When I started at the Teaching & Learning Centre, I knew a bit about what Randy Garrison was doing - he was the new Director of the TLC, and he'd been working on something called "[community of inquiry](http://communitiesofinquiry.com)" - but I didn't know too much more than that. I didn't pay it much attention, since it didn't overlap what I was doing very much.
Years passed, and I'm now planning the research proposal for my MSc thesis. And it turns out that the Community of Inquiry model is probably the best fit for what I want to do to investigate differences in discourse between two cohorts. More info on my research proposal at a later date...
Basically, what Community of Inquiry does is to take a look at the discourse of a community, from three overlapping perspectives:
* cognitive presence
* ability of participants to construct meaning through sustained communication
* social presence
* ability of participants to project their personal characteristics into the community
* teaching presence
* design, facilitation, and direction of the community processes
You take the discourse of a community, crunch it through some latent content analyses, and get an idea for how the participants fit together along the three perspectives.
The really appealing thing about the COI model is that it has been [used by several researchers](http://communitiesofinquiry.com/references) to investigate various communities, so it's got some validity and rigour behind it. That'll make my job much easier, as I won't have to spend as much time designing and defending the analysis framework...
I found it pretty interesting that my poking around with research proposal planning lead me right to Randy's work. What are the chances that you'd happen to be working for one of the key researchers in a field?