I’m excited to be giving a lightning talk at the Open Education Research Institute hosted by Kwantlen Polytechnic University this week–thank you so much to Rajiv Jhangiani and Urooj Nizami from KPU for the invitation. I’ll also be acting as an OE research mentor for a group of participants in the Institute, which is a wonderful honour though to be honest I still feel a bit of a novice myself in this area. I was trained as a researcher in philosophy, with no information about empirical research with people, which is what I’ve had to try to learn along the way as I do research on open education. Not that all research on open edu has to be empirical…there is a good deal of theoretical research of great significance as well!
But I have done some empirical research on open educational resources in particular, and I must say a big thank you to Rajiv Jhangiani, Jessie Key, Clint Lalonde, and Beck Pitt for my first intro to such research, as we worked on the 2016 BCcampus report: Exploring Faculty Use of OER in British Columbia Post-secondary Institutions. This was part of the work that Rajiv, Jessie and I did during our 2014-2015 BCcampus Open Textbook Fellowship program. I am also grateful to have received an Open Education Group OER Research Fellowship in 2015, where I learned a lot from John S. Hilton and the many other OER Research Fellows as we met and discussed projects.
Of late, I’ve been working with a couple of colleagues on a research project about student perceptions of an open pedagogy project. Specifically, we surveyed students who created case studies for Forestry and Conservation courses, most of which were shared openly and with an open license, on the UBC Open Case Studies website. We started this research back in 2018, when we administered surveys to students in three courses, in Fall 2108 and Spring 2019. Then in 2019 we began coding the data, finishing up around the end of 2019 if memory serves, and then…COVID-19 and we dropped it altogether for a year.
We recently picked this project back up and are excited to report the results and write up an article to submit for publication. The lightning talk at OERI will be the first time I’ll be talking about this project to a wider audience. We’re not completely ready with full results; we have coded the data and have started pulling out a few themes, but we haven’t done a full analysis yet. So the lightning talk will focus on:
- motivations, including (at the time) not a lot of research literature on student perceptions of open pedagogy projects
- a few preliminary results
That should be easily enough to fill the seven-minute time slot I have!
In the rest of this post, I’m basically starting on the literature review for the article we’ll be working on, by reviewing some of the literature on open educational practices, open pedagogy, and student perceptions of open pedagogy. What follows is a not exhaustive review of literature with some quotes, about open pedagogy, open educational practices, students as producers, and student perceptions of open pedagogy. I can’t imagine we’ll use all of this in our article, but it’s useful to have it in one place!
Open Educational Practices
I agree with Cronin & MacLaren (2018)‘s view on the relationship between Open Educational Practices (OEP) and open pedagogy:
We consider open pedagogy to be a subset of OEP; while open pedagogy embodies a critical approach and emphasis on context, it is focused on teaching and learning as compared with broader aspects of scholarship.
Cronin (2017) on OEP:
Collaborative practices that include the creation, use, and reuse of OER, as well as pedagogical practices employing participatory technologies and social networks for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creation, and empowerment of learners.
Pascevicius (2017) on OEP:
Teaching and learning practices where openness is enacted within all aspects of instructional practice; including the design of learning outcomes, the selection of teaching resources, and the planning of activities and assessment. OEP engage both faculty and students with the use and creation of OER, … and support participatory student-directed projects.
Weller (2017) on OEP:
Open educational practice covers any significant change in educational practice afforded by the open nature of the internet.
Weller also notes in the same post that OEP may not benefit from strict definitions, however:
OER has benefitted from a tight definition, and so we thought OEP would also. But that tight definition works for content, not practice. We should stop focusing on OEP definitions and instead look to a general opening up of practice. And hey, if some things get a bit messy around the edges, we’ll have to live with that.
The above are some of the more recent discussions of open educational practices; Cronin and MacLaren (2018) point numerous earlier discussions as well. And as Morgan (2016) and Rolfe (2016) point out, many of the discussions of open pedagogy in the mid-to-late 2010s have resonance in discussions of open education from the 1960s and 1970s (I summarize a bit of that earlier literature in a post on this blog (Hendricks 2017)).
What is open pedagogy? That’s the question of the year/decade. It’s something I’ve been thinking about and presenting on for some time; see, e.g., the “open pedagogy” category of posts on this blog, including reflections and presentation slides.
I have often cited many wonderful posts on the Year of Open site, page on open pedagogy (from 2017), including posts by Maha Bali, Heather Ross, Rajiv Jhangiani, Devon Ritter, and more. I’ve also included in several presentations quotes from Tannis Morgan and Jim Luke.
