What an open classroom, learning experience and university might look like.
Continuing the prior post, Changes for Change, I focus on the characteristic of being open.
As described, being open comes in two forms: open to many people (think Open Enrollment or Open Door, or even better, Open House) and open to input and change from others (think Open Source). Let’s break it down on how this looks at various levels.
At the colleague-to-colleague level the goal is to connect my course and its elements to my colleagues for the purpose of feedback, leveraged development, and renewed innovation. The feedback part is obvious: if I have a literal and figurative Open Door Policy for my class and my materials and I seek out ‘visits’ from my colleagues and honest conversation, then I’ll get feedback. I can add structure to the process by organizing and focusing the input toward specific topics or issues. I would hope that my colleagues would reciprocate and invite me into their courses. Coordinating with my colleagues and their courses opens up the idea of shared resources and shared development. And then, as I see and understand what others are doing in their classes, I get new ideas and new encouragement to try to ideas.
At the class level, openness takes on a somewhat different meaning in that it’s not just being open, but developing the attitude that learning should be open. That means pushing the boundaries of FERPA and other policies and creating space and mechanisms for sharing. It starts with the initial contact with the material; through discussions in-class and online I need the students to take ownership of the material and, more importantly, some responsibility for others facility with the material. It then moves to feedback; by using peer evaluation, formal and informal groups, class presentations, etc. they learn to trust each other and themselves as guides and experts. And finally we have assessment; grades must still be individual but contributions to the class must play an important role in evaluation learning.
At the university level, there are several policy changes that can increase openness. Current evaluation of teaching is primarily summative and based on meeting traditional standards, so we’d have to create formal (and informal) opportunities for evaluation that is focused on improvement not punishment. Also, to encourage sharing of innovation, we need to allow for a richer set of evaluations by other innovators that allow for experimentation. A simple change involves sharing of resources; currently we use a LMS that requires permissions to see what resources someone is using in his/her course. There must be some way to allow easier sharing or at least mirror resources on an open site. Related to sharing we need to open avenues for co-teaching situations. Finally, we need to add more campus-wide sharing and celebration of teaching. There should be ‘teacher of the week/month’, regular open seminars, and an annual festivals/conferences.