What Is Open Pedagogy?

Guest post by Scott Curtis, OER Lead, UMKC LibrariesScott Curtis, UMKC Libraries

While many librarians and faculty have discovered open pedagogy through learning about Open Educational Resources (OER) and open textbooks, the idea of open pedagogy has much older roots in the literature of teaching and learning. Tannis Morgan identified a reference from Claude Paquette (a French-Canadian scholar) in 1979 that “…states that open pedagogy has already been in place for almost 10 years, and lays out some foundational priniciples…” along with motifs like individualized learning experiences, learner choice and self-direction.

The modern discussion of open pedagogy began through development of OER, however, and there are probably as many definitions as there are writers on the subject. The current buzz about open pedagogy got kick-started in David Wiley’s 2013 blog post. Wiley defined open pedagogy as any approach or technique that would not be possible without the “5Rs” (at the time listed as the “4Rs plus free to access”: free to access, free to reuse, free to revise, free to remix, free to redistribute – the right to retain came later…) of OER. Wiley’s definition centers on the use of OER or on the creation of learning activities not possible without the licenses afforded by OER. Later, Wiley would admit that he wasn’t aware of the existence of a concept coined “open pedagogy” in the scholarship of teaching and learning before writing his post. Because of his prominence and influence, many subsequent writers have cited this definition. For example, influential librarian Stephen Bell of Temple University talks about Wiley’s blog post and beginning to think “…about the benefits of OER for students when we involve them in their own learning through the practice of open pedagogy.”

5 Rs of OER: retain, redistribute, remix, reuse, reiseA different, but not incompatible, definition can be found from educators not based in the “Global North,” and this conception of open pedagogy represents a more holistic approach. In her blog post “Opening up Open Pedagogy,” Catherine Cronin cites the work of several researchers who center their conception of open pedagogy in terms of collaborative knowledge creation, experiential learning practice, flexibility and user (student) choice, more equality between teacher and student roles in the learning process, social construction of knowledge enhanced via social networking and technologies, etc. Such a conception of open pedagogy can be realized using Wiley’s 2013 definition, but open pedagogy as defined here is NOT limited exclusively to the use of OER and can be pursued in environments and policy structures that do not embrace or enable the 5Rs of open and OER.

A good, up-to-date sampling of how many experts vary in their definitional concept of open pedagogy is evident from reading “What is Open Pedagogy?” hosted by the YearOfOpen.org.

Wiley’s own views on open pedagogy have evolved since 2013. In an April, 2017 post, he speculates that open pedagogy may not represent a unique pedagogy at all. Instead, open may be a meaningful modifier when used with an established pedagogical model. For example, say a faculty member chose to embrace a constructivist approach to learning, and to use OER and open licenses as a way to leverage a more meaningful student learning experience/activity. This, to Wiley’s thinking, would be “open constructivist pedagogy.”

What do these evolving definitions of open pedagogy mean in the institutional context of UMKC? Certainly, the availability of UM System Affordable & Open Educational Resources Grants (see our Research Guide page on grants for more details) can be viewed not only as an opportunity to incorporate OER into a course, but as a motivator for course re-design around activities that embrace multiple elements of open pedagogy. Can OER be used, re-mixed, or implemented in the service of learning activities where students generate new, reusable knowledge products through collaborative work on projects with real-world impacts? Is it possible, through faculty guidance and pointing to appropriate open resources, for students to engage in creating and compiling their own text for a class as the capstone class project? What about students learning by writing or editing articles within Wikipedia to improve this open encyclopedic resource? Christina Hendricks from the University of British Columbia provides several examples of how open pedagogy activities can be integrated into a course redesign that may spark creative thought on other directions.


Bell, Stephen. (January, 2017). From OER to Open Pedagogy: Next Frontier in Learning. EDvice Exchange hosted by the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Temple University. Accessed December 4, 2017 at https://teaching.temple.edu/edvice-exchange/2017/01/oer-open-pedagogy-next-frontier-learning

Cronin, Catherine. (April 24, 2017). Opening up Open Pedagogy. Blog post at catherinecronin. Viewed December 4, 2017 at http://catherinecronin.net/research/opening-up-open-pedagogy/

Hendricks, Christina. (October 8, 2017). Open Pedagogy: Examples of Class Activities. Blog post at You’re The Teacher. Viewed December 4, 2017 at http://blogs.ubc.ca/chendricks/2017/10/08/open-pedagogy-examples/

Morgan, Tannis. (December 21, 2016). Open pedagogy and a very brief history of the concept. Blog post at Explorations in the Ed Tech World. Viewed December 4, 2017 at https://homonym.ca/uncategorized/open-pedagogy-and-a-very-brief-history-of-the-concept/

(April, 2017). April Open Perspective: What is Open Pedagogy? Posting on Year of the Open 2017. Viewed December 4, 2017 at https://www.yearofopen.org/april-open-perspective-what-is-open-pedagogy/

Wiley, David. (October 21, 2013). What is Open Pedagogy? Blog post at iterating toward openness. Viewed December 4, 2017 at https://opencontent.org/blog/archives/2975

Wiley, David (April 21, 2017). When Opens Collide. Blog post at iterating toward openness. Viewed December 4, 2017 at https://opencontent.org/blog/archives/4990