The Open Road to Equity: Navigating Open Educational Practices 

This post is a reflective response to “Framing Open Educational Practices from a Social Justice Perspective” by Bali, M., Cronin, C., & Jhangiani, R. S. (2020). It explores the multifaceted nature of Open Educational Practices (OEP), emphasizing the need for diverse, equity-focused strategies in education. The article highlights the role of OEP in bridging pedagogical, social justice, and learner-centric approaches, and calls for a nuanced application of OEP that prioritizes the needs of those furthest from justice. 

“Equity isn’t for all. Equity is for those farthest from justice, and if we are working towards true equity those farthest from justice can define for themselves what they need to be whole, healthy, and in just relations with others.”

Erin Okuno, 2018

Redefining Openness in Education: Beyond Content Sharing

Open education transcends mere content sharing, embodying an attitude of vulnerability and open narration of our evolving practices. As Bali et al. (2020) articulate, “Openness can also be conceived of as an attitude or worldview” (p. 1), emphasizing the human element in education. The contrast between Open Educational Practices (OEP) and Open Educational Resources (OER) is pivotal, with OEP focusing on the process over content, student-centered over teacher-centered, and evaluating the potential social justice impact. This is echoed in the definition of open pedagogy as “an access-oriented commitment to learner-driven education” (Bali et al., 2020, p. 1). 

Embracing Vulnerability: A New Perspective on Educational Practices

In the context of Open Educational Practices (OEP), I often confront the ease of defaulting to traditional, teacher-centered methods. These methods, while familiar, limit the dynamic potential of learning by keeping control in the hands of the educator. In contrast, my philosophy as an educator aligns more with being a facilitator or ‘lead learner,’ advocating for student-driven learning. OEPs offer a variety of frameworks that empower students to take charge of their educational journey, challenging the traditional norms and encouraging more personalized and impactful learning experiences. This shift is crucial for fostering a more engaged and equitable learning environment. 

Balancing Pedagogy, Social Justice, and Learner Engagement in OEP

OEP’s transformative potential indeed spans multiple dimensions, bridging the gap between pedagogical, social justice, and learner-centric approaches. To delve deeper, we must understand the three axes of OEP as identified by Bali et al. (2020). First, the shift from content to process, emphasizing dynamic interactions and knowledge construction. Second, the move from teacher-centered to student-centered learning, empowering students as drivers of their educational journey. Finally, the evolution from purely pedagogical objectives to incorporating social justice, addressing economic, cultural, and political inequalities. This framework not only aligns with the role of an educator as a ‘lead learner’ but also highlights the need for a critical examination of OEP’s impacts, which can range from transformative to potentially negative. This critical lens is essential to ensure that OEP’s potential is harnessed for equitable and inclusive educational outcomes. 

However, as highlighted by Bali et al. (2020), the influence of OEP extends beyond positive outcomes, sometimes producing varied or even adverse effects (p. 3). This complexity necessitates a thorough and critical examination of how OEP aligns with and impacts social justice objectives. Understanding this spectrum of influence is key to responsibly implementing OEP in a way that truly advances equitable and meaningful education. 

Shaping Our Educational Narrative: A Call to Action

At the University of Texas at Arlington, while we embrace the economic aspects of Open Educational Practices (OEP) through initiatives like the UTA CARES grant, our journey towards a truly open educational environment is ongoing. Understanding OEP through the lens of diverse strategies across three axes, as Bali et al. (2020) suggest, is essential. We must strive for a comprehensive, individualized approach that prioritizes equity, especially for those furthest from justice. This leads us to a pivotal question for fellow researchers: How can we expand our understanding and application of OEP to ensure that all voices are not only heard but also actively shape the educational narrative? 

Reference: 

Bali, M., Cronin, C., & Jhangiani, R. S. (2020). Framing Open Educational Practices from a Social Justice Perspective. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2020(1), 10. https://doi.org/10.5334/jime.565 

Okuno, E. 16 November 2018. Equity doesn’t mean all. FakeQuity [online]. Available from: https://fakequity. com/2018/11/16/equity-doesnt-mean-all/.

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