Open pedagogy is an ethos that has two … components:
- A belief in the potential of openness and sharing to improve learning
- A social justice orientation – caring about equity, with openness as one way to achieve this (Bali 2017)
We shift the student emphasis to contribution to knowledge as opposed to simple consumption of knowledge (Ross 2017)
The ability for learners to shape and take ownership of their own education (Ritter 2017)
Connect with a broader, global community (Morgan 2017)
Teacher as ‘the’ authority vs. students being able to bring other sources of authority (Luke 2017)
…[O]ne key component of Open Pedagogy might be that it sees access, broadly writ, as fundamental to learning and to teaching, and agency as an important way of broadening that access. OERs are licensed with open licenses, which reflects not just a commitment to access in terms of the cost of knowledge, but also access in terms of the creation of knowledge. Embedded in the social justice commitment to making college affordable for all students is a related belief that knowledge should not be an elite domain. Knowledge consumption and knowledge creation are not separate but parallel processes, as knowledge is co-constructed, contextualized, cumulative, iterative, and recursive. In this way, Open Pedagogy invites us to focus on how we can increase access to higher education and how we can increase access to knowledge–both its reception and its creation. This is, fundamentally, about the dream of a public learning commons, where learners are empowered to shape the world as they encounter it.
And also influential is “OER-enabled pedagogy” by Wiley & Hilton (2018):
the set of teaching and learning practices that are only possible or practical in the context of the 5R permissions which are characteristic of OER.
Finally, quite frequently the idea of “non-disposable assignments” is cited as an example of open pedagogy. See, e.g., Wiley (2013), which is the first place I heard about this idea. He contrasts these with “disposable assignments”:
If you’ve heard me speak in the last several months, you’ve probably heard me rail against “disposable assignments.” These are assignments that students complain about doing and faculty complain about grading. They’re assignments that add no value to the world – after a student spends three hours creating it, a teacher spends 30 minutes grading it, and then the student throws it away. Not only do these assignments add no value to the world, they actually suck value out of the world. Talk about an incredible waste of time and brain power (an a potentially huge source of cognitive surplus)!
What if we changed these “disposable assignments” into activities which actually added value to the world? Then students and faculty might feel different about the time and effort they invested in them.
Bali (2017) has a nice, succinct quote explaining non-disposable assignments:
… assignments that are sustainable or not disposable, assignments that would have benefit to others beyond the limited course time and space.
Students as Producers
Will Engle at the UBC Vancouver Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Technology introduced me to the idea of the “student as producer,” which has similarities with open pedagogy. Student as producer was developed in the UK at the University of Lincoln, though with earlier origins in work within the Reinvention Centre for Undergraduate Research at the University of Warwick and Oxford Brookes University.
These projects focused on embedding more research activities in undergraduate education, and involving students in research production as part of their studies: “Student as Producer is a development of the University of Lincoln’s policy of research-informed teaching to research-engaged teaching. Research-engaged teaching involves more research and research-like activities at the core of the undergraduate curriculum” (Student as Producer, n.d.). The point was not merely to improve students’ learning (though it was also that), but to work towards a deeper reform of higher education and knowledge production, as some of the quotes below show.
[It is possible] to reinvent the relationship between teacher and student, so that the student is not simply consuming knowledge that is transmitted to them but becomes actively engaged in the production of knowledge with academic content and value.
