Reflection 2: What is Open Pedagogy?


What is Open Pedagogy?

For my visual, I put Open Pedagogy in a box, which is where most of my work takes place. That box is the public institution, the one that receives Federal, State, and County funding, the box that bears the name so many politicians throw around: accountability.

Accountability looks like learning outcomes, retention expectations, student learning, and my service to the college. All components of accountability must be folded into my definition of Open Pedagogy, which may seem antithetical, but is reality. Luckily, I believe that to change a system, a person has to be part of it, to work with and within the system.

Open Pedagogy is one created collaboratively with students using the learning outcomes; this means that students work to understand the current learning outcomes, add their own learning outcomes, help create assignments to tweak existing assignments to make them relate to the students who have to complete them. According to Devon Ritter, open pedagogy also means providing models of plans I’ve used before, so students have a example to start with, instead of the overwhelming empty slate. In addition to models, providing my rationale or adding my thoughts on what I want students to get out of my class, especially the part of my rationale that connects writing to the world outside of the classroom, will give “an individual learner…a better sense of how a teacher may have designed their course to support students…” (Ritter).

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would teach. Then I read Freire. Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” provided me with the terms I needed to explain my hatred of the educational system I came from. Public education in the 70s in New Jersey looked and felt oppressive; in my mind, it exemplified the Banking Concept. Once I knew there was an alternative, I bounced into teaching like a beach ball at a Phish concert.

When I first encountered Open Pedagogy, problem posing seemed like a perfect fit. Organizing a class is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Working on a jigsaw puzzle solo is long, tedious, and sometimes not as peaceful as advertised. Once more people get involved, the process may be messier, a little more confused, but as progress is made and the puzzle comes together, there’s satisfaction and the appreciation of a job well done. This, to me, is open pedagogy. My class is a puzzle. We know the outcomes; just like the picture on the box of a jigsaw puzzle, we have a guide in the learning outcomes. But how we get there is an open process. Open Pedagogy shares that process instead of putting it all in my hands, thus creating a participatory learning environment.

According to Bronwyn Hegarty, participatory technology helps the participatory learning environment. Michelle Pruett, author of “Gen Z’s Favorite Social Networks: YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat,” notes that “Gen Z has unparalleled access to smart phones,” but Gen Z is mostly interested with “platforms driven by visual content like photos and videos” (Pruett). If Open Pedagogy is something that fosters student engagement because it utilizes the concept of social learning and the notion of community, then, as Composition faculty, I have to meet Gen Zers where they are, which is more visual than verbal (Kleinschmidt). This means using electronic means and multimedia platforms to create and share work; using electronic platforms means students can participate in something they do very well, create networks and communities that are safe spaces in which they can experiment with the curriculum. As a community, classes can create ground rules and learning outcomes that matter to them. Although we have to use the institutional, departmental, and course outcomes, there is nothing to stop a class from interpreting or adding to the outcomes in a way that works for them.

Related to the composition classroom Open Pedagogy requires reflective practice. This has been ingrained in composition classes for a long time. I remember doing reflective practice in my first college freshman year in 1984. It’s not hard to get students to come up with reflection prompts that relate to what they are doing in any given context.

I would be remiss if I didn’t add Wiley’s 5Rs: reuses, revises, remixes, redistributes, and retains (Wiley). Open Pedagogy shares, which means opening up to peer review and working with others to collaborate on the best assignments. Although to some, this might be tantamount to appearing in public naked, it’s necessary because more perspectives can make cohesion. Myopia is mostly unintentional. Sharing mitigates myopia.

Why is Open Pedagogy important?

Michelle Pruett’s Four Minute article was enlightening. As a solid Gen X, I don’t understand the need for digital connection. It’s nice; it keeps me in touch with my “all over the country” family, but so does a telephone. For Gen Z and late Millennials, it’s their natural habitat, an information stream they were born into, so they are primed for sharing. They are primed for choosing their own content; more than I ever was.

