Documentation:Open UBC/Guide/Open Pedagogy Toolkit

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Open Pedagogy

In addition to using open resources, another aspect of open education asks not “what you teach with” but “how you teach.”[1] This toolkit explores open pedagogy, a method of teaching and learning that builds on principles of openness and learner participation[2].

Some questions that this toolkit will address are:

  • What possibilities does the affordances of the Internet, particularly around connection, sharing, and collaboration, have for teaching and learning?
  • How do can learning be transformed so individual student work can have impact and value beyond supporting the learning of the individual student?
  • What rights and control do students have over their work?
  • What are we asking students or faculty to do when we ask them to work in the open?
  • What are best practices when students work in the open?

Defining Open Pedagogy

Using open educational resources in the classroom can make it easier for students to access and interact with course materials. However, another major aspect of open education is applying the concepts of open to the the practices of teaching and learning. Many different scholars and educators have put forth definitions of what open pedagogy involves. These definitions include:

  • The set of pedagogical practices that include engaging students in content creation and making learning accessible is known as open pedagogy. -- Tony Bates[2]
  • A blend of strategies, technologies, and networked communities that make the process and products of education more transparent, understandable, and available to all the people involved. -- Tom Woodward[3]
  • The potential of openness and sharing to improve learning, as well as a social justice orientation – caring about equity, with openness as one way to achieve this. -- Maja Bali[4]
  • 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. -- David Wiley & John Hilton[5]
  • The ability for learners to shape and take ownership of their own education -- Devon Ritter[4]
  • A means to connect with a broader, global community as well as a means to challenge and expand existing understandings of student centre learning -- Tannis Morgan[6]
  • Freedom of action and authority -- Jim Luke[7]
Open pedagogy is the natural progression of integrating socially just principles of human relations and the potential of current technology into the educational system. If we believe education leads to human flourishing and that education is a right, then the use and creation of OER in tandem with effective teaching and learning strategies (that is, open pedagogy) is required to establish and protect that right. Open pedagogy fulfills one of the core commitments to a democratic system by cultivating an informed, educated, and engaged electorate. On a more personal level, open pedagogy has become not just important, but fundamental to my own approach to teaching. My engagement with open pedagogy focuses on revolutionizing the pedagogical relations between learners, learning facilitators, the production of knowledge, and the societal contexts in which we learn, teach, and live. In fact, my theoretical approach to teaching draws directly from critical pedagogy which emphasizes the awakening of a critical consciousness. Critical pedagogy questions the institutions and practices of education by supporting an approach that emphasizes teaching as a political act, learner-centered practices, praxis, the co-production of knowledge, and the educator as a facilitator. I believe practicing contemporary critical pedagogy requires engaging with OER and therefore leads naturally to experiments in open pedagogy - Dr. Arthur Gill Green, Affiliate Assistant Professor, UBC Geography.[4]

Attributes of Open Pedagogy

Hegarty (2015) describes eight attributes of open pedagogy[2]:

  • participatory technologies: socially constructed media such as blogs, wikis and other ‘sharing’ social media;
  • people, openness and trust: students’ willingness to learn is fragile, with participation and interactions unlikely to flourish unless an element of trust can be built[8];
  • innovation and creativity: finding new models of teaching and learning that better exploit OER and more emphasis on choosing digital technologies and methods that encourage the sharing of knowledge and resources;
  • sharing ideas and resources: an open pedagogy needs peers to share willingly within a connected and trusting and professional community;
  • connected community: a technologically linked community with common interests;
  • learner-generated: this requires ‘opening up’ the process to empower students to take the lead, solve problems, and work collectively to produce artifacts that they share, discuss, reconfigure, and redeploy
  • reflective practice: when students and teachers collaborate in partnerships, it facilitates deeper pedagogical reflection
  • peer review: Conole (2014) sees learners as publishers and users of a range of open tools, with peer interactions and critique embedded in the learning experience[9].

