Open Pedagogy: Freedom in the Classroom

I really like the topic this week about open critical pedagogy. A quick confession: at the beginning of this course, having previewed the blogging opportunities that lie ahead in the course, I had planned to blog on this topic – I should have a lot to write about open pedagogy, I thought to myself ;)…Well, fast forward to this week, I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew about open pedagogy. I had thought open pedagogy was all about open educational resources; alas! it was more than that. I have learned from the readings this week that open educational resources (e.g., open access, open science) is just a subset of open education, however, when people think about open education, they think more about open educational resources and less about open pedagogy.

Ironically, I have always appreciated open pedagogy, I just didn’t know what it was called.  I took a course last year and the professor practiced, to some degree, open pedagogy. At the beginning of the course, he asked us to edit the syllabus as we saw fit. Specifically, he asked that we assign grade weights. We worked in groups and we eventually decided on how we wanted our grades weighed and distributed. This was the first time I would be in a class where the professor would invite the students to share some power. I really liked this practice and I decided to adopt it in my future classes. The semester after that, I was the instructor for a recitation class and I tried it out in my class, and the feedback from my students was great – they loved it.

Well, I straight up included it in my teaching philosophy. Here’s an excerpt from my teaching philosophy:

“I believe that instruction should be learner-centered and engaged as much as possible. I consider my role as that of a facilitator rather than a teacher – in fact, I learn from all my students. I endeavor to provide a conducive learning environment that provides psychological safety to students, and such that encourages them to actively participate physically, mentally, and socially in class discussions. One of the ways I do this is to decenter power (as much as possible) and allow my students to regulate some aspects of their learning. For example, I sometimes allow my students to suggest how they want their grades distributed and weighted.”

Although I had made a decision to be open in my pedagogy about a year ago, I just really understood what it means this week. Here’s my definition: Open pedagogy is freedom; it is about inviting students to be free in the classroom. Freedom may take many forms. Examples include:

  • Freedom to ask questions freely
  • Freedom to think critically and innovatively (which may include disagreement with the professor’s perspective)
  • Freedom to co-create their learning experience (e.g., setting learning objectives, participating in grade weighing, etc.).
  • Freedom to self-construct their own knowledge.
  • Related imageImage: © Bronwyn Hegarty, 2015

Well, freedom leads to power decentralization, which makes many professors feel uneasy. Also, it takes hard work on the part of the professors to implement. For example, allowing the students to adjust the syllabus to fit their learning needs is extra work for the professor, and it may not be very rewarding after all. In fact, many professors have said that working in a big research university like Virginia Tech does not help with investing effort into teaching, since the tenure process places more emphasis on research than teaching. I think it is high time universities (including research universities) start making teaching a big part of the tenure application packet. This should help the cause of open pedagogy on a larger scale.

As for me, I have made a decision to continue to practice open pedagogy and I will keep learning more ways to be more open with my teaching.



Andrew Barnes

Thanks for the post. It was easy to read and informative. I would like to focus my comment today on the part that says “I believe that instruction should be learner-centered and engaged as much as possible. I consider my role as that of a facilitator rather than a teacher – in fact, I learn from all my students.” I couldn’t agree more. Well done. I would like to say that one of the best parts of this statement is that it is moderated specifically speaking about the lines “as possible”. At time it wont be possible to make the lesson as student-centered as would be ideal, but it is important to TRY. Again, thanks for the post.

mohammed baaoum

Hi Ibukun,
Thanks for the post. It was not clear for me too the difference between open access and open pedagogy. Personally the concept of open pedagogy resonate with me as it try to open the process of making knowledge not just giving the people access to resources. Thanks for the insightful post.

Stephanie Gonzalez Maldonado

Great post! I really appreciate the definition you have writing of open pedagogy. I think the key word it freedom, this sense of freedom will encourage students to be more active. But on the other hand I can see how it can be difficult for professors, giving over some control is intimidating. This is where I think a good relationship with students is necessary, but being open I guess come with trust. So open pedagogy requires the instructor to trust students and vice versa.

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