Open is a verb: A discussion about open education and equity pedagogy podcast

The research and data about Open Research and Open Educational Practices are quite limited. In their guest editorial, Introduction to the intersections of open educational practices and equity pedagogy, academics Jennifer Van Allen and Stacy Katz discuss the importance of applying such practices to the classroom/university environment while also challenging the construct of the limitations of the research.

The episode is based on their guest editorial, and the host and authors discuss the limitations of the research while the guests also urge their fellow professors and scholars to implement the change, starting from embracing it themselves and in their teaching practices, then applying it to their classroom/environment.  

Speaker profiles

Jennifer Van Allen is an Assistant Professor of Literacy Education at Lehman College in the City University of New York.  For 14 years, she taught and worked in high needs PK-6 schools as a teacher and literacy coach and now works with pre-service and in-service teachers.  From her experiences, she realized that both teachers and students struggle to equitably access high-quality resources.  Her current research interests include digital literacies and open education as tools for equitable education for all.

Stacy Katz is an Associate Professor and Open Resources Librarian-STEM Liaison at Lehman College, CUNY. She initiated, developed, and oversees the Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative for the college. Stacy’s research to date has focused on OER, particularly how librarians develop and support OER initiatives, faculty professional development in OER, and student views on OER. View more information and links to Stacy's publications.

In this episode:

  • What is equity pedagogy and how does it link to multicultural education?
  • What are Open Education Resources (OER) and Open Educational Practices (OEP)?
  • What makes OER a social justice endeavour?
  • How does open research foster more interactions with historically marginalised groups?
  • The importance of network communities in open education practices 
  • OER in classroom application, professional development of educators and learning design. 

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Open is a verb: A discussion about open education and equity pedagogy

Francesca Lombardo (FL): Hi, I'm Francesca Lombardo, marketing executive at Emerald publishing and co-host of the Emerald Publishing Podcast Series. In this episode, I'm joined by two academics Jennifer Van Allen and Stacy Katz, who are researching open research practices and the impact on education and equity pedagogy. We will talk about their special issue which focuses on open educational practices, and how they have become increasingly important for social justice in classroom applications and how they intersect with equity pedagogy. The special issue was made open access thanks to the funding received by the Hewlett Foundation and Jennifer and Stacy would like to thank them. 

Jennifer Van Allen (JVA): Hi, I'm Jennifer Van Allen. I'm an assistant professor of literacy education at Lehman College in the City University of New York. 

Stacy Katz (SK): I'm Stacy Katz, I'm the open resources librarian and stem liaison. And I am an associate professor in the library at Lehman College, also at the City University of New York.

FL: So should we go straight into the issue? Can you start by defining what equity pedagogy is? 

JVA: Yeah, equity pedagogy comes out of multicultural education. So, if we look back at the 60s and 70s, there was this movement for more inclusive curriculum and just more acknowledgement of the cultural diversity of the students that are in our school. So, equity pedagogy is a piece of that, that was proposed by Banks back in the 90s. And the pedagogy piece really focuses on student centered learning, and making learning a multicultural encounter for our students, where we're valuing the lived experiences of our students, whether that be their culture, their religion, anything about the students. And so, I think equity pedagogy really moves away from this idea of deficit thinking, and thinking about what our students don't have to thinking about what our students are bringing into the learning experience it. And it requires a shift in thinking about teaching and learning from teachers to know their students at a more deeper level, know who they are, and make sure that they're seen in their curriculum. 

FL: The main topics are equity pedagogy, and the other one is open educational practices that you shorten to all OEP. Would you like to also talk about that. 

SK: So open educational practices, encompasses sort of learning resources, teaching practices, and education policies that use OER. So, it's about using OER to provide learners with high quality educational experiences, which we rely actually on the definition from the Hewlett Foundation, you can see how big they are in this work. But that's part of it. And what OER is, is teaching learning and research materials that are either in the public domain, or that are licensed with a Creative Commons license. So that's a layer on top of copyright. That gives everyone free and perpetual permissions to engage in what's known as five R activities, which is to retain, revise, remixed, reuse or redistribute resources. 

