A consistent theme in my work on blended learning is shifting students from passive consumers in the classroom to active, engaged members of a learning community. The Community of Inquiry framework can help teachers blending online and offline work to cultivate a blended classroom characterized by respect, dialogue, inquiry, and exploration.

Too often classrooms are spaces where kids do not enjoy the flexibility or freedom to ask questions about topics or issues that capture their interest and pursue exploration that may extend beyond the boundaries of a particular subject area. Instead of allowing students to engage in the messy business of asking questions, seeking answers, and understanding complex problems, education focuses on presenting the answers to questions and solutions to problems for kids to absorb and retain. However, if the student has not played an active role in asking questions or investigating topics, they are unlikely to be interested in or motivated to remember the “answer.”

Cultivating a Community of Inquiry both on and offline can help students learn how to think independently, imaginatively, and resourcefully. There are three overlapping elements of the Community of Inquiry framework: social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence.

Developing a Community of Inquiry in a blended classroom can function to:

  • leverage student curiosity.
  • encourage exploration and investigation.
  • help students to appreciate the interconnectedness of the various subjects.
  • develop the ability to communicate and collaborate both on and offline.
  • give students more agency and autonomy to enhance intrinsic motivation.
  • build meaningful relationships among students.
  • drive deeper thinking about topics, issues, and problems.
  • shift students from a passive to an active role in the classroom.

Ultimately, classrooms should be spaces where students develop the skills necessary to explore and understand their world. They must practice approaching unfamiliar concepts and situations to make sense of them. Using the Community of Inquiry framework provides blended teachers with a structure they can use to design learning experiences that combine the best elements of online and offline learning and allow students to drive that learning.

8 Responses

  1. What an excellent educational model for schools to follow. Students must learn and practice how to ask questions to dive deep into their learning while building strong working relationships with their peers.

    • Exactly, Amy! In my role as a coach, I find that many teachers are hesitant to engage students in inquiry, exploration, and discussion. It’s a messy, non-linear, and often a time-consuming process, but it is incredibly valuable for them to develop these skills, engage with their peers, and drive the learning in the classroom.


      • Hi Catlin

        I fully agree with your point. However if we are teaching students who do not have the pre-requisite entry level, how do we encourage them?

        I would like to hear your views.

        Thank you.

        Pui Wan

        • Hi Pui,

          Do you mean pre-requisite skills or content knowledge? If so, that’s a big benefit of blended learning. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach and should free you to work with students who need additional support and skill-building.


  2. I suggest a Social, Cognitive and Learning presence.
    When Teachers evolve to Educators then on to Leaders of Learning then Students and their yet-to-evolve Teachers learn, retain, and apply more ‘funner and faster.’

  3. I appreciate that you acknowledge that this is messy but much needed work! With access to so much information we need to be able to help learners be critical consumers! This an excellent framework for constructing an authentic educational experience.

  4. COI is a really interesting model of learning that appears to apply to all age groups. Given that students are more familiar with spoon feeding teaching practices it is essential that they gradually evolve into autonomous learners which will benefit them both in the educational as well as professional environment.

  5. COI is an excellent model for students and teachers. It emphsizes the possibilities of creativity for students. It also allows for critical thinking which is so important once entering the workforce. It also allows young adults to take charge of their own learning and builds their self esteem. Very exciting model.

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