Quick Thoughts on Open Pedagogy

Dumping out some thoughts here so I can return to them when I have more time.

There’s been some fabulous writing over the last month or so about whether or not open licensing is important to open pedagogy, beginning with Clint Lalonde’s Does Open Pedagogy Require OER? (read the comments, too). Reading this has prompted me to do some additional thinking which is helping me clarify what I mean by “open pedagogy.” I realize there are people who use the term “open pedagogy” in different ways than I do, and even some who are actively advocating for it to be defined in different ways (e.g., Hegarty, 2015). That’s fine. My goal here is to bring greater clarity to my own thinking.

Since I started using the phrase back in 2013, I’ve framed open pedagogy in terms of the permissions granted by open licenses:

What makes this assignment an instance of open pedagogy instead of just another something we require students to do? As described, the assignment is impossible without the permissions granted by open licenses. This is the ultimate test of whether or not a particular approach or technique can rightly be called “open pedagogy” – is it possible without the free access and 4R permissions characteristic of open educational resources? If the answer is yes, then you may have an effective educational practice but you don’t have an instance of open pedagogy. Open pedagogy is that set of teaching and learning practices only possible in the context of the free access and 4R permissions characteristic of open educational resources. (emphasis added)

(Yes, I’ve been writing about this for so long that there were only 4Rs when I started.)

If you allow yourself to get caught up in an “open = good; everything else = bad” way of thinking, it can become highly desirable to want to describe a broad range of effective practices as open pedagogy. (We might call this a “desire to affiliate with open.”) But that just makes “open” a synonym for “effective,” and that only muddies the meaning of open that so many of us work so hard to define and defend.

As I’ve reflected more on the recent writing on open pedagogy, it’s led me to trace some of it’s intellectual heritage to constructionism. And while I realize that I’m significantly under-characterizing constructionism by saying so, and I apologize in advance for those of you who are more familiar with the work, if you’re not familiar with constructionism you might think of it as “learning by making.” When learners work to create artifacts that have real value in the real world, awesome things happen – and that awesomeness has nothing to do with open. But you can add the awesomeness of open to the awesomeness of learning by making to get a multiplier effect. Here’s specifically how I’m thinking about it (today):

Learning by making… Society gets to build on…
in the classroom. nothing.
in public (e.g., the artifact is posted on the web). the ideas expressed in the artifact.
in the open (e.g., the artifact is posted on the web under an open license). the ideas expressed in the artifact as well as the artifact itself.


There’s an almost infinite expanse between public and open when it comes to teaching and learning. There are literally thousands of publicly available college-level textbooks, and everyone in the world is free to build on the ideas contained in them. But how much more can you do with a collection of OER on the same topics when you have the added permissions necessary to build on (revise/remix) the artifacts themselves? Lots, lots more.

And that brings me back to the basic logic underlying my interest in and excitement about open pedagogy:

  1. We learn by the things we do.
  2. The permissions granted by open licenses make it practical and legal for us to do new things.
  3. The ability to do new things will likely lead to new kinds of learning.

4 thoughts on “Quick Thoughts on Open Pedagogy”

  1. David,

    Thank you for this. I feel like this was the missing piece of the puzzle I was teasing out. The connection to constructivism or the distinction between open pedagogy and constructivism (Open pedagogy perhaps as an extension of constructivism) is the framing I was missing. I also think your chart demonstrating the progression from constructivism to open and how that advances learning is really valuable.

  2. I watched the Jan 24 webinar (http://openoregon.org/archived-webinar-open-pedagogy/ ) from Open Oregon about open pedagogy. They strongly asserted that … no, we shouldn’t do everything this way. There are so many ways to learn that don’t require making and sharing as “open ” and lots of valid reasons for someone not to share what they make (17:19 starts that part). Oh, and it takes serious time and effort to do it right.
    In their context, “open- good, all else — bad” doesn’t even come up.
    The “Does Open Pedagogy Require OER” adds to this… and I think it boils down to what you say in your next entry: we want the learners to be the winners.

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