Online Professional Development of English Teachers: An analysis of Cognitive Presence via the Community of Inquiry Framework

  • Adam Edmett

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


This study explores the educational benefits of online dialogue as posited by the Garrison et al. (2001) Community of Inquiry framework. Specifically, that online discussion allows learners to collaboratively construct knowledge through critical discourse (i.e. ‘cognitive presence’), that results in deep and meaningful learning. A body of Community of Inquiry research has led to a critique of the framework, specifically that the higher levels of reflective thought are not occurring. This thesis investigates this potential flaw and the response that the problem is not the framework per se, but issues with ‘teaching presence’ or online course design and facilitation. To investigate these research questions, two groups of in-service English language teachers studied identical course content with differing discussion forum task types. Group A tasks included debate and case study based tasks while Group B used more typical open discussion type tasks. The resulting transcripts were coded as per the analytical framework of Park (2009). Overall, Group A transcripts showed increased incidence of the higher phases of ‘cognitive presence’ when compared with Group B. There was evidence, particularly in the debate format, that changing the task design impacts the shape and substance of the discussion, providing more opportunity for deeper critical thought. Still, ‘lower level’ exploratory thought was dominant e.g. the teachers engaged in ‘Personal narration’ (i.e. stories about learners or classroom practice) for 47.1% of the total cognitive presence incidence in Group B and 17.5% in Group A. This was not proportionate to the number of prompts requesting the teachers to engage in this. Given the frequency with which the latter occurred, future research is required to understand if this is a recurrent and distinctive feature of in-service teachers online discussion and to better understand the function and value of these ‘stories’.
Date of Award5 Sept 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorDavid Skidmore (Supervisor)

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