Some Foundations of Open Pedagogy

(First half of the translation of Claude Paquette’s 1979 article on open pedagogy:  Claude Paquette “Quelques fondements d’une pédagogie ouverte.” Québec français 36 (1979): 20–21.)

Note:  a later article (2005) is over here, and if you run it through Google Translate it actually does a really good job of translation from French to English.  The 2005 article understandably has a much more academically grounded and situated description of open pedagogy.

For more than 10 years now, teachers in Quebec are trying to integrate an open pedagogy into their daily practices. This pedagogical approach has been the object of several publications which have underlined both the foundations of this approach and its practices. It is important to underline that this pedagogy is in constant evolution and that the diversity of attempts of educators allow for further articulations, de look at the nuances, the resources and the limits of this pedagogy.

Open pedagogy is not a collection of pedagogical procedures applied in class that then result in the same outcomes of any other pedagogy. It is actually a way of thinking and a way of acting. It consists of an innovative way to view the educational act/endeavor. Evidently, there are procedures and proposed tools. However they have no value if they aren’t used in conjunction with the foundations that shape the tenants of an open pedagogy.

Open pedagogy is centered on the class interaction between the student and the educational environment that is proposed. From this interaction, significant connections will be revealed for the student that will allow him/her to begin a learning process. The educator therefore has the primary role of contributing to the creation of this educational environment. For the champions of open pedagogy, creating the educational environment has three levels: the creation of a physical class environment, learning activities, and instructor intervention. These three dimensions are obviously interrelated.

Some basic principles

  1. Open pedagogy is based on the respect for individual differences

 Students are all different and they learn in different ways. Too often these differences are only perceived as being about different speeds of learning. In my view, the differences can be found at various levels and it is essential that the educator be aware of that. Students are different from one another in terms of: their interests, their concerns, their speed of learning, their cognitive style, their talents, their previous experiences, etc…It will therefore be important for the educator to encourage learning situations that are broad enough to allow for respecting these differences and to call on them.

  1. Open pedagogy is based on individual development

 The goal of the learning is to arrive at an individual development. Every person is unique and it is necessary that they find themselves in an environment that will allow them to develop according to their own individuality. Individulising learning development is not synonymous with individualism. Individualising learning development implies much more of a global and personalized development. Both can be performed in close relationship with the other. Seen under this light, classroom learning can’t limit itself to the accumulation of information contained within a program. Learning should be situated at several levels of consciousness:

  • Information necessary to understand the world
  • The development of skills to realize their own potential
  • The relationship between themselves and others
  • The relationship between themselves and the social context/social world
  • Etc…

Open pedagogy practices tries to promote learning situations that integrate these different levels rather than separate them.

  1. Open pedagogy is based on an indirect influence of the educator

Educating is an act of influence. In open pedagogy, this perspective is accepted. At that moment the educator plays an important role. Despite this, we believe that the influence of the educator should be indirect. There is an influence, and therefore an intervention, but one that is adapted to the conditions and the to the evolution of the student. The educator doesn’t intervene in order to cram the student with content but rather to help them find their way according to their differences and potential.

  1. Open pedagogy is based on a natural learning process derived from the internal strength/dynamism of the student

If we are talking about a natural learning process we are also talking about a complex phenomenon.   It’s not sufficient to tell the student to go develop his/herself and expect them to do it. Respecting a natural learning process implies that we create a sufficiently rich and diversified environment so that the student can respond and undertake their learning.