Graph showing the numbers of document in ERIC with the subject heading "open education" over the years from 1970 to the mid-2010sMuch was written on the subject of Open Education in the early 70s. This declined to a trickle by 1980 and has only started to pick up in the past decade. There are a variety of reasons for the drop off. One factor is that people could not build on the research because everyone had a different idea of what open education meant.

In light of that, I think Wiley was wise to coin the term OER-enabled pedagogy and give it a clear definition:

“OER-enabled pedagogy is the set of teaching and learning practices only possible or practical when you have permission to engage in the 5R activities.” Wiley, OER-Enabled Pedagogy

Calling it open pedagogy would be problematic, because the concept of open pedagogy pre-dated OER. There had been significant research on Open Educational Practices as well, a term often used interchangeably with open pedagogy. Creating a new term and defining it for everyone helps build a foundation for coherent research. Hopefully it won’t go up in smoke like the 70s.

But I happen to like the idea of open pedagogy, even if it is multi-faceted and complex. I gravitate towards Tom Woodward’s definition:

Open is a purposeful path towards connection and community. Open pedagogy could be considered as a blend of strategies, technologies, and networked communities that make the process and products of education more transparent, understandable, and available to all the people involved. Grush, Open Pedagogy: Connection, Community, and Transparency

It could involve OER, but it doesn’t have to. Ultimately, practices are more significant than resources. Wiley recognizes that, noting “Copyright restricts what we are permitted to do,” so open licenses enable open practices. But I look at it from my perspective as a librarian. We have a wealth of resources, both under copyright and not, that people can use to build their knowledge. They could do this openly, and they could make open resources in the process, but that is not a requirement.

An education class I worked with serves as an example of open pedagogy in practice. Rather than using a textbook, the instructor came up with a set of essential questions and groups of students were finding research to answer them, which they would then share back with the rest of the class. They were learning how to learn as they were learning how to teach. OER played no part in the course, although they may have used open access research. I suggested to the instructor that the class might use their research to improve Wikipedia pages on early childhood education topics, contributing to an open resource, but the instructor considered Wikipedia toxic.

The student empowerment aspect of open pedagogy is what interests me. OER can have a role, but should not be a limiter. I have thought of OER as a gateway into open pedagogy – come for the free stuff, stay for the freedom – but it may be too much of a leap, as I’m finding most instructors who adopt OER are only interested in changing textbooks, not anything else about the way they do things.

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