Assessing Teaching Presence on Computer Conferences -Theoretical Framework 

Theoretical Framework



Teaching Presence

Content Analysis

Theoretical Framework


Unit of Analysis

System Dynamics Model





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Teaching in online context is a complex form of education. Therefore, it is important for studies in this line of education to either keep with traditional studies in the field to avoid misunderstanding and confusion (< xml="true" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" prefix="st1" namespace="">Saba, 2007), or adopt an appropriate theoretical perspective that provide framework for particular research context (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001).


Henri (1992) developed a model of qualitative criteria for content analysis on online discussion examining five dimensions for analyzing computer-mediated communication: (1) student participation; (2) electronic interaction; (3) social cues; (4) cognitive skills and depth of processing; and (5) metacognitive skills and knowledge (Henri, 1992 as cited in Hara et al., 1998). Many researchers took the last two dimensions of Henri model as a separate framework that highlight individuals’ internal cognition as they drafting theoretical framework for their content analysis (Hara et al., 1998; Rourke et al., 2001; Anderson et al., 2001; Garrison et al., 2000; Newman et al., n.d.; Hara, 2000; Gunawardena et al., 1998; McLoughlin et al., 2002; Dieter, 2007). The five levels of cognitive skills suggested by Henri’s cognitive dimension are considered similar to Benjamin Bloom’s (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives for the cognitive domain (Hara, Bonk, & Angeli, 1998) or more Piagetian sense (McLoughlin & Panko, 2002).


Gunawardena model aimed at “examining the negotiation of meaning and co-construction of knowledge in collaborative learning environments”. (Gunawardena, 1998) Gunawardena suggested the five-phase interaction analysis model below.

Phase I: Sharing/comparing of information

Phase II: The discovery and exploration of dissonance of inconsistency among ideas, concepts or statements.

Phase III: Negotiation of meaning/co-construction of knowledge

Phase IV: Testing and modification of proposed synthesis or co-construction

Phase V: Agreement statement(s) / applications of newly-constructed meaning (Gunawardena, 1998)

McLoughlin (2002) investigated on multiple perspectives on the evaluation of online discussion and concluded that Gunawardena model was “a more suitable tool for reflecting collaborative and social factors” than Henri model or Biggs taxonomy because “it proposed a social constructivist approach to knowledge building in an online environment.” Researches conducted by Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, & Archer (2001), McLoughlin & Panko (2002), Simonsen, L., & Banfield, J., (2006), and Zhu (2006) have all referred to Gunawardena model in their studies.


According to the web materials from Teaching and Educational Development Institute, The University of Queensland, Biggs’ SOLO (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcomes) taxonomy (1982) provided “a systematic way of describing how a learner’s performance grows in complexity when mastering many tasks”. Thus, the taxonomy classified student responses according to the level of inherent complexity: prestructural, unistructural, multistructural, relational, and extended abstract (Biggs & Collis, 1982, as cited in McLoughlin, 2002). The model is primarily designed for the print-based word in order to examine the complexity of students’ responses. Researchers used SOLO to assess students’ surface and deep learning approaches (McLoughlin, 2002; Holmes, 2004) or to distinguish higher order thinking (HOT) within transcripts of dialogue. (Hatzipanagos, 2006) Other researches used the SOLO taxonomy to analyze and delineating conceptual process (Hatzipanagos, 2006).


Garrison’s Community of Inquiry (COI) model suggested three core elements for online learning interaction: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence (Garrison et al., 2000). In addition, COI model described categories, indicators and sample sentences corresponding to each element and constituted a template and tool for analyzing and coding transcripts from computer conferences. Shea, Pickett, & Pelz (2003) who used Garrison, Anderson, and Archer framework in their researches, reported that the COI framework proposed a comprehensive conceptual background and a developed and detailed set of categories for examining online discussion.


Amidon & Flanders (1967) constructed the interaction analysis system on which number of studies formed their basis. Flanders interaction analysis system that was primarily developed for analyzing interaction occur in the classroom has been using for over three decades in several studies (Freiberg, 1981 as cited in Saba, 2007). Flanders divided the system into three major categories and ten sub-categories. Among them, seven sub-categories described teacher behaviors; and two sub-categories described learner behaviors in discussion. Later researches made modification on Flanders model to create instruments that suited for current electronic learning environment. For example, in the research of Saba & Shearer (1994), based on Flanders interaction analysis system to developed additional categories, such as communication maintenance, and advanced organizers, which were particular to communication via electronic means and instructional design requirements (Saba, 2007).