yellow pencil, pencil sharpener and fresh pencil shavings on top of a notebook

Connecting Carl Rogers’ Person-Centered Approach to Teacher Presence in the Community of Inquiry Model

by Heather Stafford, DLINQ Instructional Designer

I should preface this with two facts about me:

  • I used to teach high school English
  • Self-reflective journaling has always been one of my favorite ways to develop trust and understanding with my students

Consequently, I was immediately drawn to the OLC session titled “Enhancing instructor-student relationships through online journaling using Carl Rogers’ person-centered approach.” The session was led by four professors from the University of Illinois at Springfield who implemented a periodic reflective journaling activity into their courses and tried to measure whether faculty responses to student journals that included language that conveyed feelings of empathy, regard, genuineness, and unconditionality related positively to student engagement in the class.

The faculty felt that these three conditions (empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard) could be connected to the concept of teacher presence component of the community of inquiry model. (Read more about the COI model and how it can help build community in your class.)

The logistics of the journal were quite simple. At three points in the semester (beginning, middle and end) students were asked to submit an assignment through the Canvas site with the following prompt as a guide: “This journal is just between you and me. I want to know what is going on with you and your learning. Please use your journal to reflect on your learning.”

The general consensus was that coding language from the journal responses into the three different categories was challenging and resulted in a lot of grey areas, but that overall they saw positive connections between this language and students’ positive experiences with teacher presence. They also noted that close connections with students can be built, however it takes more work on the front end by the professor, but can pay off in strong student engagement in the class.