Four Presences in Every Learning Environment:
Teaching, Cognitive, Social, and Emotional Presence

In August 2020, over 250 faculty participated in the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence’s series of workshops focused on four educational presences: Teaching, Cognitive, Social and Emotional. The foundational elements of these conversations stemmed from research on the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model, a framework initially designed to support online learning (Cleveland-Innes & Campbell, 2012; Garrison & Akyol, 2012; Garrison et al., 2000; Garrison et al., 2010). With a focus on resilient pedagogy and the ability to educate effectively across multiple delivery modalities, the CoI framework provided an accessible, easily adaptable way to think about course delivery for any class. In addition to CTLE and faculty presentations, the workshop format allowed for faculty from across disciplines to connect and share ideas about how their courses support the four presences.

On this webpage, you will find an overview of the presences, CTLE and faculty slideshows, a curation of shared ideas from the small group breakout sessions, and suggested resources. 

The Four Presences

Teaching Presence

Teaching presence is about leading students through the process of learning within the class. To create an environment where students can be guided, the instructor needs to show the students that they are with them through every step of the learning process. Through encouragement and guidance, instructors will build relationships with their students, whether that is online, face to face or mix of both. When instructors have an authentic connection with their students, this gives the students the confidence to learn and flourish. Instructors are also better able to address student needs as they happen. 

Teaching/Instructor Presence Slideshow

Teaching/Instructor Presence Example Slideshow

Cognitive Presence

Cognitive presence in teaching and learning refers to how students interact with the content, the instructor, and each other to construct meaning. To achieve this goal, teachers should create opportunities for their students to engage in critical thinking, problem solving, and collaborative activities. Mere interaction does not necessarily equate to cognitive engagement in the classroom. To create a learning environment with a strong cognitive presence, the instructor must create activities and assignments that encourage critical discourse (student-to-student and student-to-instructor) in ways that can be quantified.   

Cognitive Presence Slideshow

Social Presence  

Social presence in the classroom plays a vital role in how learners interact and communicate. It improves students’ sense of belonging and creates a more supportive learning environment. Social presence includes not only peer-to-peer relationships, but also the interactions that occur between the instructor and the students. It is what makes virtual learning experiences feel real. Classes with effective social presence include positive and constructive interactions between all members of the group and a shared, purposeful sense of community. Establishing social presence in a course enhances learning and student outcomes.

Social Presence Slideshow

Social Presence Overview

Emotional/Affective Presence

Emotional presence includes attitudes, feelings, and emotions that impact learning. Faculty who are cognizant of emotional presence consider what emotional reactions may occur as students interact with course content, assignments, technologies, and their community. If you have ever noticed a student hesitating to speak out on a controversial issue, becoming excited about an upcoming project, or anxious about the amount of work, then you have observed emotional presence. At first, it may seem counterintuitive to consider the role of emotions in university classes, but when learners feel safe, motivated, or excited, they engage differently than when they feel fear, anxiety, or stress.

Emotional Presence Overview

Emotional Presence Slideshow

Emotional Presence Examples Slideshow

With Special Thanks

We want to extend special thanks to the faculty presenters who volunteered to share their insights and practical examples of how they support the presence in their classes.

College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Keith Burton

Dr. Cathleen Dunn

Dr. Cheryl Kozina

Dr. Randall Woodard

College of Business

Dr. Kenneth Embry

Dr. Keith Jones

Dr. Patrick Ryan Murphy

Dr. Zachary Smith

Dr. Dené Williamson

College of Education and Social Services

Dr. Michael Campbell

Dr. Christina Cazanave

Dr. Christine Picot

Dr. Georgina Rivera-Singletary

Dr. Rhondda Waddell

Dr. Nancy Wood

Suggested Resources

Cleveland-Innes, M., & Campbell, P. (2012). Emotional presence, learning, and the online learning environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning13(4), 269-292.

Garrison, D.R., & Akyol, Z. (2012). Toward the development of a metacognition construct for communities of inquiry. The Internet and Higher Education17(24), 66-71.

Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education2(2-3), 87-105.

Garrison, D.R., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Fung, T.S. (2010). Exploring causal relationships among teaching, cognitive, and social presence: Student perceptions of the community of inquiry framework. The Internet and Higher Education13(1), 31-36.