Into the Labyrinth : A PhD Comprehensive Portfolio

OEPr: Open Practices

     Despite more than a decade of developing conceptualizations of OEPr, as shaped by social, cultural, geographic, and economic factors, there is still no clear definition of what it means to be an open educator (Bozkurt et al., 2019; Cronin & MacLaren, 2018). Broadly speaking, OEPr encompasses (a) open sharing of learning and instructional design, (b) collaborative development of open educational content and resources, (c) open and accessible co-creation and delivery of learning activities, and (d) the application of shared peer and collaborative assessment and evaluation practices (Bozkurt et al., 2019; Cronin & MacLaren, 2018; Nascimbeni & Burgos, 2016; Paskevicius, 2017; Wiley & Hilton, 2018). Openness in education results in increased transparency, improved collaboration, and the democratization of educational endeavours (Kimmons, 2016). This definition of OEPr is shaped by a philosophy about teaching that “emphasizes giving learners choices about medium or media, place of study, pace of study, support mechanisms, and entry and exit points, which are provided mostly with opportunities enabled by educational technologies” (Bozkurt, et al., 2019, p. 80). 
     OEPr can be more narrowly defined by identifying skills and abilities educators apply when opening their teaching and learning environments by removing barriers to learning (Cronin, 2017; Nascimbeni & Burgos, 2016). Paskevicius (2017) defined OEPr as “practices where openness is enacted within all aspects of instructional practice; including the design of learning outcomes, the selection of teaching resources, and the planning of activities and assessment” (p. 127). For my research, I will explore the OEPr of teacher educators as they engage and participate, create and network, select learning objects, and/or apply Creative Commons licensing (Paskevicius, 2017; Watt, 2019).
     Nascimbeni & Burgos (2016) attempted to identify and measure the qualities of an open educator using their Open Educators Factory (OEF) which examined elements of teaching practice such as openly designing learning, developing and using open content, teaching openly, and applying assessment that shifts beyond the notion of a disposable assignment (Nascimbeni & Burgos, 2016; Paskevicius, 2017; Wiley & Hilton, 2018). 

An Open Educator chooses to use open approaches, when possible and appropriate, with the aim to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning. He/she works through an open online identity and relies on online social networking to enrich and implement his/her work, understanding that collaboration bears a responsibility towards the work of others. (Nascimbeni & Burgos, 2016, p. 4)

     Tur et al., (2020) examined this notion of becoming an open educator and enacting an OEPr as reflected in an open identity examined through the lens of threshold concepts, best described as "capabilities, skills, experiences or practices and of which might also indicate ways of thinking, practicing and being which act to signal membership of, or changing status within, a community of practice" (p. 5). Gee's (2017) notion of "being" and "becoming" highlights this internal state, in this case being an open educator, and the transition an educator undergoes in becoming, through rights of passage involving doing (experiences), sense making (knowledge) and identities (being) that are transformative, troublesome, and liminal (Tur et al., 2020).
     In an attempt to provide a further distinction between OEPr as action and event driven, to one that is internal, Cronin’s (2016) clarification of openness as “individual, complex and contextual” (para 4) is a helpful starting point. Cronin’s (2016) conception of openness, brings to the forefront the individual to whom the “open” practice matters as an educator, situated within the contextualized, complex spaces where personal identity, on multiple levels, is continually negotiated, and where personal and connected decisions are made, both within and from outside educational contexts (Cronin, 2016). This is where the conceptualization of OEPr is reframed as individual, online identity building, hospitable, negotiated and reflective. 
     A holistic conception of teaching practice as open is proposed here. Cronin’s (2016) notion of openness can be juxtaposed with the writing of Parker J. Palmer (2017), who described three entanglements in teaching. First is the content or subject matter that must be managed. Second is the complexity brought to the teaching environment as embodied in each student. Palmer (2017) suggested the greatest challenge comes from within each educator since “we teach who we are” (p. 2). Palmer (2017) stated:

Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. … The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul. If I am willing to look in that mirror, and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge—and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject (p. 3).

When thinking about OEPr, it is into “open” education spaces that I project my inner self, as I become a mirror and a window (Style, 1988) and where my “open" teaching is displayed in all the layers, negotiations, tasks, actions, and care encompassed within the art of teaching. In open educational contexts, OEPr is a reflection of everything we are and do as a teacher. The digital technologies and resources we select, use and integrate into the courses we teach will mirror our personality, persona and identity, both physical and digital. When I come face to face, either physically or virtually, with my students, I have command over one thing:

“my identity, my selfhood, my sense of this “I” who teaches—without which I have no sense of the “Thou” who learns … good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher” (Palmer, 2017, p. 4).

This is as true in open, digital, online, and virtual spaces as it is in a physical classroom context. My OEPr is the sum total of my internal ethos, my acts of hospitality, my ways of being “open”, as demonstrated in how I negotiate into open educational spaces, with students, using OER when appropriate, presenting open opportunities, exploring open assessments, while integrating open technologies. For this conception, I have attempted to construct OEPr within a more holistic framework, re-imagined within both individual and community contexts. Not only does this bring into this conception of OEPr the notion of ubuntu, but also the community of inquiry model envisioned by Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2001). 
     One area within this holistic notion of open that is problematic and under researched is the connection between critical digital literacies and OEPr (Cronin, 2017; Nascimbeni, 2018; Spante et al., 2018; Watt, 2019). It is in this confluence of competing notions about identity and practice, within the field of teacher education, and the OEPr enacted by teacher educators, that I propose to research further. 


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