OER and language teachers professional practices, LORO Eurocall 2011
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  • A resource I use to help students to practise articulate prepositions
  • We were also aware that these specific detailed stories might bring out technical and practical elements of reflection but not necessarily enable teachers to focus on the critical (van Manen, 1977, Grushka et al, 2005). The last section of the narrative frame, then, explicitly asked teachers to write about their own teaching practice more generally, in an attempt to capture some of those critical reflections.
  • In terms of the impact of OER in teaching and learning, the data from the narrative frames shows that teachers consider OER to have an impact in different areas. On the one hand, OER have an impact when they enable reuse. For that, it is important that the materials are reliable, ie of good quality, and that they are flexible and easy to adapt to one’s teaching style.
  • Secondly, OER have an impact when they enable peer feedback and peer review. This is something that we clearly have not achieved with LORO yet, but we will be addressing this in a number of interventions over the next academic year.
  • Thirdly, OER also have an impact in how teachers feel about themselves as teachers, and perhaps in providing a sense of community:
  • Finally, a collection of OER also have the potential to provide opportunities for staff development activities:
  • When I prepare my tutorials, I often look at other courses’ materials. These help give me ideas which I other copy or develop further. In this case, I have decided to use the idea
  • This is a resource I have uploaded to LORO. My friend has slightly simplified it and acknowledged me and the OU.
  • She has then created an exercise using the same technique
  • … and another, using Google Earth…an idea I want to copy.
  • Sawyer (2004) explains how teaching has often been thought of as a “creative performance”. Sometimes this is a way to emphasise teacher creativity in a “constructivist, inquiry-based, and dialogic teaching methods that emphasize classroom collaboration”, although he warns that is it can also be used to justify scripted instruction that is the complete opposite. Elsewhere, Sawyer (2008) also explains how when a musician is a skilled improviser, the composer doesn’t have to be prescriptive, and can leave some of the score unwritten, relying on the performer to improvise and fill in the gaps. This can start to give us a model for how to look at OER, and the mediating artefacts attached to the resources (such as lesson plans with levels, objectives, activity types and modes of interaction), not as a prescriptive “script”, but as resources that enable the teacher ( i.e. the performer) to improvise in the actual performance of the lesson. Indeed, Sawyer (2004) believes that in order to be truly effective, the “teaching as performance” metaphor must be modified, and he draws on his work on theatrical improvisation to offer the model of teaching as “improvisational performance”, which enables him to highlight “the collaborative and emergent nature of effective classroom practice, helps […] to understand how curriculum materials relate to classroom practice, and shows why teaching is a creative art”. If we understand teaching as “improvisational performance”, and if that is an understanding shared by teachers using a teaching repository, then we can begin to understand why teachers might not be re-uploading their re-versioned OER into the repository. Indeed, some re-versioning of the teaching materials might occur in the planning of a particular lesson, but much of it might actually occur in the actual delivery of the lesson, in the “imporvisational performance” itself. This might actually also be where teachers perceive the site of creativity in their professional practice to reside, so that creativity in teaching is more like acting or playing an instrument rather than writing a play, a musical score or, indeed, producing teaching resources.


  • 1. Open Educational Resources and language teachers’ professional practice Anna Comas-Quinn and Tita Beaven Department of Languages, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, The Open University Eurocall 2011
  • 2. What are OER?
    • Open educational resources are materials used to support education that may be freely accessed, reused, modified and shared by anyone.(Stephen Downes 2011)
    • The creator of the resource indicates that they are for public use and reuse through a Creative Commons license or similar
    • For more info on Creative Common licenses, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DKm96Ftfko (a useful 3 m introduction) & http://creativecommons.org/
  • 3. Languages Open Resources Online http://loro.open.ac.uk
    • LORO is about:
    • ...making all teaching materials for all levels and languages available to all users,
    • … making OU tutorial materials available to the wider languages community,
    • … allowing users to share their own materials with the whole languages community,
    • … starting a change in the way we work (OER, access, transparency, quality).
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  • 7. How do we measure impact?