At the same time, context for them is everything. This group also needs more direction and more instruction when they are doing tasks outside their natural habitat. They are a paradox and this paradoxical way of being may have consequences after they finish school. Giving students models to work with, providing examples of lessons with rationales, familiarizing and breaking down learning outcomes that we all have to work with and connecting them to resources I use to create coursework will give them loose parameters to start from.

Providing this loose framework may give them the raw ingredients to cook a class. This is a skill set they can take out of the classroom and into the wider community of employment. Knowing how to work with the resources at hand and realizing the personal ability to use a system to make it work for them are important for life work, not just schoolwork.

For me, schoolwork is life work. If I’m not constantly developing my own skills sets, I’m stagnating and I don’t believe I can effectively work with or retain students if I’m stuck in a teaching rut. As a community college prof, I may not be in an ivory tower, but I am in a brick one. This is how students see us sometimes, a wall to be scaled on their way to something else. This is not how it has to be. Open Pedagogy offers opportunities for buy-in because the creation of their learning process is an extension of their learning process.

What is the potential impact of Open Pedagogy?

There are teachers in my educational past who would drop more than a few surprised curse words if they knew I am a Composition Professor. Paulo Freire was the catalyst for my teaching. There is only one other foundational belief I have that keeps me growing as a teacher: an educated populace can keep a nation safe from tyranny. If Open Pedagogy can empower just one or two people like Freire empowered me, then we have some movement toward changing the current culture. Especially since Gen Z is the most inclusive generation of the three or four generations existing now.

I think Open Pedagogy can do more than empower one or two people in a class. This is really about self-determination and working with constraints. There will always be constraints, but they don’t need to stop anything. There is empowerment in working successfully within a system not of your own making and Open Pedagogy has the potential to be the key.

What are the future directions for Open Pedagogy?

As long as social media continues to grow, I think Open Pedagogy will grow as well. Right now, the fight over cell phones in the classroom, in my view, is ridiculous. To outright ban cell phones shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the students we work with. In order to reach them, we have to meet them halfway and this means including the habitat where they work best. The internet has valuable resources and our students are walking around with a world full of information in their pockets. Open Pedagogy capitalizes on that.

Works Cited

Freire, Paulo, et al. Pedagogy of the Oppressed 50th Anniversary Edition. Bloomsbury USA Academic, 2018.

Hegarty, Bronwyn. “Attributes of Open Pedagogy: A Model for Using Open Educational Resources.” Educational Technology (2015): 3-13.

Kleinschmit, Matt. Generation Z characteristics: 5 infographics on the Gen Z lifestyle. 2018. Webpage. 1 October 2018. <;.

Pruett, Michelle. “Gen Z’s Favorite Social Networks: YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat.” Criteo, 17 July 2018,

Ritter, David. “April Open Perspective: What Is Open Pedagogy?” Year of Open, Open Education Consortium,

Wiley, David. “Open Educational Resources Awareness Course – OER.” Universal Design for Learning – OER : Three Brain Networks,











For the SUNY OER Master Pedagogy course, I was asked to create a visual of my interpretation of a teaching philosophy. After reading, I made connections between all of the philosophies offered, including Freire. (Love me some Paulo Freire.)

The reading was exciting; creating a visual is not. For those who know me, you know visuals are my worst nightmare. 🙂

So here is mine, complete with the only things I know how to draw, stick figures and hearts. Enjoy. (Please.)

Defining Open Pedagogy

My definition of open pedagogy:

  1. One created collaboratively with students using the learning outcomes; this means that students add their own learning outcomes, help create assignments to tweak existing assignments to make them relatable to the students who have to complete them.
  2. One that fosters student engagement because it utilizes the concept of social learning and the notion of community. This means using electronic means and multimedia platforms to share work.
  3. One that students can see has a practical use outside of classes.
  4. One that reuses, revises, remixes, redistribute (Hegarty)
  5. One that is more “problem posing” (Freire) and offers open questions.


I’m conflicted on the idea of a completely open pedagogy. One the one hand, I see its use, I see its benefits, but on the other hand, we just got through Middle States Reaccreditation. Assessment is no joke and adherence to the learning outcomes was part of that assessment. I have to work within the confines of a structure, but that doesn’t mean the structure needs to be confining.

