Learn more about Fall 2021 and COVID-19 

Skip to Main Content

Katherine Tsan on Open Pedagogy

Over twenty years ago, a college friend stated in an editorial with the combative title ‘I Didn’t Write My Tutorial Paper’: ‘I challenge you to think of how many times you felt yourself performing a meaningless exercise such as regurgitating information for a paper. Now consider the other things that you may have done during that time and ask yourself if you really maximized your education by making the choice with your time that you did…’ (Lang, J. I didn’t write my tutorial paper. The Harvard Crimson, March 18, 1999). Those words could still be spoken today, with the same bite. Yet the advent of a culture where an institution would react to such an editorial, not with aversion but acceptance is upon us, in part due to the opening up of pedagogy, aided by the digital technology that enables its products to come into our homes and minds.  

Open pedagogy has encompassed a wide array of approaches ever since it was introduced to the conversation on open educаtional resources in the second half of the 2010s. More of a set of attitudes or a ‘site of practice’ (DeRosa and Jhangiani, 2019) than a single school of thought, its unifying quality lies in a desire to ‘open up’ traditional models such as the teacher-centered, where the all-knowing ‘sage on the stage’ imparts information by lecturing to the class.

The tradition-challenging nature of converting courses to open content can serve as a logical entry point to open educational practices. The course instructor adopts a new role—that of a facilitator who helps engage students in not just working through a given set of problems but also creating their own content—either from scratch or through adapting or remixing—and then making it available to their peers. The capacity of open publishing to empower learning, in what David Wiley and John Hilton (2018) termed ‘OER-enabled pedagogy’ and the effects of adopting new practices such as renewable assignment creation on the student body (Hilton, 2020) (Tillinghast, 2020) have been a dominant strain of conversation. Without these alternative models, a true challenge to the traditional constructs that still govern the Western classroom would be hard to mount.

 And, of course, we cannot imagine these practices, in their modern guises, without the publishing capacities of the Internet and, even more so, the Creative Commons licensing which has made it possible for teacher and student work to circulate in shared online spaces.

         There are different ways to conceive of open practices, depending on what their practitioners see as intellectual antecedents—public scholarship, active learning, multimodality, some combination of these, or something else entirely. The oft-repeated observation that ‘although many educators initially come to open education for the cost savings, they often stay for the pedagogy’ (Jhangiani, 2019) makes sense in the context of the rich scholarly pedigree of this new turn in the practice of open learning.