This process of turning the student as consumer into the student as producer can be achieved providing more research and research-like experiences as an integral part of the undergraduate experience. In doing this students can become productive collaborators in the research culture of the departments at their universities. (p. 8)
The idea of student as producer encourages the development of collaborative relations between student and academic for the production of knowledge. However, if this idea is to connect to the project of refashioning in fundamental ways the nature of the university, then further attention needs to be paid to the framework by which the student as producer contributes towards mass intellectuality. This requires academics and students to do more than simply redesign their curricula, but go further and redesign the organizing principle, (i.e. private property and wage labour), through which academic knowledge is currently being produced. (p. 209)
One way the organizing principles of academic knowledge is being questioned and undermined, Neary and Winn (2009) argue, is through movements towards openness:
Initiatives such as Science Commons, Open Knowledge and Open Access, are attempts by academics and others to lever the Internet to ensure that research output is free to use, re-use and distribute without legal, social or technological restriction (www.opendefinition.org). Through these efforts, the organizing principle is being redressed creating a teaching, learning and research environment which promotes the values of openness and creativity, engenders equity among academics and students and thereby offers an opportunity to reconstruct the student as producer and academic as collaborator. In an environment where knowledge is free, the roles of the educator and the institution necessarily change. (p. 210)
Seeing students as producers of knowledge was inspired by student protests in Paris, France, and around the world in May 1968. At that time students were protesting the lack of democratic accountability in elitist institutions of higher education. … An important aspect of 1968 was the dymystification by students of the elite practice of the production of knowledge, with “research becoming something that anyone can do” (Ross 2002). (p. 30)
The report to the Higher Education Academy about Student as Producer at Lincoln (Neary et al., 2014) has some detailed qualitative information from interviews and focus groups with students, faculty and staff. E.g., some quotes from faculty:
We want to create the sense that this is an intellectual passion that we all share and we are part of the academic history community as historians. This is only anecdotal, but it seems to be paying off, students are engaged and putting in the work, going beyond the minimum requirements in terms of bibliographical sources; there is more of a sense of genuine intellectual curiosity. (p. 31)
First years, can you imagine making digital historical objects, working in small groups of 4–5, using primary sources. We recommended to them that they should imagine a different audience from the usual academic who would be assessing their work, so as to make a user friendly object more accessible for someone reading about a medieval sources. (p. 31)
What is really great about Student as Producer is that it gives them a buzz for what academics do, and that buzz is the best part of our job, discovery and critical thinking…it‘s a sort of intellectual high. … This is a new approach: we are not force feeding students information, but encouraging them to create new knowledge. This used to be something that happened at post–graduate level but now we are doing it with undergraduates. (p. 35)
Bruff (2013) also discusses the student as producer model, and gives examples of how it might be applied within courses. Bruff describes “students as producers” courses as having three characteristics:
Students are asked to work on problems that haven’t been fully solved or questions that haven’t been fully answered.
Students are asked to share their work with others, not just their instructor.
Students are given a degree of autonomy in their work.
Student perceptions of open pedagogy
When we started our research project, I did not know of any empirical research on student perceptions of open pedagogy projects. That has changed by now. Below are some we have found so far. Note that there is other empirical research on open pedagogy and open educational practices; here I’m just focusing on those that present data about student perceptions of participating in open pedagogy projects.
- This study reports on surveys of 173 students in nineteen different courses in the University System of New Hampshire that implemented open pedagogy projects in the 2017-2018 academic year. These projects ranged from things like students revising open textbooks, writing quiz questions for open textbooks, writing blog or social media posts, or collaborating on syllabus or assignment construction.
- The survey asked students to say whether their particular open pedagogy assignment led to greater, the same, or less achievement of particular learning outcomes than traditional assignments. The learning outcomes asked about were: “mastery of core academic content,” “skills in collaborative learning,” “critical thinking and problem solving,” “effective communication,” and “learning how to learn.”
- The majority of students said each of these were the same or better with the open pedagogy assignments they did (ranging from 87-95%, depending on the outcome).
- Student qualitative answers focused on the value of open pedagogy assignments for deeper learning of course material, deeper engagement and interest in course material and activities, ability to have agency in what they work on, and how the work could have “real-world” application.
- The survey also asked students whether their work was shared online and intended to be reused by others. Out of 156 students who answered this question, 60% said yes. Out of those, about 1/3 gave their work an open license.
Baran & AlZoubi (2020) (not open access)
- 13 students across three courses at a U.S. post-secondary institution in 2018-2019: “Student participants engaged in open pedagogy practices were instructed to produce three different OER: open online course modules on effective online teaching in Canvas Commons, open online book chapters on learning environments design in PressBooks, and a Wikibook on the perspectives of aquatic toxicology.”
- Used end of term reflection reports and interviews. Qualitative data analyses showed students reflecting on the benefits and challenges of several aspects of the assignments, some of which were specific to the assignments (e.g., peer review was incorporated in all, as was scaffolding).
- Some pointed to the value of sharing knowledge with the broader community, though some also questioned whether the works would be widely read and used.
- The authors point to increasing knowledge about copyright and open licensing amongst students doing these projects, though this also meant an increasing sense of responsibility and worry about ensuring they were following copyright rules when creating the resources.
- They also pointed to issues of scholarly integrity: “most of [the students] highlighted integrity as an ethical issue. Some students emphasized that engaging in open pedagogy practices trained them to cite properly and honor author contributions without committing plagiarism.”