I could show the students the LOs and ask them for their interpretation. Then we could add to the required LOs. This, I hope, is one way to create student buy-in. The other elephant in the room is my 0 level students who need direction. To completely decenter the curriculum and place the creation of it on them may cause cognitive dissonance. These are not strong students to start with; they have a horrible retention rate. So, while I want to create buy-in, I don’t want them to come into a class where they start from the ground and build up.

Access is also an issue. Even today, I had a student tell me that his essay was handwritten because he doesn’t have a computer at home. I’m not an advocate of forcing students to write on their phones, especially older students who don’t have an enmeshed relationship with technology.

I need to put a spin on this that will work for this community, these classrooms and these students. I also need to read more, preferably from authors in the US who have managed to work with proscribed LOs.

For now, I’m putting my reading notes here. There’s a link to the article for anyone who wants context.


Robin DeRosa: Extreme Makeover Pedagogy Edition


  1. Her OpenPed had some problems, although on paper, they looked good: putting the onus on students to help create OpenPed meant chaos because he used “open” online platforms for communication and coursework. Telling students to “play around in there” meant different things to different people
    1. My thoughts:
      1. Vague instructions require defining
      2. Access to technology is varied outside of the institution – using the LMS platform “equalizes” the experience because there is easy access and support on campus.
    2. Implications for teaching:
      1. Some structure needs to be in place so students can build on it.
      2. Never assume everyone has equal access to the internet and to technology
    3. Quote:
      1. “Basic lesson– and you already know this– the “digital native” thing remains a garbage idea, and if you care about access issues, you will need to meet each student where she is in terms of comfort with tech. That takes time, and labor, and it may not be practical or feasible for you given your salary or circumstances.”
        1. I have to ask myself about the labor involved, especially when half of my class lacks even basic knowledge of computers. Many of my students work on their phones or use phones to access technology. This makes sharing the experience difficult. Do I want to spend time working on the differences between apps and software? How much time will it take away from writing instruction? But at the end of the day, students will need software knowledge to be good employees. Maybe this won’t work for 0 level students; it might work for tech writing.
  2. Collaborative learning outcomes – she has that flexibility. I don’t.
    1. My thoughts:
      1. I have to use what I have.
      2. I can build on that.
      3. The LOs are vague enough that I can help students interpret them so they can add student driven LOs that will help them reach the goals set out by the college’s LOs.
      4. Just like before, I can use the learning outcomes as a place to start and a place to add to so students can get what they need out of the course.
      5. During the first week, then, I need to make space to set ground rules for the class and to discuss what other learning outcomes students want.
      6. This may help create investment in the class.
  3. Student generated assignments, et al.
    1. I get what he’s trying to do. I also get that I work at a community college with learners who are not in the top 30% of their class and are inexperienced. So I think I could work with this if I meet them halfway – provide some basic structural elements that can be added to so I can meet their needs, assuming they know what they need.

An aha moment on sharing writing

Sharing writing is fraught with peril. The stakes are far more open but different now; public spaces for sharing writing are frequently adversarial (call-out culture, racist, homophobic, and sexist comments from trolls) that may consciously or unconsciously cause hesitation when sharing writing. I know from teaching that peer review comes with a boat load of anxiety.

So, while Professor Gaertner believes that writing should extend beyond the college walls out into the community, as do I, he acknowledges the peril in doing so. I don’t currently use the digital world to create and revise writing assignments because that venue for writing wouldn’t naturally occur to me, even though I read online every day. Yet, this is where students get their impressions on sharing writing. I’m left to question all the methods I’ve ever learned about peer review. I hated it, but I did it because I believed it made me a stronger writer. I don’t know if that belief holds weight these days. Especially in an age where trolling is a pastime. I had never before considered the volatility of sharing writing for a 21st century student. According to Gaertner: “When you publish, traditionally, when you publish, there’s a feedback loop, whether it’s peer review or just something disagreeing with your point of view. But I think that open makes that much, much bigger, much more fraught and much more attack-y and negative in a lot of ways. So there’s different stakes now with publishing and openness widened that. All you need to do is understand how volatile those spaces are…open a National Post article, go to the comments section there and see the racism, the misogyny, the hatred, and the vitriol that’s spewed out of there.”

