These challenges are not unique and are felt by many educators in virtual learning environments. Let's look at an inquiry framework and how to best encourage student participation in an online or even blended setting using the power of silence.
A community of inquiry framework is a model of learning practices in an online or a blended environment. It’s the compilation of a teaching presence (you), social presence (students), and cognitive presence (say what?). The first two elements we often understand, but what fosters cognitive presence? Cognitive presence is the extent to which learners can create meaning through sustained reflection and discourse, i.e., talking with one another and with us. So, back to the beginning of how does that happen if students aren’t answering or participating? They need silence.
The value of silence in teaching
Silence is the absence of sound, but it also carries a second definition according to Oxford Languages- “to prohibit or prevent from speaking.” So, are we silencing our students by not being silent? Are we not giving them an opportunity to create meaning from what we have asked them to do? Silence is uncomfortable. Think about the last time you asked your students a question in class. Five seconds of silence can definitely feel like an eternity.
I’ve been so convicted of my students not participating and of me answering the question for them that I’ve thought of five purposeful ways that I can give them needed silence time: