MALAT Virtual Symposium Reflection

by Michael MacKay

April 17th, 2020

After watching multiple webinars from the 2020 MALAT Virtual Symposium, the question of what it means to be open seemed to resonate. In my experience, many people promote being open in their practice and content but rarely indeed are open. This lack of true openness may stem from the problem that we do not have a concrete definition.

Cormier refers to the open pedagogy as a rhizome “…made up of a number of semi-independent nodes, each which is capable of growing and spreading on its own, bounded only by the limits of its habitat” (Cormier, 2017, 14:23). This statement is intriguing because it changes the teacher’s role from the sole producer, planting every seed; to the gardener, ensuring that the environment is fertile. I find this approach refreshing, but I worry about its implications in practice in K – 12 classrooms. Traditionally, teachers struggle to implement ideas or frameworks into their practice unless they view it in absolutes, or they must follow this singular methodology and not deviate. The problem lies when trying to meet the curriculum using this rhizome approach within the time requirements. As Cormier says, being “open gets messy” (Cormier, 2017, 29:28), and there is no way in the purest approach to require students to learn the expected outcomes in the curriculum.

Implementing an open educational practice model (OEP) universally in K – 12 education seems like a near-impossible task with the current education system. Open educational practices are a fundamental shift for many teachers. Until recently, teacher education focused on a top-down model, and many teachers still experience success following that model today. Even the current governing body forces summative testing that encourages teachers to follow the top-down approach through provincial achievement tests and diploma examinations. The argument that is often made is that these tests do not represent their real-world applications and thus are not a valid measure of success or assessment. Here is where the problem lies; we have a fundamental difference in what orientates success at school and success in the real world.

The question is raised, how do we implement a Cormierian open, problem-based approach to K – 12 education? According to Paskevicius’ (2017), one method is to move towards an open educational practice model for instruction (see figure 1). The model allows designers, teachers, and students more flexibility in their approach to learning and teaching by “flatten[ing] the traditional hierarchy and chang[ing] the balance of power in learner/teacher relationships” (McGill, 2013, as cited in Paskevicius, 2017, p. 10). The idea of an overarching framework that implements the practices of OEP and constructivism keeps resurfacing. But I still find myself questioning the validity of this approach as it creates a form of rigidity that goes against the principles of constructivism and open educational practices.

Figure 1

Open Educational Practice Model

Open Educational Practice Model

Note. This figure was created by Michael Paskevicius in 2017, it is a model of a constructivist approach to open educational practices. From “Conceptualizing Open Educational Practices through the Lens of Constructive Alignment” by Paskevicius, M., 2017, Open Praxis, 9(2), page 134, (doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.9.2.519).

As I concluded my metacognitive process on the MALAT 2020 Virtual Symposium, I find myself not contemplating the validity of these webinars, but how to implement them on the institutional scale cohesively and practically.

Reference

Cormier, D. (2017, April 18). Intentional messiness of online communities [Webinar]. Royal Roads University. https://ca-sas.bbcollab.com/site/external/playback/artifact?psid=2017-04-18.0934.M.260AD3030AD273255B9B9C087E6864.vcr&aid=194973

Paskevicius, M. (2017). Conceptualizing Open Educational Practices through the Lens of Constructive Alignment. Open Praxis, 9(2), 125-140. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.9.2.519

Paskevicius, M. (2020, April 16). Openness beyond open resources [Webinar]. Royal Roads University. https://bit.ly/2z7p6byMALATVS

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