So, now what?

Another quote I took from the video may form my next steps, something I may be able to add this semester, but definitely for next semester.

“So, I think the callout culture is a big thing on Twitter and social media, is by pointing to people and saying ‘This is wrong. How dare you?’ Anger is there but part of what I get students to think about is this call-in culture and how we can invite people into the conversation. So finding spaces where you can use calm, compassionate language to point out error, but not in a way that alienates people but brings them in and potentially looks at making them allies in this conversation” (Gaertner).

Creating a class blog where people post parts of their work in process sounds like a great idea, especially for my 0-level class where they need to provide a portfolio in order to exit the course. But how do I create buy-in? Do I even know how to create a class blog? We have an LMS; it doesn’t always work well.

This may help. From his article, “Gaertner sees community as a verb rather than a noun—something you’re actively doing. The projects that his students work on are a way of building community both inside and outside the classroom.

“What I find with technology and open spaces is that they are ways of doing community, whether that’s a wiki that students are building together, or whether it’s putting together a podcast with a group of people—it’s a way of building community that happens in the moment,” he explains.

The goal when working on digital projects, Gartner emphasizes, is not to create a perfect end product. Rather, the value is in the process of creation. “Where the learning, where the community-building comes in, is doing it together,” he says. “And as a professor, you can be part of that process.”

For my beginner students, this may be as simple as taking a class to set up reasonable ground rules for posting, to remind them they can use the rhetorical triangle to evaluate the emotional content of what they write and to evaluate the comments they receive. We can even use the triangle to come up with, as a class, appropriate and inappropriate language for responding. Something, anything that helps students form and accept constructive feedback.

Source: David Gaertner

Teaching Meta

Welcome to my Blog.

Some say I think too much. I don’t think that’s possible. As a teacher, I’m always trying to improve what I do. As the students change, so do I.

This is a new blog, all of my older posts have been retired. Time for a blank slate. New academic year, new thinking.

Reflective Journal: Entry #1 Examining Beliefs

  • What are your hopes for education, particularly for higher education?
    • I hope higher education continues to grow. As K-12 relies continually on standardized testing, higher education has to provide instruction on critical thinking and problem solving that can translate into life skills that work beyond the classroom. My hope is that higher education will continue to move consistently away from lecture based, sage on the stage education to something more practical, like hands on learning or classroom instruction that relies on group interaction and student participation.
  • What vision do you work toward when you design your daily professional practices in and out of the classroom?
    • As a writing professor, I know the only way to learn how to write is to write. But there are blocks that students have that I have to help them work through, so I envision an environment where students can explore their own writing by using a process that allows them to forget about things like grammar and punctuation so they can work only in the realm of ideas. This translates to my design as putting each part of the writing process in its own time and space; this week, it’s about ideas, next week about organizing and developing those ideas, the week after, we revise and refine. Editing comes last. This mirrors my own practice as a writer. This is what I do, consistently process my ideas. This is why I consider myself a writing professor and not an English professor, even though my title is English.
  • How do you see the roles of the learner and the teacher?
    • These roles are interchangeable. I am facilitating learning as I learn. Each student has a perspective that I can learn from. My realm of experience is all about language. Students teach me expression by using their language; I teach them how to modify their expression to match a particular audience. (How else would I know what on flique means?) This is just a small example of how I learn from them.
  • What challenges do your students face in their learning environments, and how does your pedagogy address them?
    • The biggest challenge I see, especially in teaching rhetoric, is that students have a hard time moving from summary to analysis. Summary is a “thinking habit” that students have used for years. It’s hard to make the transition between telling me what’s in a work and telling me whether or not an argument is sound. I address this pedagogically by moving very slowly at the beginning of the semester, providing scaffolded lessons that students discuss in small groups, large groups, and then write about in class.