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On Open Teaching and Public Performance

One of the mainstays of my approach to open teaching is the “public performance” of student work. Since 2004 I’ve been encouraging the learners I work with to post their writing and other artifacts to publicly readable blogs. I have seen, time and again, that a different quality of work is done when people are making a permanent contribution to the “great conversation” compared to the work people do when they think that only the TA grading papers will see it.

I’m working with an incredible new doctoral student who I will introduce you to shortly, and we are currently looking for research exploring the motivational and / or learning outcome impacts that occur when student work is made public. For example, in second language learning, we’ve found discussions of “performance days” where students come together with other classes, parents, etc. to put on skits, poetry recitals, etc.:

Motivation has been a subject of second language research at least since the studies of Gardner and Lambert (e.g., 1972) who developed the distinction between integrative motivation — where learners are motivated by the possibility of belonging to a new speech community and thereby developing a deeper understanding of a new culture — and instrumental motivation where students are motivated by the possibilities of social or economic advancement. Gardner and Lambert argued that integrative motivation produced higher proficiency than did instrumental motivation… With this guideline in mind, the Performance day activity creates a very potent version of the integrative motivation. Bringing together students from many classrooms will create a speech community of peers much more clear and present than target cultures for most FL programs, even ones that take students on trips to target language countries. This creation of a target-language speech community may be the greatest pedagogical benefit of the performance day. When students see that the world of the foreign language stretches beyond the boundaries of the classroom into other schools and classrooms, they unconsciously assign more importance to language study.

Kuiper, L. A. (2000). How do the various kinds of performance discussed here contribute the language-learning/acquisition process?

What we’re finding is very spotty, and we’ve yet to hit the literature motherlode, as it were. Any pointers to bodies of research or specific papers on the effects of public performance (or public posting / sharing) of student work? And by public, here, we mean the public-outside-the-classroom. Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.

One reply on “On Open Teaching and Public Performance”

I also looked for evidence on this, but, other than claims and personal experiences, I wasn’t able to find anything. I’d say a lot of us would love to see empirical results on this! Here’s what I wrote in a recent paper that may be a tad helpful: “While current literature suggests that incorporating online public writing (e.g. through student blogs) may yield positive outcomes (e.g. deeper reflection and more nuanced reading and writing) due to the presence of a real or assumed authentic audience (e.g. Martindale & Wiley 2005; Ellison & Wu 2008), this study’s participants took an active role in introducing their students’ writings to authentic audiences, encouraging participation, and requesting from students and classroom outsiders to engage in conversations with each other. We see here a new role for the instructor as an active network participant who connects students with his/her professional community” (page 10 in Veletsianos, G. (in press). Higher Education Scholars’ Participation and Practices on Twitter. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.)

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