FL: Yeah. So this is also connects, if I'm understanding correctly to the topic of social justice that you mentioned earlier on. So what do you think are the discussions that surround social justice, you know, open education today. 

SK: One of the things about OER is that everyone sort of assumes that it's going to be a social justice endeavor, no matter what you do. And in terms of giving everyone access it is, but it's not in it unless you work intentionally on other forms of social justice. So, Sarah Lambert, who is one of the authors in the special issue, but in a previous piece, looked at open education, and social justice definitions, and found that a lot of definitions of open education did not include social justice pieces that are important for developing OER and for open education practices. So, she looked at developing a social justice definition of OER. That included not just redistributive justice, but representational and re-cognitive social justice. So, looking at who's represented in the materials, who writes those materials, who is included, and then can people see themselves in those materials, so can they recognize their images in the materials. So that's really the definition that we look at for social justice aligned OER. But without intentionality that those aspects of OER are not necessarily present. So something can be free, and be open, but not necessarily be aligned with social justice practices. And we want to move the conversation and be part of people moving that conversation towards social justice. And that OER should create better more representative materials, not just more freely available, open materials. 

JVA: You can kind of see with social justice and equity pedagogy, how all of these pieces come together and start to intersect. Because we asked students through open educational practices to contribute to the global community of learners. And in doing so, they're not only acquiring knowledge, but they're also interrogating, reconstructing, and producing that knowledge for others. So, it becomes really empowering. If we, if we utilize equity pedagogy, and open educational practices. Our students are more empowered to have a voice of the world and represent themselves and recognize their contributions. 

FL: Yeah. On this note, do you have any examples on how open research does foster more interactions with historically marginalized groups? 

JVA: Yeah, I think that a lot of the projects that are discussed in our special issue really are examples and practice. One of the articles “Who writes and who responds? Gender and race-based differences and open annotations”, introduces this idea of social annotation, which is an open educational practice. And social annotation is kind of asynchronous learning where students read or view or listen to a piece of text. And then as part of that, they leave annotations out to the side with their thoughts, their connections, examples that they have from their own lives. So, it really becomes a space where, across time and space, students can engage with each other and build a deeper understanding of that text as a whole as they learn about others perspectives. So, I think that this particular article really demonstrates how students who maybe aren't as vocal in class, who don't share their ideas as openly, are more shy or reserved in class, it creates a space for them to have their voice heard. And I think that that's a really good example of open educational practices and how they can uplift the voices of historically marginalized groups. And in that particular article, the author's discuss how women in particular felt that they had a bigger voice in the class, because it the article, the classes that use the social annotation, were in STEM fields, which historically is like white male, predominant, right. And the women that were in that group, they felt that their voices more and more heard, and they valued the perspectives that they heard others through the social annotations there. So, I think that's a really good example of social justice and open educational practices and equity pedagogy. 

SK: And those authors talked about how also the textbooks are typically so white dominated, that having these annotations leads to a more diverse learning experience for the students as well. You know, and if it's an open textbook, a way that that could be even taken a step further is that the annotations could later be incorporated into the text itself, depending on what the prompts are. So, there are ways that that can even go further when you use open annotation and open textbooks. 

FL: Yeah. Earlier you mentioned Sarah Lambert's article and how it intersects with this classroom application because I remember reading the article, and this was just after the article about the gender?

