If you’re not doing open learning design are you really doing open pedagogy?

If you’re not doing open learning design are you really doing open pedagogy?

November 1, 2019 0 By JR

There have been lots of interesting comments and events I’ve seen on Twitter from the Open Ed Conference. It’s been great that people shared what they saw, discussed, and learned at the conference in a way that I could follow along while I was stuck at home this week. One Tweet that caught my attention was this:

Of course Twitter only really gives you a short snapshot of a conversation, and I don’t presume to know the rest of the context here. The question posed caught me a bit by surprise and made me reflect on these definitions. Verena was kind enough to share the presentation slides for a session titled, OpenEd Introducing OLDI Final Oct 31.

The presentation itself looks like it’s related the the design based research approach used at UCalgary, and I believe that has been Verena’s focus. I first encountered this approach when I met Michele Jacobson at the first ETAD Summer Institute back in like 2013. The presentation focuses solely on what I believe Verena means by “learning design” but the word “pedagogy” does not appear anywhere in the shared work – although Open Educational Practices does. So with that caveat, I would say that the answer to the Tweeted question is, ‘of course it can be’. As in, you can engage in open pedagogy without also doing open learning design. Likewise, you can engage in open learning design without engaging in open pedagogy. But of course this all relies heavily on how any of those terms are defined, which is not laid out on Twitter in the least.

I assume that it is a rhetorical question that’s been posited on Twitter, and that the anticipated answer is “of course not”. But this would presume that both opens mean the same thing. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about open is that there are as many definitions as there are folks who identify as part of the open community. The Open Ed Conference should have made that quite clear, especially in recent years. Open learning design doesn’t get it’s own slide with a concise definition, but it appears to be based on Conole from the UK’s Open University. Conole leans on research in the area and one such example defines learning design as “…an application of a pedagogical model [e.g. mastery learning, problem-based learning, active learning] for a specific learning objective, target group and a specific context or knowledge domain” (Koper, R., & Olivier, B. 2004). Another reference made in the Conole article I found was to Goodyear (2005) who instead describes Educational Design, “…the set of practices involved in constructing representations of how to support learning in particular cases…it can be seen as a reworking of instructional design…” (p. 83). And of course if we’re looking for definitions of Instructional Design I often lean on Smith & Ragan, “…the systematic and reflective process of translating principles of learning and instruction into plans for instructional materials, information resources, and evaluation” (p. 4), and of course instruction is broadly defined as, “the deliberate arrangement of learning conditions to promote the attainment of some intended goal” (Driscoll, 2000, p. 345). One common factor that each of these definitions and authors highlights is that often the work of the designer is to come up with specifications and communicate the plan, not necessarily to do the development or the teaching itself.

By contrast, Pedagogy often implies that direct contact with the learner that teachers have. Stommel and Michael-Morris even delineate pedagogy and teaching in their book An Urgency of Teachers“Pedagogy is praxis, insistently perched at the intersection between the philosophy and the practice of teaching. When teachers talk about teaching, we are not necessarily doing pedagogical work, and not every teaching method constitutes a pedagogy. Rather, pedagogy necessarily involves recursive, second-order, meta-level work. Teachers teach; pedagogues teach while also actively investigating teaching and learning.”

In a similar vein, I would argue that not all education/learning/instructional designers are pedagogues, and not all pedagogues are designers. While there is quite a bit of overlap in some definitions of designer and pedagogue –  e.g. Schön, design process as a reflective conversation with materials in a given context – there are points where they also do not overlap. As I read more and more about different design disciplines the act of creating specifications and plans to a level of detail for others to execute is common among most. Teachers and pedagogues may choose to implement many of the tools that designers use, or rather plan using the same pedagogical models that the E/L/I designers would use mentally, but little of that is typically documented. The teacher and pedagogue also is in command of their practice right there with students, another distinguishing factor between pedagogue and designer.

Pedagogy and Design are distinct disciplines and should be viewed as such. I wouldn’t call everyone who puts together a PowerPoint and gives a presentation a Visual Communication Designer, and likewise any VCD who creates materials for use in a presentation is not a Speaker/Presenter. They are both important roles, that can have particular overlaps, but are distinct.


Photo by Galymzhan Abdugalimov on Unsplash