Cognitive presence is the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication.
The purpose of this paper is to describe a practical approach to judging the nature and quality of critical discourse in a computer conference. A model of a critical community of inquiry frames the research. A core concept in defining a community of inquiry is cognitive presence. In turn, the practical inquiry model operationalizes cognitive presence for the purpose of developing a tool to assess critical discourse and reflection. Encouraging empirical findings related to an attempt to create an efficient and reliable instrument to assess the nature and quality of critical discourse and thinking in a text-based educational context are presented. Finally, it is suggested that cognitive presence (i.e., critical, practical inquiry) can be created and supported in a computer conference environment with appropriate teaching and social presence.
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2001). Critical Thinking and Computer Conferencing: A Model and Tool to Assess Cognitive Presence. American Journal of Distance Education. pdf Full Text