:async: A “Pedagogy of Small”: Possible Benefits of Small Approaches to Open Education

Author: Tanya Elias
Institution: University of Calgary
Country: Canada

Topic: Applications of Open Education Practices/Open Pedagogy/Open Education Research
Sector: Lifelong Learning
UNESCO Area of Focus: Inclusive OER
Session Format: Workshop


The meaning of open has shifted over time and continues to lack a consistent definition (Stracke, Downes, Conole, Burgos, & Nascimbeni, 2019). Over the past 25 years, I have experienced many varieties of open. The open that sought to transcend limitation of distance, place and time; the open of flexible, self-paced learning; the open that allowed the completion of courses outside a program; and the open that involved reducing barriers to entry served my needs as an undergraduate. As a I began my graduate studies, I experienced the open of online cohorts and researched open as a mechanism for increased accessibility. I also participated in research on the use of open educational resources (OER) in a project that I would late come to recognize as a form of open colonialism, as well as ideas of open data.

In my current work, I have turned my attention to the role of scale, both big and small, in shaping these varied approaches to “open.” My presentation will begin with a short critical review of large-scale approaches to contemporary open education paying specific attention to the historical and ongoing relationships between knowledge, power and authority within the field (Almeida, 2017).
I will then turn my attention to the possible benefits that smaller-scale approaches to open education and present the findings from the first of a three-phase research project that will involve an anonymous, qualitative, online survey of open educators with respect to scale within open education. Using the methods/ theory package of situational analysis, I then endeavour to “draw together studies of discourse and agency, action and structure, image, text and context, history and the present moment” (Clarke, Friese & Washburn, 2018), ultimately considering how smaller-scale approaches to open education might equip learners to address abundance within open spaces by teaching learners to negotiate the complex tensions that surround ideas of scale and growth and their relationship with openness.

This workshop intends to engage participants in a critical and reflexive reconsideration of the impacts and meaning of scale within open education; to encourage open educators to both explore “the wild wrongness in so many of our current structures, and the wild possibilities” (Brown, n.d., para 1). If presented as an asynchronous session, I will seek engage participants in a process of collaborative mapping exercises in alignment with the situational analysis approach (Clarke, Friese & Washburn, 2018).


Almeida, N. (2017). Open educational resources and rhetorical paradox in the neoliberal univers(ity). Retrieved from https://academicworks.cuny.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.ca/&httpsredir=1&article=1143&context=ny_pubs

Brown, A. M. (n.d.) adrienne maree brown [web log post] retrieved from http://adriennemareebrown.net/

Clarke, A.E., Friese, C. & Washburn, R. S. (2018). Situational analysis: Grounded theory after the interpretive turn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Stracke, C. M., Downes, S., Conole, G., Burgos, D., & Nascimbeni, F. (2019). Are MOOCs open educational resources?: A literature review on history, definitions and typologies of OER and MOOCs. Open Praxis, 11(4), 331.


large-scale, small-scale, critical research, situational analysis, open education


Hi everyone,
I’m excited to kick-off this “anytime workshop” with an introduction and ways to participate. Feel free to stop by any time.


Hi everyone,

I am so very happy that two people contributed to the collaborative mapping today.

“Creating small and reusable learning objects requires a dialogue between different disciplines, listening, understanding needs of the current and future users” ~ I love this comment. I invite others to participate within in the map, or comment here. Small-scale connections are wonderful!

Also, if you’d like to participate is a synchronous discussion, please join us at the GO-GN Mini Seminar Tuesday at 13:30 GMT. http://go-gn.net/webinars/new-member-special-17-november-2020-mini-seminar/

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Hi Tanya I have tried to add to the diagram - hope this makes some sort of sense :slight_smile: I love how you have approached this :hugs:

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Thanks for contributing Deb!

I’ve added a bit, but found this a challenging way to insert ideas. Hope others contribute so this helps build a conception of ‘small approaches’ - I like to think of these as one global campfire conversation at a time.
Helen DeWaard

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Thanks Helen. It’s certainly an experiment! I love the idea of one campfire conversation at at time. Based on the comments that might have been yours were you also thinking about the idea of fear associated with public-facing work within OEP? I think this is an important point: Fear of instructors and teachers, fear of students and even beyond fear, sometimes real danger associated with working in the open. Maybe then then part of the question is how do we create experience that are more like that small campfire and less like a huge global stage? (Feel free to forget the map and share more thoughts here if you like.)

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Yes, those were my comments and yes there is a ‘fear factor’ when asking instructors and students to step out and iterate in the open. It’s knowing that there are others who will ‘catch you’ when you fall (or fail). I’ll continue to iterate on this map, also.