JVA: Yeah, in the piece by Sarah Lambert and Johanna Funk. They talk about a cultural capability unit that they integrated into their higher education classes. And they are based well, Sara Lambert is based out of Australia where they're doing a lot of work on reconciliation with indigenous groups. And so, their research talks about how they brought in the knowledge of elders from the local community, and how that impacted students and I think it's a really good example of how they created like this network community of students, and the students were able to learn from each other. They were able to learn from those that were brought in to speak with the classes in this unit. And it really created a richer learning experience. And while they didn't really create any open educational resources, at least the students, didn't. They did become part of this, this community. And I think we see that in another example, in this special issue by Verena Roberts, her article, “Open learning design for using open educational practices and high school learning contexts and beyond” that article, kind of does the same thing and bringing in members of the local community, to work with students to speak with students in an alternative high school setting. And so, we see the importance of network communities in open educational practices and how that enriches students, helps them engage with others, and gives them a voice in the local community as well to deepen their own understanding of issues and things that are happening in their local community.

SK: And it was interesting to see, you know, these two different articles, because they're Australian, and Canadian, and that was something we aimed for in the special issue was to really reach an international audience, which we did end up with Australia, Canada and the United States. We had hoped for slightly more international, but we were glad to at least pull from beyond the United States context. 

FL: Yeah, I think it really gets you to think about diversity, in the sense that you're not only tackling the open education issue in the US, you're also showing how it's actually an issue worldwide, not just there. You also mentioned these three main themes. And I guess we already talked about the classroom application, would you like to say a bit more about professional development? 

JVA: Yeah, so as we were thinking about the special issue, and tying all of these pieces together, and thinking about how they all fit together, we realize that the papers really fit under three main themes. One of them that we've already talked about are these classroom applications, such as the project with the high school students, and the cultural capability unit, and the social annotation. Another theme that we sort of saw is how people are using open educational practices to further professional development of educators. And we saw that there were three articles that really prioritize this, “Supporting educators’ professional learning for equity pedagogy: the promise of educational practices”, took a look at how we can use open educational resources that are created by students in pre-service teacher programs or in service teacher programs. And then these, because they're positioned to have access to the current research and they're able in under the guidance of their instructor, they're able to create these really rich resources for teachers, who can then use that for their own professional learning. And I think that that particular article kind of highlights how this marriage between what students are learning in teacher preparation programs can then be used to further learning, especially about multicultural issues and equity pedagogy in the future. So, they were noticing how in their context, early childhood educators were talking about, like infant through pre-K students, their teachers often don't get the formal learning experiences, they go through training programs, but they're not full degree programs, often that they go through. And so, there's a real need to help these early learning educators develop their knowledge of equity pedagogy, and how to integrate it in respectful and age appropriate ways in the early learning years. And so that's how they, they took students created OER, then were able to use that with educators in those settings to further their knowledge. Because they, those early learning educators said no, we don't get enough of this. And when we do, it's kind of piecemeal. So, another example was the in creating equitable access using OER and OEP for socially just education. That was another good example of how educator preparation programs can develop candidates knowledge of OER. In this particular one, they use pre-service teachers and principal preparation teachers, and they created a project where in each of these classes, these students created in OER, they created a resource that could be shared more openly with others that talked about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and, and so this shows two different examples of two different contexts and how these authors were able to within their coursework, help students think about diversity, equity inclusion, belonging through the project, through the final project in the class. And it shows how, again, we can have people creating OER developing their own knowledge, but then also using that for the professional development of other educators. And then the other example is the open for anti-racism program, which is a program that was created and Stacy can talk more about this because she's reiterated it at our at our institution. But creating an anti-racism program that higher education faculty can go through, and thinking about how to utilize Open Educational Resources and open pedagogy or open educational practices to help higher ed faculty reconsider their coursework, and how they're addressing issues of anti-racism in their own classes. 

SK: Yeah, I would just add to that, that those themes that we didn't have those in mind when we put out the call, but when we did put out the call, one of the things we emphasized was that we wanted to look across educational sectors. So, we weren't limited just to, you know, higher education, we really wanted articles from across the spectrum of education. So, we were really pleased that we have such a wide range of educational contexts represented in these articles, because so often, this is a very higher education focused discussion. And we think it's something that really is applicable at all levels. 

JVA: The other two articles from the learning design theme that we were thinking about, they really don't necessarily talk about projects that were implemented, but they kind of help us visualize ways that we can use OER and open educational practices in our classrooms. So, they help you visualize that, through the practices that they propose being incorporated into classrooms, and not just classrooms. One of the articles entitled “How OER can support collaborative teacher learning to enact equitable teaching practices”, that one really takes a look at how we can create small professional development groups in schools and use open educational resources, OER to engage in sort of peer guided collaborative learning about teaching. 

FL: Yeah. Would you say that these examples that you give, and dimension of the three main themes? Would you say that these are how participants learning experiences and also the teachers teaching experiences? Do you think that these three themes kind of grouped together the ways in which experiences of both parties will be changed? 

JVA: I'm not sure that it's how their experiences will be changed. I think it's kind of envisioning the possibilities, which, again, was the goal of our special issue, because these experiences are going to be very contextualized. Right? It comes back to that intentionality that we wanted to highlight. We, in order to, really thoughtfully incorporate these practices into your instruction, you need to be really intentional, you need to know your students, you need to think about the context. And so, I think that it's not necessarily explaining how the teaching and learning experiences are going to be changed if you implement it, but kind of conceptualizing what it might look like and what those changes might be. But they're going to be different for each individual experience. 

FL: As you mentioned, I guess, it depends on how these practices are implemented in the classroom, then the will transform each individual and each group of students or teachers in different way. 

JVA: Exactly. Yeah. Because just because you're implementing one of these practices doesn't necessarily make it equitable in some cases. And there's other articles out there that that highlight this and some cases, you can actually make it more inequitable by integrating some of these practices. So, you really have to consider who your students are, their cultural diversity, their ethnic diversity, really, their socio-economic status, and ensuring that you are not reifying some of the inequities that they face for example, this is an easy example, with access. There are many students who are accessing some of these resources on their phone, and the resources aren't always the most well formatted for accessing them on the phone. So while you may be trying to make the materials for your course, a lot more accessible to students, if they don't have the devices that can actually access them as they were intended to be accessed, it could actually increase the inequities and increase their inability to get these materials. So that's just kind of an easy example. 

FL: Yeah, that's a very good one. 

SK: And there are complexities sort of on both ends of open educational practices and equity pedagogy, that we've tried to make more sort of understandable within the special issue. And one of the things that we also did in this process, I'm a big process person, if you can't tell, is about how we selected reviewers was that we made sure that there was someone from the sort of pool of reviewers for Journal for Multicultural Education, and someone from the kind of open education world reviewing each article, because there are languages and terminologies that are understandable within each group. But there isn't actually a lot of overlap or intersection within this world as of yet. So that's why we wanted to make sure there was someone who could understand each piece of it. But we also want to make it understandable and raise questions from each side of it. You know, and it comes out of kind of also this critical tradition of, you know, educational technology, you know, looking at people like Audrey Waters, who has been critical of educational technology, that, you know, these things aren't just panacea is that they need to intentionality in terms of how we implement them, and how we think about them, as we go about doing this work, so that we're not doing further harm that we really are looking at doing, you know, enriching learning experiences for students, and making a more equitable educational system.

JVA: One article that comes out of our special issue really does, it explains this really well. And that's “Designing for resistance: epistemic justice, learning design and open educational practices”. And within that article, the author's highlight some practices and ways that they can actually do further harm than good. And how you can shift it to just by slight moves that you make as the instructor as the educator in that room. In order to make it more equitable for all learners.

FL: You say how it's very tailored to the situation and to the group of people that are studying in teaching. So what would what do you think are the challenges to the connection between the open practices and the equity pedagogy? 

JVA: I'd say it comes back to that intentionality. And, like, again, I don't think we can highlight this enough that as the instructor, as the educator, you've got to really be intentional, know your students and ensure that you understand the context of learning and what you want students to get out of it. And I think that's a huge challenge. Because in order to do that, it takes a lot of time to be that thoughtful in your teaching and learning. It requires some education, it requires some training. And a lot of that training is going to ask you to evaluate your own beliefs. And that can be hard work. And so, I think that that those are some challenges in being so intentional in your teaching. 

SK: Yeah, I would also say that, you know, these are practices that traditional grading doesn't always capture. So, there's, you know, how do we grade these materials, and there's a whole movement of sort of un-grading, self assessment and reflective practices that go hand in hand with this. But that those are not always understandable by, you know, administrators, those don't always translate for folks. And that it is a lot of work to undertake this. So, you know, it's changing systems so that this is also compensated work that, you know, folks aren't just doing this without support and without compensation for it as well. So, I think that some of the challenge to implementing these practices.

JVA: Yeah, if we think about education, traditionally, its students sitting in rows, and there's a lot of control from the teacher and asking educators to integrate open educational practices and equity pedagogy kind of deconstructs that notion of the traditional classroom. Educators have to give up some of the control and that can be really scary for some people. And so I think that's another challenge, it comes back to what Stacy was saying with assessment practices. And these kind of projects not really being valued, the data that comes from them not being valued in the overall educational policy. Because we don't see it, it's harder to quantify student learning. Although it as many of these articles in our special issue note that the learning that comes out is so much richer, that the students say that they learned so much more from these experiences. I think in one of the articles by Verena Roberts, the high school example, the teacher in the research actually noted that they didn't even know how to grade, the students work at the end, how to quantify it into a grade because their work was so emotional, and so rich, and those are not traditionally valued in education, those kinds of experiences and kind of data that we get from students about their learning. So I think that's a huge challenge. 

FL: Yeah. This also takes me back to your note, the included in the conclusion, I found it extremely interesting when you when you invited the faculty members, all the teachers to reimagine the context of their learning and teaching environment. Do you have any sort of recommendations or anything that you'd like to say, to share with your fellow professors or researchers? 

SK: I think for me, one thing that I've found really inviting from the open education community is something I've heard a few different people say that Katherine Cronin is the one who sticks out in particular, and she just says, you know, open is a verb, that really, it's, you know, trying something, it doesn't have to go from zero to 100, just right away that, you know, try something small. So, you know, I would really sort of invite people to try out one practice, and see how it goes, you know, people tend to take this all or nothing approach to open. And that's not really what it has to be that this is a reflective practice and a practice where you can change things slowly. And I would also say that there is actually this wonderful community of open educators to discuss things with to lean on and to say, I tried this, here's how it went. That's where so much of the change comes from, that it's not just about student transformation, but about our own. And I think that having that that space for reflection, and community can really help us and help us find support, even if we're not finding that within our own institutions necessarily. 

JVA: And I would add on to that, that educators need to be okay, with not knowing how something is going to turn out. In each of these times that I've integrated, open educational practices into my instruction with students, it's a bit unsettling, because that comes back to educators have to give up control, right, and you have to kind of give up that control and say, look, I'm giving you guys free rein, this is the idea that I have, and let's go and run with it, let's work with it together. That's part of creating a student centered classroom, students have a say in their own learning in what they're doing, what they're producing. And, and I think that being okay with not knowing how it's going to turn out is really, really important, even if, as you're making these small steps. 

SK: And I think that speaks to also need for like administrators to understand this process to be on board and to understand that like, this is part of growth as teachers and faculty is learning from our students how they learn, and improving upon that, because the banking model of education doesn't really work for anyone, so and it works even less for historically marginalized groups. So having these different ways of thinking and learning are really important. But it up-ends traditional notions, right of like, what knowledge means, and who gets to create it. So, it seems small, but it's so big too. 

FL: Yeah, absolutely. That's a beautiful and important message that you're sharing. Thank you so much for being here and for your time. It's been a pleasure. 

SK: Thank you.

JVA: Thank you. 

FL: Thank you for listening to today's episode. You can find more information about our guests and a full transcription of the show on our websites. I would like to thank Danielle Crow for her help with today's episode and the studio This is distorted. 

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