Step 3: Constructivist Pedagogies

Inclusion embraces aspects of constructivist pedagogies, in which students and instructors create a community of inquiry (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008) and discovery. Supportive communities form organically online, though scholars suggest this takes more time to establish than in physical writing spaces (Breuch, 2005). Because effective first-year composition courses require a sense of community, it helps to strive for a particular model. Garrison and Vaughan (2008) suggest a “Community of Inquiry” model for virtual writing spaces.

A community of inquiry is a cohesive and interactive community of learners whose purpose is to critically analyze, construct, and confirm worthwhile knowledge. The three key elements for a viable community of inquiry are social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence. (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008, p. 9)

Writing center scholars have long advocated for designs that encourage collaborative learning (Hobson, 2001). The small group designs so effective in physical writing spaces are easily implemented online. We can adapt these small group pedagogies to online composition courses by employing the group features of many learning management systems. Virtual writing spaces generally support groups and pairings. Additionally, it is much easier to reassemble groups or have task-specific groups online if we wish to expose students to more of their peers during a writing course.

The teaching of writing, unlike some other disciplines, is founded on the assumption that students learn well by reading and writing with each other, responding to each other’s drafts, negotiating revisions, discussing ideas, sharing perspectives, and finding some level of trust as collaborators in their mutual development. (Anson, 1999, p. 807)

Inclusive design encourages asynchronous communication to accommodate students with limited motor control and cognitive differences (Bruch, 2003). Asynchronous groups have time to consider questions individually, and then bring insights and questions to the group. This approach fosters constructivist activities: the discovery, creation, and exploration of meaning (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008). The instructor becomes an online guide, not a lecturer, embracing the nature of virtual composition classrooms.