:async: Trust, then Open: Insights into an Academic Professional Learning Community

Authors: Ada Czerwonogora, Virginia Rodés
Institution: Universidad de la República
Country: Uruguay

Topic: Applications of Open Education Practices/Open Pedagogy/Open Education Research
Sector: Higher Education
UNESCO Area of Focus: Building capacity
Session Format: Presentation


PRAXIS Framework (Czerwonogora & Rodés, 2019a) summarises an Educational Action Research experience within academic professional learning communities (PLC), combining Open Science and Open Educational Practices (OEP) in the context of public educational system in Uruguay. We explored the potential and benefits of PLCs for reflection and transformation of teaching practices, and integration of digital technologies in a meaningful way into teaching.

This communication delves on the implications of building trust within PRAXIS PLC to openly share teaching practices and reflections, focusing on #PraxisUdelar educators’ community (Czerwonogora & Rodés, 2019a,b) and following an expansive concept of OEP (Havemann, 2020).

Among the defining characteristics of PLCs that appear to be the most prominent in literature, Vangrieken et al. (2017) refer to supportive conditions (both physical and human) as essential to PLCs. Webb et al. (2009) point out that trust features strongly in the literature as essential for promoting and sustaining PLCs. Cranston (2011) notes that the existence of relational trust appears to have the effect of fostering collaboration and promoting willingness among staff to grow professionally. Yin et al. (2019) suggest that trust in colleagues is beneficial to PLC development and teacher professional learning. None of these studies deals on open communities.

Move towards open education frequently meets with resistance or suspicion, where lack of trust is one of the restrainers (Cronin, 2019). Trust plays a central part in openness, and communities are key in its development. Abeywardena (2017) highlights the importance of collaborative models in the development and sharing of OER, due to the teams’ collaborative nature in the educational environment. Although a collaborative vision might be considered as opposed to altruistic motivation (Downes, 2007), the community perspective could contribute to opening teaching practices in higher education (McKerlich, et. al, 2013). It’s essential to know the factors that lead to sharing: Pirkkalainen, et al (2017) show that the expected level of openness and transparency, a critical aspect of openness, is determined by trust, comfort, and familiarity.

As part of a complex case study (Hetherington, 2013) about #PraxisUdelar, semi-structured interviews were conducted to eight teachers belonging to this community. Questions covered on five subjects: PLC’s process formation and development, participation, trust, collaborative work and impact of PLC on educator’s practices.

The findings highlight common learning processes between peers, that emphasise collective and interdisciplinary planification above the individual one. The needed condition to share practices, personal reflections and beyond, was the confidence developed between colleagues. Participants expressed this trust sentiment was implicitly present from the beginning of the community work. They mentioned the necessity of trust to build community knowledge, sharing thoughts and personal sentiments, and noted the respect and value the community showed for other’s opinions and experiences. Furthermore, the openness of the social network where the virtual exchanges held was never questioned and sometimes even passed unnoticed: teachers were not aware of it.

Feeling supported, included and confident in #PraxisUdelar allowed deepening into oneself reflection of teaching practices; at the same time, colleagues’ trust developed empowered openness towards community collaboration.


Professional Learning Communities, Open Educational Practices, Trust in colleagues, Higher Education, Complex case studies

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Trust, then open. Czerwonogora & Rodés v.2


Previous relevant paper to know about PRAXIS Project and #PraxisUDelar academic professional learning community
PRAXIS: Open Educational Practices and Open Science to face the challenges of critical Educational Action Research