Principles of Good Teaching and Learning and the Role Open Pedagogy Can Play

Dr. Michael Mills, Vice President, E-Learning, Innovation and Teaching Excellence, Montgomery College And Dr. Shinta Hernandez, Dean, Virtual Campus, Montgomery College

Dr. Michael Mills, Vice President, E-Learning, Innovation and Teaching Excellence, Montgomery College

Connecting the conceptual use of open pedagogy with good teaching and learning is not the easiest task for an educator to tackle. It may be made even more difficult when higher education leaders question the efficacy of open educational resources (OER) in helping to meet student learning outcomes. In many cases, this connection manifests itself in discussions about access to course materials and student engagement. It may also be discussed in terms of textbook savings.

But what makes good teaching and learning,and how can open pedagogy play a role?

Chickering and Gamson (1987) attempted to answer the question of good teaching and learning practices when they wrote “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.” These principles were developed following 50 years of research on how teachers teach and how students learn. They are designed to improve teaching and learning but were developed well before the concepts of open pedagogy took root.

Open pedagogy can play a strong role in helping demonstrate good teaching and learning. Providing students with agency and entering into a partnership with faculty only enhances the teaching and learning process. Student ownership of the classroom and their overall learning experience creates room for increased motivation and participation and improved critical thinking skills.

The following outlines the Chickering and Gamson principles and a demonstration of how they are put into action through open pedagogy.

Principle 1: Encourages contacts between students and faculty

Frequent contact between students and faculty is essential to maintaining student motivation and engagement. These connections between students and faculty leads to greater retention and improved student success.

Principle in Action:

Open pedagogy allows for partnerships to develop between faculty and students, to the point that joint conference and showcase presentations are encouraged. Students are provided the opportunity to showcase their work on regional, national or international platforms.

Open pedagogy also allows for student voices to be incorporated into the course curriculum design using formative assessments and group activities intentionally planned to receive feedback. When students’ voices are heard and valued, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged in the classroom environment, thereby increasing their chance at greater success.

Principle 2: Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students

Good learning is not an isolated event; it is collaborative, meaningful, and social. This type of learning creates growth opportunities and communities of practice that are vital to student success.

Principle in Action:

Alternative assignments allow students to have agency over their work. The focus on ungrading allows students the opportunity to take learning in directions they desire without the specter of grades hanging over them. The practice of ungrading suggests the removal of a traditional hierarchy between faculty and students that exacerbate unhealthy power dynamics.

Dr. Shinta Hernandez, Dean, Virtual Campus, Montgomery College

Providing students with opportunities to give feedback on course material and assignments allows for the course to evolve in real time. Allowing students into that evolution means greater collaboration between faculty and students.

Principle 3: Uses active learning techniques

Students must talk about what they are learning and how it relates to their own experiences. They must be able to relate it to their lived experiences and internalize their learning through a reflection and application process.

Principle in Action:

Using social annotation tools such as Hypothes.is allows students to connect their own experiences with course content. This tool consequently allows for greater collaboration and engagement with one another in the classroom.

Faculty can invite students into the syllabus creation process. Allowing students to have a voice in determining course outcomes or deliverables encourages them to relate the learning experience to their own realities.

Providing students with opportunities to be content creators makes them active participants in learning.  Using Pressbooks, for example, allows them to showcase their work that can be redistributed and remixed by others.

Principle 4: Gives prompt feedback

Good teaching means providing students with an assessment of their work in a timely fashion and creating opportunities to make improvements that will appropriately guide their learning.

Principle in Action:

H5P, abbreviated for HTML5 Package, allows faculty to create interactive scenarios, quizzes, games, and presentations that provide immediate feedback to students. Its responsive nature and user-friendly features mean that students will experience rich, interactive, and meaningful experiences in real time.

Principle 5: Emphasizes time on task

Students may need help in understanding time management. How that time allocation is defined by faculty can be the basis for high performance for both faculty and students.

Principle in Action:

When faculty engage students in the course design process, they can seek input on deadlines and deliverables that work for both faculty and students. This collaboration can produce realistic timelines that are effective and sensible, thereby increasing student ownership of and empowerment over their learning experience. Faculty and students learn together, which creates a dynamic relationship that increases respect and success.

Principle 6: Communicates high expectations

Good teaching requires faculty to expect more from their students. As a result, students will give more. These high expectations become a worthwhile self-fulfilling prophecy, no matter the type of learner their students currently are.

Principle in Action:

Allowing students to have a voice in the creation of rubrics to assess learning outcomes provides an opportunity for them to articulate expectations. They have a clearer understanding of the expected outcomes and thus feel empowered over their learning experiences.

Faculty who engage their students in the development of course activities create the appropriate space for high expectations to be widely known. In fact, students can help to create those high expectations alongside their faculty as they develop the activities together.

Principle 7: Respects diverse talents and ways of learning

No two people learn the same way, so it is imperative that faculty differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all students. Creating equitable opportunities for diverse students to learn can bring a rich experience to the overall classroom environment for both faculty and students.

Principle in Action:

Creating a partnership between faculty and students that allows students to have a voice in the decolonization of the curriculum underpins differentiated instruction. The practice of decolonizing the curriculum suggests first reflecting on the decolonization of the self. The diversity of our classrooms should be reflected in course material, as well as the way faculty teach. For instance, faculty can invite students to develop and/or select course materials that reflect the diversity of the student populations and the variety of learning styles. Providing opportunities for students to engage in such reflective and collaborative exercises along with their faculty demonstrates a deep and powerful connection that promotes growth, support, commitment, and a renewal of teaching and learning that may otherwise not happen in a closed environment.

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