    • Metrics (eprints inbuilt + google analytics)
    • Surveys (questionnaires + usage polls)
    • Data from forums
    • Focus groups
    • Narrative frames
    • (Barkhuizen, G. and Wette, R. (2008) ‘Narrative frames for investigating the experiences of language teachers’, System , 36, 372–387)
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  • 12. Researching our teachers: online surveys
    • Department of Languages ALs only (~320)
    • June 2009 (129 respondents)
    • July 2010 (73 respondents)
    • March 2010 (173 respondents)
    • March 2011 (156 respondents)
  • 13. Researching our teachers: some challenges
    • Part time teachers (Associate Lecturers)
    • They work at a distance
    • Few opportunities to meet face-to-face
    •  training and development events online, both synchronously and semi-synchronously:
      • online focus groups
      • synchronous workshops (on Elluminate, the audiographic conferencing system used at the OU)
      • semisynchronous workshops (using Elluminate to meet synchronously, with pre/post asynchronous forum discussions – eg Cloudworks).
  • 14. Narrative frames
    • Our needs:
      • To explore the changes in teaching practices that working with OER might be having on our teachers
      • A tool to provide some structure to the narratives
      • A tool to fit our distributed ways of working, and not impinge on the limited time our ALs have to work with us.
    • What?
      • Narrative frames (Barkhuizen and Wette, 2008)
        • An approach derived from creative writing
        • Presents the writer with a template containing a starter and connectors, and which provide a ‘‘skeleton to scaffold writing”
    • Why?
      • To give support with the structure and content of what is to be written
      • To ensure that the content is focussed around the research questions
      • To ensure the content is more manageable in terms of how it can be analysed (2008, p 375-6).
    • Also: use of facilitated reflection might result in “learning that was rooted in the participants’ own experience and workplace contexts”, and therefore “inherently meaningful to them and thus more likely to be acted upon”. Jones and Stubbe (2004, 190)
  • 15. Impact of OER: adapting and reusing
    • AL1:“I’ll usually modify the material a bit depending on the needs of my group of students. I find that the material in LORO is very reliable because in principle it has been created by colleagues that teach the same course as me and therefore the material comes from a trusted source.”
    • AL2: “In relation to my own teaching practice, what I think about LORO is that it is a good idea to work cooperatively and share resources, but the materials do need to be flexible and adaptable for one’s own style.”
  • 16. Impact of OER: peer feedback and peer review
    • AL3: In terms of my own teaching practice, I think that sharing the resources I have created with colleagues has not had much impact. I have uploaded resources to LORO but I don’t know who has used them, what they think about their quality/appropriateness for the level, how they can be improved/ adapted for differentiation purposes. However, on one occasion I put a ppt for a tutorial on the Tutor Forum and I had some acknowledgement for it.
    • AL2: In terms of my own teaching practice, I think that sharing the resources I have created with colleagues does not make a lot of difference, because I don’t get feedback about whether colleagues have used my resources, how they found them, what I could change etc.
  • 17. Peer observation
    • Extending the concept of peer observation
    • “ for purposes of exploring the learning and teaching process and environment and where this ‘observation’ leads on to reflection and discussion” (Bennett and Barp, 2008).
    • Peer observation in a distance context
      • Online synchronous and asynchronous teaching
      • Assessment feedback
      • Teaching resources
      • Bennett, S. and  Barp, D. (2008) ‘Peer observation - a case for doing it online’ Teaching in Higher Education , 13(5) pp. 559-570
  • 18. Impact of OER: promoting a sense of community
    • AL4: “In relation to my own teaching practice, what I think about LORO is that it helps me to be more relaxed and confident with my students. I feel less isolated from other tutors since we all use more or less the same materials.”
  • 19. Impact of OER: staff development opportunities
    • AL5: more Staff development should be “devoted to encouraging colleagues to share their material and to begin evaluating each others’ work. Tutors are not always good at commenting on each other, while many people, quite understandably, are anxious about being criticised.”
    • AL6: highlights the need to invite “tutors to create and upload new materials in a more collaborative way, for example, organising material development sessions according to each particular module.”