Within and across these definitions, Caroline Sinkinson (2017) has suggested that a number of shared values[10] for open pedagogy emerge:

  • Access and Equity: Commitment to reducing barriers that prevent equitable access to education, including economic, technical, social, cultural, and political factors.[4][11]
  • Community and Connection: Commitment to facilitating connections across the boundaries of learning experiences, classrooms, campuses, countries, communities, and viewpoints. This might include inviting authentic student collaboration with peers, experts, and the public.[12]
  • Agency and Ownership: Commitment to protecting agency and ownership of one's own learning experiences, choices of expression, and degrees of participation.[13]
  • Risk and Responsibility: Commitment to interrogate tools and practices that mediate learning, knowledge building, and sharing and to resist the treatment of open as neutral.[14] [15]

These values are not new to open pedagogy and often echo earlier critical pedagogists from the 1970's like Paulo Freire who saw education as a liberating and transformative practice:

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.[16]

Students as Creators/Producers

"We are often asking students to do work just to show us that they can do it. I wanted them to do something that had genuine value, and not just this makeup exercise they perform just to show [professors] they know how to do things." -Dr. Rosie Redfield, UBC Zoology

Having students be creators of content or resources, described as a “Student as Producer” model by Mike Neary (2009) at the University of Lincoln, emphasizes the role of the student as collaborators in the production of knowledge which helps transform students from being the object of the educational process to being the subject of it. Additionally, in this model, the university’s approaches to learning and research are closer aligned; for example, students, similar to researchers, are asked to share their work with authentic audiences and not just with their immediate instructor or adviser. As Neary and Winn (2009) state, in this way students become part of the academic project of the University and collaborators with academics in the production of knowledge and meaning.[17]

According to Derek Bruff (2013), Director of the Centre for Teaching at Vanderbilt University, students are frequently involved in knowledge production outside of the classroom, through undergraduate research, internships, co-ops, etc. However, he suggests that there are many opportunities to engage students in knowledge creation within the classroom and suggests student as producer assignments or courses have the following aspects in common: 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 authentic audiences, not just their instructor. Students are also given a degree of autonomy in their work.[18].

A related concept is that of the "renewable assignment". David Wiley, a leading open education scholarly, has argued that much of student work can be considered disposable: “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."[19] As Hendricks states (2015), it’s not that such assignments have no value at all. They can often serve very well to encourage students to learn and apply information, gain research and other skills, engage in problem solving, and more. And if done well, they can show instructors the level of mastery students have achieved. But what is important to consider is find important to consider, is that “disposable assignments” don’t provide any further value to the world after they’re completed.[20].

What makes an assignment renewable or disposable? A disposable assignment, Wiley states, is any assignment about which students and faculty understand the following:

  • Students will do the work
  • Faculty will grade the work
  • Students will throw away the work

A renewable assignment is any assignment where:

  • Students will do the work
  • Faculty will grade the work
  • The work is inherently valuable to someone beyond the class
  • The work is openly published so those other people can find and use it

According to Hendricks (2015), having students create resources or content for their course is a form of authentic assessment[20]. Authentic assessments are assessment activities that (among other things) are similar to what students might do with the skills they are learning in the “real world.” Students are asked to do the kinds of things that the course of study is preparing them to do, “in situations as similar to the contexts in which the related skills are performed as possible” (Svinicki, 2004)[21].

Student Considerations

When asking students to create content, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Students own the copyright in their own work, and should be given the choice whether or not to share or publish it publicly and with an open license.

When sharing content outside of traditional classrooms, different people have different levels of comfort and risk. Students should never be required or compelled to give up any of their privacy in order to complete an assignment. It is always good to provide students with options on how they may complete or share their work.

If you are publishing students' work on a course site or planning to re-use it in future terms, ask for students' permission regarding how long they would like their work to be share. Some may not mind having it posted indefinitely, but some may wish to have their work taken down as soon as the class is finished. At the very least, let them know that if they later decide they would like it taken down, they can contact you.

It is useful to provide them with various choices, such as:

  • publishing with a pseudonym
  • publishing in a way that only other people in that class can see their work
  • submitting only to the instructor or T.A.
  • publishing publicly with or without an open license

When working with students as creators of content, it can be helpful to think of them as collaborators. You might not want your work or privacy shared without your consent and students are often the same.

