The Merriam Webster dictionary defines pedagogy as “the art, science, or profession of teaching.” As concise as the dictionary definition is, pedagogy is much broader. In 1905, following earlier work by German philologists, G. Stanley Hall, defines pedagogy as including “both didactics or the methods of teaching or imparting knowledge or instruction generally on the one hand – all those processes by which information is given – and on the other, education or development from within outward” (Hall, 1905, p. 375). Therefore pedagogy addresses both the imparting of knowledge and how students are learning. While traditionally pedagogy has seen students as a vessel that needed to be filled with the knowledge imparted by the teacher, pedagogy has evolved and schools of education throughout the country are interested in developing the study of the subject and in helping future teachers reach all students. Frameworks, such as Universal Design for Learning, based on psychology and neuroscience look to improve the teaching and learning process.
As concise and simple as the Merriam Webster dictionary definition of pedagogy is, it has twenty definitions for the word open. In education, the concept of open comes from the open software and probably, the Merriam Webster definition that fits is “completely free from concealment : exposed to general view or knowledge.” While software today is mostly propitiatory, the Linux operating system best illustrates the concept of open. It is an operating system that the creator made available to the entire computer aficionado community who were free to contribute to it and modify it. According to Linux.com open source has the following characteristics:
- “The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.”
The question then becomes what happens when we combine the ideas of open source and pedagogy? Has that been considered? It turns out that Open Pedagogy is a big concept in the field of education. As far back as 1979, Claude Paquette defined the concepts of Open Pedagogy. Paquette identifies four basic principles for open pedagogy: “the respect for individual differences,” “individualized growth, “the indirect influence of the educator,” and “the natural learning process resulting from the internal dynamism of the student.” Robin Derosa, in her blog, describes the modern implementation of the open education concept. Using concepts such as blogs and personal websites, students help decide the learning goals and the process, create knowledge, connect with each other and the public at large and, ultimately, take a leading role in their learning process where the teacher acts as a guide rather than the source of all knowledge.
Run, Explore, Learn
Open pedagogy is an interesting concept. While Derosa describes the successful process of introducing open pedagogy to her First Year Seminar class in college, open pedagogy is not an easy process to implement. The instructor has an important role to play in making sure that students are meeting the learning goals that the group develops and to keep the entire course and class on track. The role of the guide is definitely much harder than that of the sage on the stage. While k-12 is making strides towards some of the concepts of open pedagogy, it doesn’t happen a lot because of the prescriptive nature of k-12 education. This boxes both the students and the teachers in and makes it hard to later adjust to the concept of open pedagogy. I teach graduate students in the college of education (teachers) and even an open choice projects creates anxiety; I had to provide a list of options that they can chose from. Regardless of my encouragement to come up with their own projects, most of the students in my class end up using one of the suggestions from the provided list. I think that if we are to be more successful in introducing open pedagogy, it’s a concept that needs to be introduced in the earlier grades and perpetuated throughout. Otherwise, I’m reminded of Sir Ken Robinson’s example of the paperclip challenge and divergent thinking.