  • 20. Teachers are using LORO…
    • To find resources for their teaching
      • “ I often also check what other teachers have done to teach the same topic or a similar structure”
    • To find inspiration and ideas
    • “ even if I don’t find anything I can use, it starts the ideas flowing in my head”
    • To standardise their practice and ensure comparability of the student experience
      • “ to make sure the contents covered in my own tutorial are similar to those used by the rest of the course team and tutors”
  • 21. Anna Calvi A narrative frame and three examples
  • 22. Anna’s narrative frame 1
    • LORO in your professional practice: a framework for reflection Instructions: (1) Read the whole page BEFORE starting to write. (2) Write a coherent narrative; i.e. link each idea to the next like you would in a story. (the narrative frame is what is in bold)
    • The way I use LORO in preparation for a tutorial is to check what the module team has uploaded and use it to just see what they have included and what activities they suggest. I usually modify, build on their work and come up with my own version which usually breaks down the various activities into tasks that are more suitable for my students. I often also check what other teachers have done to teach the same topic or a similar structure. To find their materials I enter the topic in the search box. Luckily I can speak Spanish and French so I can understand the materials.
  • 23. Anna’s narrative frame 2
    • However, I have never downloaded any materials prepared by other teacher. The main reason for this is that I just look for ideas and then I prepare my own whiteboards/ powerpoints in a creative way. For instance, I remember a particular case when I was preparing to teach hotel reservations and I decided to see what others had done. I searched ‘hotel reservations’ and found a German worksheet designed to scaffold a role play by giving prompts in English. This prompted me to prepare a similar worksheet for my lesson. To make these searches easier it would be very helpful if the tags were standardised as I noticed that for each topic the resources have been freely entered under many different headings and I wonder if I might have missed materials classified using a tag I had not thought of.
  • 24. Anna’s narrative frame 3
    • In terms of my own teaching practice, I think that sharing the resources I have created with colleagues stimulates me to write very good materials, test them and improve them so that they can be used by someone else. Thus LORO really pushes me to produce better materials. It also gives me an opportunity to gain useful feedback on the work I do, although, so far I have only received one comment. However, I do worry about what some of my colleagues say as they don’t approve of me uploading materials for free. They say that if I keep uploading my work, the university will never consider paying for the work I or they do. This criticism, not their arguments, sometimes demotivates me. In relation to my own teaching practice, what I think about LORO is that it is a great opportunity for me to showcase my work, gain feedback and learn from what others do. […] Narrative framework based on : Gary Barkhuizen , Rosemary Wette (2008) ‘Narrative frames for investigating the experiences of language teachers’, System, 36, 372–387
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  • 34. Reusing OER: “derivative works”
    • Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alasdeluz/4699671434/
  • 35. LORO for professional development Phase I (2010-2011)
    • Basic introduction to creating OER
    • Usefulness and discoverability
    • Copyright (images in particular)
    • Attribution and ownership
    • Licenses
    • Quality assurance & peer review
    • 2. Locating good quality CC materials (Flickr, Wikimedia,… el Cosmonauta) > language teaching
  • 36. LORO for professional development Phase II (2011-2012)
    • Incorporation of LORO into workflows for location, creation and sharing of teaching materials
    • Peer review of teaching materials
    • Collaborative creation of teaching materials
  • 37. The next steps
    • “ Integrating LORO into professional development for Associate Lecturers at the Department of Languages”, OU funded Scholarship project , 2011-2012
    • LORO champions : recognising and encouraging efforts to disseminate LORO outside of the OU
    • “ Performing languages” Grundtvig project , 2011-2013, with partners in Italy, France and Spain: OER for using drama in language teaching.
  • 38. Maybe…
    • Study visit, Transversal programme
    • Possible future application for a Grundtvig Multilateral Project or Network
    • Get in touch if you are interested in being a partner!
  • 39. A final thought
    • “ LORO is just a means to an end, it’s not about LORO but about promoting a change in working practices to encourage sharing, discussion, collaboration and transparency, leading to improved teaching and learning”
  • 40.
    • ¡ Gracias!
    • Any questions?
    • Contact [email_address]
    • Anna Comas-Quinn: [email_address]
    • Tita Beaven: [email_address]