eCoaching Tip 113 Increasing Your Teaching Presence in Three Engaging Ways

April 4 2014

eCoaching Tip 113 Increasing Your Teaching Presence in Three Engaging Ways

How are you doing? Is spring really almost here? Sharing feelings, ideas and common experiences often bring feelings of warmth and connection and of not being alone. How can you do this in your course?

Now is a good time to examine your own practices around your teaching presence. This tip describes three simple, practical teaching strategies that can help you increase the quality and quantity of your teaching presence. These strategies also help you to share more of your expert knowledge while reaffirming core concepts.

Two of these strategies focus on fine-tuning your instructions for discussion forum postings; the third strategy enhances your role as a learning coach.

Strategy One: Using Challenge Words

This first strategy encourages the use of challenge words such as resolve, suggest, imagine, relate, recommend, propose, predict, adapt, estimate, and hypothesize in your discussion instructions. You might recognize right away that these words tap into the higher levels of Bloom’s cognitive thinking taxonomy.

For example, you might ask your learners to proposea solution or approach for handling   a novel situation.  You might ask students to suggest ways of reducing the effects of or minimizing a conflict, develop an approach for marketing a new product, or devise alternative ways of handling component supply problems.

Here are a couple of examples.

  • Reflect on the scenario described in your first reading. Imagine another way this scenario might have played out? What might need to be in place for this alternative scenario?  Include ideas from course materials and other sources to support your thinking.
  • Funding new and unusual ideas can be difficult and new businesses often begin in garages (Google, Harley-Davidson, Disney). Propose two-three principles that might be key ingredients in building a successful business? Or research an example of the new crowd-sourcing strategy of project funding.

Responding to these types of challenge words requires students to read, think and process content more thoroughly and to simultaneously draw on their own knowledge and experience. This type of creatingresponse to the discussion forum also stimulates curiosity and energy and hopefully, respect for the power of content knowledge.

Strategy Two: Integrate Emotion and Feeling

The second strategy for deepening student engagement focuses on integrating emotional responses into the discussions, recognizing that we bring more than our minds to intellectual growth and inquiry.  How might you do this?

Again, in your instructions for discussions, incorporate words such as inspire, delight, joy, enthuse, intrigue, confuse, perplex.  Ask students what ideas, thoughts or stories in the content had an impact on how they thought and what they might do or think in the future. For example, we study many leaders in the SLPA program.  Ask the students what emotions may have played a part in a leader’s decisions and why? Thesefeelingwords encourage students to think more holistically about leadership challenges.

Design of teaching experiences often includes references to Bloom’s taxonomy of cognition as we just did above. Less frequently is the affective taxonomy developed by Krathwohl in collaboration with Bloom and Masia (1964) included explicitly in design. The affective taxonomy has five levels of attitude and behavioral internalization: receiving, responding, valuing, organizing and character.  The fifth and highest level of the taxonomy reflects a student’s internalization of a value system that governs his/her behavior.  Integrating how students listen to and value others’ opinions in conjunction with intellectual content helps to ensure mindful learning.

Memory research validates that emotions deepen thought and engagement and strengthen our memory of events and experiences (Schacter, 2001.) Also, our emotions are part of how we think about ideas.  We have feelings about ideas and where they can take us. So, search for ways to have students factor their emotions into the meaning of course content and ideas and think holistically about how it all fits.

Third Strategy Focuses on More Presence by You

The third strategy focuses on you and your actions. Learners yearn to hear your voice whether with text or audio.  Learners want to know what you are thinking about what they are saying in their posts and assignments. And what you are thinking about the posts of their peers. They want to know your thoughts on how content knowledge plays a role in current happenings and events.

How can you do this? Here are some ideas:

  • Provide more announcements that accompany your learners on their learning path. Post announcements two-three times a week at surprising times and intervals.  Share study hints, reminders, and ways that “your” content knowledge makes a difference.
  • Providing more observations and relationships that challenge, inform and support student’s learning. This means involvement with discussion forums, supporting and observing possibilities from students’ postings.
  • Close discussion forums with a concise summary that reinforces core concepts and ideas while transitioning and preparing learners for the next week. These are called “Wrap and Bridge Talks.”  The best discussion wraps integrate your expert views and knowledge with insights and ideas from learner postings. The goal of any community of learning is to create new knowledge for the learners.  This strategy helps to make that happen.  You might respond by saying this last strategy is not that simple or even practical, but it makes a difference, letting students know that you are listening and acknowledging who they are as individuals.
  • Hold optional synchronous events for those students who enjoy this kind of interaction. They can be a type of office hour and are usually more interesting to learners when they focus on projects, readings that might be difficult, assignments and small teamwork.

These strategies do take more time, but over time, can be done quite efficiently.  These strategies all convey to your students that you are interested in them and in their learning the content well.   And don’t forget, sometimes just showing up daily means a lot to students.

The Power of Teaching Presence

The body of research on teaching presence is impressive, and is relatively consistent in finding that effective teaching presence correlates highly with good learning outcomes and increased satisfaction in online learning. You can begin your own research with the body of references provided in this tip.


Boettcher, J. V. (2012) eCoaching Tip 95: Learning Guides – Expanding Your Teaching Presence.  Retrieved March 13, 2014 from

Boettcher, J. V. (2007; 2010) eCoaching Tip 51: A Garden of Three Presences — Social Presence, Teaching Presence and Cognitive Presence.  Retrieved March 13, 2014, from

Cleveland-Innes, M. & Campbell, P. (2012). Emotional presence, learning, and the online learning environment.  The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL). Vol. 13, No. 4 Retrieved March 13, 2014 from

Garrison, D., & Vaughan, N., (2008). Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles, and Guidelines.San Francisco, Wiley.

Center for Teaching Excellence, Duquesne University. Establishing an Online Teaching Presence.  Retrieved March 13 2014 from

Krathwohl, D.R., Bloom, B.S., and Masia, B.B. (1964). Taxonomy of educational objectives: Handbook II: Affective domain. New York: David McKay Co.

Learning Taxonomy – Krathwohl’s Affective Domain(n.d.)

Schacter, D. L. (2001). The Seven sins of memory: How the mind forgets and remembers.New York: Houghton-Mifflin. A concise summary is at

Shea, P., A. Pickett, and W. Pelz. (2003). A follow-up investigation of teaching presence in the SUNY Learning Network. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 7 (2): 61–80.

Note: These E-coaching tips were initially developed for faculty in the School of Leadership & Professional Advancement at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. This library of tips has been organized and updated through 2016  in the second edition of the  book, The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips coauthored with Rita Marie Conrad. Judith can be reached judith followed by

Copyright by Judith V. Boettcher