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Disciplinary differences and emotional presence in communities of inquiry: Teachers’ expressions of digital technology-enabled teaching
Sundgren, Marcus · Jaldemark, Jimmy · Cleveland-Innes, Martha

Published14 March 2023
Type of workResearch study
JournalComputers and Education Open
Volume 4, Issue 100134

This work was built on two strands of earlier research on the community of inquiry framework (CoI). The first strand was Biglan's seminal work on disciplinary epistemological structures and how these structures impact digital technology-enabled higher education teaching. In the other strand, some rare studies suggested that emotional issues are important to understanding higher education teaching. Nevertheless, research that links these two strands is even rarer. Therefore, this study aims to analyze the relationship between digital technology-enabled teaching in higher educational settings, the presences of the community of inquiry framework (CoI), and disciplinary epistemological structures. Survey responses from 143 teachers were analyzed through confirmatory factor analysis (SEM) and reflexive thematic analysis. Emotional presence was found to be a possible fourth element in the CoI. Disciplinary differences (coded as pure vs. applied sciences) were found to have an effect on the CoI, and that effect was particularly evident through the mediation of emotional presence. The differentiating factor was teachers’ views on the role of teaching. When guiding digital design, the recommendation is to consider such disciplinary differences specifically.

Keywords Distance education and online learning · Learning communities · Pedagogical issues · Post-secondary education · Teacher professional development

CoI focusFull model - adaptation
Study designSurvey
Data analysisStructural equation modelling
InstrumentCoI survey translated
ContributionMultiple contributions
Sample size143
Study aim"To explore and analyze the relationship between digital technology-enabled teaching in higher educational settings, the presences of the community of inquiry framework (including emotional presence), and disciplinary epistemological structures."
Finding"* The structure of the original three presences remains intact despite the translation to Swedish.
* Differences in disciplinary epistemological structures impact educational settings. The epistemological structure associated with meaning being transmitted to the learners appeared more prevalent in pure academic disciplines, and the structure associated with meaning being transformed by the learners appeared more prevalent in applied academic disciplines.
* These epistemological structure differences have a particular impact in relation to emotional presence (EP). Teachers from pure disciplines seemed less inclined to address EP than teachers in applied disciplines. Due to EP acting as an enabler of social presence, this difference is relevant when striving for a developed CoI and can be one key factor to consider in teacher professional development efforts."
RightsCC BY
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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.