pupils to identify what protocols they valued as being appropriate to evidence learning with a conscious effort being made by teachers not to impose any criteria or values external to the pupils own learning experience.

Adrian O'Connor
Lecturer in Technology Education, University of Limerick
Dr Adrian O’Connor is a Lecturer of Technology Education within the School of Education, Faculty of Education and Health Sciences, University of Limerick, Ireland. His lecturing in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) includes Subject Pedagogics in Engineering Technology and Design and Communication Graphics. He is also Chief Information Officer of the Technology Education Research Group (TERG).



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