Karen Cangialosi argues for open pedagogies in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, addressing the beliefs that these approaches may not be appropriate for the hard sciences.

When I was a biology undergraduate years ago, nearly all of my science classes were in large lecture halls. Content was delivered by lecturers, and students spit back answers on multiple choice exams primarily graded by Scantron. We’ve come a long way since then, with many science teachers incorporating more active learning in their courses, developing powerful case studies (check out the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science), and using jigsaw strategy, discussion groups, peer review, open-ended research projects, co-ops, service-learning, and more.

But these active learning strategies, while adding a great deal to the teaching of science, can often still fall short of what I consider to be the most salient and powerful features of open pedagogy. Inspired by the ideas of Robin DeRosa (see Open Pedagogy at the Program Level, and What is Open Pedagogy?), for me, this includes 1) student agency, and 2) a commons-oriented approach to education — both of which encapsulate the ideals of equity, access, connection, and sharing. When we blend the best of what we have learned from those who have labored to transform education with ideas integral to feminist pedagogy, engaged pedagogy, constructivist pedagogy, and critical digital pedagogy, and then embed them in a larger commons paradigm, open pedagogy emerges.

Student agency is ultimately about how we share power in our classrooms and work collaboratively with students. It has historical feminist roots from Adrienne Rich’s plea for women students to claim their own education to bell hooks questioning the power and authority in the teacher/student relationship where she asserts that the classroom should be “a place that is life-sustaining and mind-expanding, a place of liberating mutuality where teacher and student together work in partnership.” And viewing pedagogy through the lens of the commons (the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society) situates student agency in the praxis of equitable and inclusive access to learning, learning structure design, knowledge, sharing knowledge, creating knowledge and community participation (see diagram). The open license and the 5R permissions provide a tangible way for the knowledge commons to be manifested and for us to participate in its ongoing construction.

But what does this all mean on the ground? Can giving more power and control over to students really be effective for teaching in the natural sciences? Can students create scientific knowledge? How does sharing do anything for student learning?

Find out by continuing this article on the Hybrid Pedagogy website


Cangialosi, K. (2018). But You Can’t Do That in a STEM course! Hybrid Pedagogy. Retrieved from http://hybridpedagogy.org/do-in-a-stem-course/

This article has been slightly adapted from Karen Cangialosi which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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CC BY 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.