Five Verbs for Open Pedagogy

Crossposted to the Scholars’ Lab blog

This week I’m at Digital Pedagogy Lab 2019, where I’m taking a course on Critical Open Pedagogy from Rajiv Jhangiani. For one of our prompts today, he asked us to respond to a post of his on 5 Rs for Open Pedagogy. The goal was to get us to reflect a bit on the values that bring us to the open space as well as the kinds of values that we bring with us. I think the aim was to come up with a concise, listicle style, but I didn’t quite follow that format. If I had to extract five verbs to describe what I write below about open pedagogy, they might be:

  • Care
  • Value
  • Share
  • Empower
  • Critique

The prompt and Rajiv’s post make me think of Erin Rose Glass’s incredible notion that if you stacked up all the papers written in all the courses in the world each semester they could reach the moon. Along with the image, she offers the provocative notion that those notes will all be thrown away at the end of the term. It’s an image to which I often return.

All that paper. All those ideas. All those people.

One of the things that brings me to open pedagogy is the idea that our students have something to contribute to the world. They are capable of good, complex thought, even about material that they are approaching for the first time. This is a belief about their ideas, but it’s also a comment on their value as people. In short, a degree is not necessary to prove your worth or your ability to think. A student’s thoughts are just as worthwhile as those of their teacher.

Open pedagogy is a practice that encourages us to think of student work as work, of student ideas as ideas.

 Students can change the world if we don’t get in the way. Instead of throwing their ideas away, we should approach them with care and attention.

But.

The world is a terribly risky and dangerous thing, a risk disproportionately shared by different groups of students based on identity and background. We cannot ask students to work in the open without pause. The task of the teacher is to help guide students in this space and to give them agency over their presence in it. To care and to steward, to collect and to distribute. But also to concede and to critique. To grant the right to be forgotten, as Tara Robertson reminds us. To allow for opting in as well as out.

Open is not universally good or universally available. A critical open pedagogy recognizes the limits and risks of open and educates students about this space so that they can be productive citizens of it if they so choose.

For me, then, open pedagogy is not just about distributing those pages rather than tossing them. It’s about taking them down from the stack and helping their author to think before throwing them away, even if they wind up deciding it’s necessary to do so.

Because it’s not just about the paper - it’s about the one who did the writing.