Examples of Open Pedagogy

Hendricks (2017) outlines examples of open pedagogy that included students creating the curriculum (or parts of it), students creating OER and open textbooks, and wikipedia projects.[22]. There are many examples of open pedagogy at UBC, such as:


Think of a current assignment from a course you teach or are taking. How could that assignment be transformed so that it is not disposable and contains some of the values and attributes of open pedagogy?

Now, consider the following questions:

  • How would the shift change the nature of the activity/assignment?
  • What resources are needed?
  • How would you assess the activity?
  • What will you need to communicate to students to help them to complete the activity?
  • How much time will students need to complete the activity?
  • What support do you need to create the activity? What support will your students need?
  • What tools or resources could you use to support the activity and why?

Key Points

  • Open pedagogy is the application of the concepts of open to the the practices of teaching and learning. It can involve a blend of strategies, technologies, and networked communities to empower learners to have control and ownership over their own teaching.
  • A common strategy for open pedagogy is to transform traditional course activities so that students are collaborators with instructors and co-creators of knowledge and content. Such work is valuable, especially when it is openly published so other people can find and use it. In doing so, students experience authentic learning opportunities and are closer aligned with the academic mission of the University.
  • When engaged in open pedagogy it is important to treat students as we would want to be treated by our peers and collaborators. Students own the copyright in their own work, and should be given the choice whether or not to share or publish it publicly and with an open license. Students should also never be required or compelled to give up any of their privacy in order to complete an assignment.

References & Attributions

This toolkit was adapted from the following resources:

  1. Elder, A. (2019). The OER starter kit. Iowa State University Digital Press. Retrieved from: CC-BY-4.0
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Bates, A.W (Tony) (2019). Teaching in a Digital Age – Second Edition. pp. CC–BY–NC 4.0. 
  3. Grush, M. (2014). Open pedagogy: Connection, community, and transparency. Campus Technology. Retrieved from:
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Schuwer, R. (2017). "April open perspective: what is open pedagogy?". Year of Open – via CC-BY 4.0. 
  5. Wiley, D., & Hilton III, J. L. (2018). Defining OER-enabled pedagogy. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(4). Retrieved from:
  6. Morgan, T. (2017). Reflections on #OER17 – From beyond content to open pedagogy. Explorations in the ed tech world. Retrieved from:
  7. Luke, J. (2017). What's open? Are OER necessary?. EconProph. Retrieved from:
  8. Mak, S. F., Williams, R., & Mackness, J. (2010). Blogs and forums as communication and learning tools in a MOOC. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010 (pp. 275–284);
  9. Conole, G. (2014). The 7Cs of learning design: A new approach to rethinking design practice. Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Networked Learning 2014, Edinburgh (pp. 502–509);
  10. Sinkinson, C. (2018). The values of open pedagogy. Educause Review. Retrieved from:
  11. Hendricks, C. (2017). Navigating open pedagogy. You're the Teacher. Retrieved from:
  12. deRosa, R. (2017). Open pedagogy: Quick reflection for #YearOfOpen. actualham. Retrieved from:
  13. Roen, J. & Smale, M. (2105). Open digital pedagogy = critical pedagogy. Hybrid Pedagogy. Retrieved from:
  14. Stommel, J. (2015). Open door classroom. Retrieved from
  15. Watters, A. (2014). From "open" to justice #OpenCon2014. Hack Education. Retrieved from:
  16. Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary ed ed.). New York: Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-1276-9. OCLC 43929806.
  17. Neary, M. and Winn, J. (2009). The student as producer: reinventing the student experience in higher education. The future of higher education: policy, pedagogy and the student experience. Continuum, London, pp. 192-210. Retrieved from:
  18. Bruff, D. (2013). "Students as producers: An introduction". Vanderbilt University. Retrieved from:
  19. Wiley, D. (2013). What is open pedagogy?. iterating toward openness. Retrieved from
  20. 20.0 20.1 Hendricks, C. (2015). Renewable assignments: Student work adding value to the world. UBC Flexible Learning. Retrieved from:
  21. Svinicki, M. D. (2004). Authentic assessment: Testing in reality. New Directions in Teaching and Learning, 100, 23-29. DOI: 10.1002/tl.167
  22. Hendericks, Christina (2017). "Open pedagogy: examples of class activities – You're the Teacher" CC-BY 4.0

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