- Students focused on how the open pedagogy assignments allowed them greater agency in their own learning and in teaching more broadly: “‘I just felt like students are also teachers. It was a great way for students to contribute to the whole learning thing.'” (student quote)
- Unlike Hilton III et al. (2019), this study focused on two specific kinds of open pedagogy assignments, and surveys were done of student perceptions of those two kinds: in one class, students created multiple-choice questions to go along with an open textbook used in the course, and in the other students collectively created a syllabus for the course and chose their own projects, “that had to extend outside of the classroom in some way.” Both courses were held in Spring 2018.
- 43 students in the multiple-choice question creation class responded to a survey about their perceptions:
- 58% said the educational value of this kind of assignment was the same or better than traditional assignments (42% said worse).
- Those who said it was better focused on “increased understanding and depth of thought.”
- The survey also asked students about the same list of learning outcomes as Hilton et al. (2019), and those saying the open pedagogy assignment helped them achieve those outcomes the same or better than traditional assignments ranged from 65% (mastery of content) to 91% (critical thinking and problem solving).
- 58% said the educational value of this kind of assignment was the same or better than traditional assignments (42% said worse).
- 42 students in the syllabus and assignment creation class responded to a survey:
- 90% said the educational value of this kind of assignment was the same or better than traditional assignments.
- Those who said it was better cited themes related to ownership, control, freedom, increased engagement, communication skills, among others.
- On the list of learning outcomes noted in the previous study, those who said the assignment allowed them to achieve the outcomes the same or better than traditional assignments ranged from 90-100%.
- 90% said the educational value of this kind of assignment was the same or better than traditional assignments.
- Noting the differences in student perceptions in these courses, the authors conclude:
- “the significant differences in student attitudes towards these two approaches to open pedagogy support our hypothesis that research or rhetoric regarding open pedagogy, broadly defined, will not be particularly useful to practitioners.”
- “More research is needed to investigate specific aspects of open pedagogy in order to explore the relative benefits and drawbacks of different approaches. These findings suggest the importance of more specific definitions of open pedagogy so that the efficacy of a specific approach can be more critically examined.”
- Students in a summer term Master’s course on international and comparative librarianship (in 2019) wrote chapters for an open textbook on the subject.
- 20 students completed an anonymous survey at the end of the term with no open-ended questions; 26 students completed a required end of term reflection that was also submitted anonymously.
- In the survey, all 20 recognized the value of using OP in the course, and also recommend continuing to do so.
- 12 out of 20 said on the survey that the public availability of the book caused them some discomfort or anxiety. Three expressed reservations with writing chapters about librarianship in other countries. Some were concerned that the short, 6-week time frame of the course was too short to complete the work well.
- Quite a few students talked in their reflections about the value of this renewable assignment rather than doing disposable ones (the idea of “disposable assignments” had been discussed in the class). One student’s comments: “Being a part of creating open content for future sections of the course and for the greater learning community is rewarding. It is a nice feeling to know that your hard work will be shared with the world and that other people can benefit from it.”
- Some students also stated that doing this work helped with a deeper understanding of course material. A nice quote: “In order to obtain a firm grasp on the material, the process of ‘hunting and gathering’ the material, critically analyzing the data, and then arranging it into a coherent, cohesive chapter was far more meaningful than say reading a prewritten chapter in a textbook and taking notes. The benefits of creating coursework provides the foundation for a deep understanding of the material at hand.”
Kruger & Hollister (2020) (not open access)
- Undergraduate course on public health with 75 students; students worked in groups to write 19 chapters on themes chosen by the instructor, for a new open textbook. They worked sequentially so that the chapters were used during the course itself: links to the chapters were posted one week before they were discussed in class. The book continues to evolve, with students in later courses contributing to it.
- 70 students completed an anonymous, end-of-course survey.
- 100% agreed or strongly agreed that this assignment helped increase their engagement with course materials, with 94% agreeing or strongly agreeing that it increased their class participation.
- 99% agreed or strongly agreed that it was a valuable learning experience, with some specifically saying that it helped them better learn the material.
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Baran, E., & AlZoubi, D. (2020). Affordances, challenges, and impact of open pedagogy: Examining students’ voices. Distance Education, 41(2), 230–244. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2020.1757409
Bruff, D. (2013, September 3). Students as Producers: An Introduction [Blog post]. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching Blog. http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/2013/09/students-as-producers-an-introduction/
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