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Historical Branches of Open


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Talk given at #OER18 in Bristol 18th April 2018 exploring the historical branches of the open education movement in the UK, US and Canada.

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Historical Branches of Open

  1. 1. Digging Into the Past - Historical Branches of Open Vivien Rolfe, Tannis Morgan, Tanya Elias
  2. 2. Beyond Open Education “The advent of a movement like open education brings with it examination and criticism of what has gone before, of what is going on contemporaneously, and, perhaps most important, an examination and criticism of itself. Perhaps the next stage in the cycle will be of one self-criticism and self-correction.“ Barth, 1977
  3. 3. By McKay Savage from London, UK (Colourful thread in Chinatown's market streets) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons Threads of history
  4. 4. Introduction Today we partly connect the term ‘open’ to Open Educational Resources assisted by the ‘5 R’s’ to define the sharing of and access to content (Wiley 2014). Other interests around Open Educational Practices and Open Pedagogy we struggle to define - and treat these as new ideas being explored for the first time. In fact, there is a long history of exploration of open education that dates back to the 1960s. CC BY-NC-SA Bunky’s Pickle:
  5. 5. Rolfe 2016 - explored an earlier body of ‘open’ literature... (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic)
  6. 6. ...with much remaining uncited and unexplored (not very open!)...
  7. 7. As concluded again by Katy Jordan, Irwin De Vries, Martin Weller and myself (2017) - Network citation analysis ‘seeded’ by 20 articles from 1970s around open and distance learning - analysis of articles referenced to look at relationships between emerging communities: ● Open ed in schools - poorly connected ● Have certain voices been privileged? ● Gender/geographical bias is demonstrated in similar pieces of research
  8. 8. Aim and Methods We explored the earliest branches of research into open education (based on a systematic literature retrieval from 2016 and iterative building up of the literature sources by the 3 authors). We identified themes and concepts of open, and discuss common threads, diversions, and the emergence of 'new' ideas. ● How might this early work might offer valuable insight and frameworks for our current work? ● How might it challenge us to think differently about the meanings and possibilities of ‘open’ fifty years later?
  9. 9. open education, open pedagogy, self-directed learning
  10. 10. 255 publications (still not a globally exhaustive search) How was it framed? Primarily a schools movement. Solving a crisis: Crisis in the Classroom Schools without Failure Innovative practice: Experiment in education Moving toward self-directed learning Open classroom practices Open education Open minded, thought-filled education Schools without walls Community is the classroom Video, Television and the Open Classroom Familiar problems: How Open Is Open? Or, When Is an Open Classroom Closed? Results “Open education”
  11. 11. How was it framed? Primarily a schools movement Socio-constructivist Learner Empowerment: Autonomy and interdependence Freedom and responsibility Democracy and participation Learner as unique individual Different rhythms, styles, histories and talents Instructor as guide Importance of the learning environment Familiar problems: Resistance
  12. 12. “Pédagogie+ouverte” and “open+pedagogy” 1960-1984 How was it framed? Primarily a schools movement Open area schools, open classrooms Familiar problems: “From ideology to orthodoxy”
  13. 13. How was it framed? Primarily an adult ed movement Lifelong learning Learner Empowerment: Autonomy and responsibility Individualized Independent Study: Free university movement Open learning movement Familiar problems: Learner readiness Measuring and feedback Mainly focussed on middle class white adults Computer assisted, how to include tech?
  14. 14. “Self-directed learning” and “auto-apprentissage” 1960-1984
  15. 15. Assessment better suited to more humanist but less tangible goals of education Develop levels of interest which will then sustain self-directed activity. Is an answer to the oft-repeated urge to make education relevant. Learning becomes fused into the student's consciousness as a series of solutions to the problems presented in life itself. Learning takes place happily without lessons and even without a classroom. Offers flexibility of time, administration and space. Open classroom (defined as the community) - skills and knowledge are not seen as ends in themselves. Provide individualised instruction for each child by attending to individual needs, interests and abilities. Teacher more as a facilitator of learning than a transmitter of knowledge. Teachers and students will have infinite ways of bringing artifacts together. The curriculum has become a program for social purposes and the school an instrument of social control. Results - more detailed view of UK papers...
  16. 16. •Independent project work at all levels, for all students and faculty, would replace all standard courses. •Students would evaluate their own work. •Students would keep portfolios of their own work as an alternative means of showing what they had accomplished. There would be no more examinations of conventional types. •Students and faculty would participate fully and equally in the governance of the department. •The department was to run as an open organism with free access for everyone in the university, whether or not they were formally enrolled for credit. •Each person would function both as a teacher and as a learner. •The faculty accepted responsibility, in cooperation with the students, to create and maintain a rich and stimulating learning environment for the benefit of all. Results - elsewhere...
  17. 17. So what happened? 1970’s ‘open’ education had many shared goals with our movement today, not only through the utilisation of different teaching practices mainly in infant/primary schools but in higher education as well. What have we missed? We could have been inspired by their vision, and built upon their ideas. It may have provided us with a better foundation for ours.
  18. 18. (Romey 1977)
  19. 19. The Impact of Organizational and Innovator Variables on Instructional innovation in Higher Education, 1982 “Institutions of higher education lag behind most other sectors of the economy in their capacity to improve productivity” (Davis et al 1982) 1982
  20. 20. The deconstruction... Whaley and Antonellino 1979 Technology and consumerism Struggling with definitions “How will I know when I see it?” Katz 1972 Power relationships “Some teachers ‘resist’ openness out of fear of losing authority and control”. Katz 1972 Open education polarizes colleagues on a faculty (who wants to be thought of as a "traditional teacher"?) How to measure pupil progress? Pupils in an open plan (as opposed to traditional) school were found to have more positive attitudes toward school and themselves and scored higher on some measures of productivity; on measures of curiosity there were no differences. Wilson 1972
  21. 21. Concluding thoughts Revisiting Barth - more criticism of open, self-criticism and self- correction. To respect and reflect upon our histories (although we are challenged with affirmation bias). Acknowledge past work in the spirit of openness. Leave a more robust literature footprint for future generations.
  22. 22. References ● Rolfe V (2016). Open, but not for criticism? #opened16, Richmond Virginia, November 2016. Available: ● Barth, R. S. (1977). Beyond open education. The Phi Delta Kappan, 58(6), 489-492. ● Katz, L. G. (1972). Research on Open Education: Problems and Issues. ● Wilson, F. S., Langevin, R., & Stuckey, T. (1972). Are pupils in the open plan school different?. The Journal of Educational Research, 66(3), 115-118. ● Jordan K, De Vries I, Weller M, Rolfe V (2017). Reclaiming our History: Citation Network Analysis of Historical Open and Distance Education Research. World Conference on Online Learning, 16-19th October 2017, Toronto. Slides here: historical-open-and-distance-education-research ○ Maubant, P., & Roger, L. (2010). De nouvelles configurations éducatives. PUQ. ○ Davis RH, Strand R, Alexander LT and Hussain MN (1982). The Journal of Higher Education, 53(5), 568-586. Available: ○ Romey B (1977). The Journal of Higher Education, 48(6), 680-696. Available: