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Open Recognition + Critical Pedagogy = empowerment, dialogue, and inclusion

Midjourney prompt: "Paolo Freire in conversation | illustration | charcoal on white paper | balding | grey bushy beard | serious face | large retro spectacles --aspect 3:2"

At the crossroads of education, social justice, and personal development stands critical pedagogy, a concept associated with the Brazilian educator and philosopher Paolo Freire. His conviction was that education should be egalitarian, democratic, and transformative; his work has had an outsize impact on my educational philosophy. Critical pedagogy emphasises the significance of dialogue, critical thinking, and active participation. The further I delve into the world of of Open Recognition, the clearer the links with Freire, both in essence and practice.

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire states that:

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.

Open Recognition, like critical pedagogy, is about empowering individuals to take ownership of their personal and professional development. The approach not only foregrounds knowledge, skills, and understanding, but also behaviours, relationships, and experiences.

Freire believed that through open and honest conversations, individuals could challenge existing power structures, question assumptions, and engage in transformative learning experiences. Similarly, Open Recognition offers a way for individuals to engage in meaningful conversations about their skills, experiences, and aspirations — using language and approaches that make sense to them.

In facilitating dialogue over power dynamics, Open Recognition nurtures a sense of community and belonging. It empowers individuals to share their stories and learn from one another, and this exchange of ideas and experiences not only contributes to personal growth but also fosters a sense of collective responsibility and solidarity

Critical pedagogy is grounded in the belief that education should be a vehicle for social change and empowerment. Open Recognition aligns with this vision by providing ways for individuals make meaningful contributions to their communities, challenge the status quo, and actively participate in shaping their own futures.

So it’s fair to say that Open Recognition and critical pedagogy share a common goal: the empowerment and transformation of individuals through dialogue, inclusion, and active participation. By explicitly embracing the principles of critical pedagogy, it’s my belief that Open Recognition can help create a more inclusive and equitable world.

If you’re interested in Open Recognition, critical pedagogy, and doing something different than the status quo, I’d highly suggest joining badges.community!

Reinventing the Fortress: using Open Recognition to enhance ‘standards’ and ‘rigour’

Midjourney-created image with prompt: "imposing fortress castle with guards, mountain range, wide angle, people in foreground holding bright lanterns, vivid colors, max rive, dan mumford, sylvain sarrailh, detailed artwork, 8k, 32k, lively rainbow, ultra realistic, beautiful lake, moon eclipse, ultra epic composition, hyperdetailed"

Imagine a formidable fortress standing tall. Long the bastion of formal education, it’s built upon the pillars of ‘standards’ and ‘rigour’. It has provided structure and stability to the learning landscape. These days, it’s being reinforced with smaller building blocks (‘microcredentials’) but the shape and size of the fortress largely remains the same.

However, as the winds of change begin to blow, a new force emerges from the horizon: Open Recognition. Far from seeking to topple the fortress, this powerful idea aims to harmonise with its foundations, creating a more inclusive and adaptive stronghold for learning.

Open Recognition is a movement that values diverse learning experiences and self-directed pathways. So, at first, it may appear to be in direct opposition to the fortress’s rigidity. However, upon closer inspection, rather than seeking to tear down the walls of standards and rigour, Open Recognition seeks to expand and reimagine them. This ensures that the fortress is inclusive: remaining relevant and accessible to all learners.

To create harmony between these seemingly conflicting forces, it’s important to first acknowledge that the fortress of standards and rigour does have its merits. It provides a solid framework for education, ensuring consistency and quality across the board. However, this approach can also be limiting, imposing barriers that prevent many learners from fully realising their potential.

Open Recognition brings flexibility and personalisation to the fortress. By validating the skills and competencies acquired through non-formal and informal learning experiences, Open Recognition allows the fortress to accommodate different sizes and shape of ‘room’, allowing the unique talents and aspirations of each individual to flourish

The key to harmonising these two forces lies in recognising their complementary nature. Open Recognition strengthens the fortress by expanding its boundaries, while standards and rigour provide the structural integrity that ensures the quality and credibility of the learning experiences within.

Educators and employers, as the guardians of the fortress, play a crucial role in fostering this harmony. By embracing Open Recognition, they can cultivate a more inclusive and dynamic learning ecosystem that values and supports diverse pathways to success. In doing so, they not only uphold the principles of standards and rigour but also enrich the fortress with the wealth of experiences and perspectives that Open Recognition brings.

As the fortress of standards and rigour harmonises with Open Recognition, it becomes a thriving stronghold of lifelong learning, identity, and opportunity. Far from crumbling under the weight of change, the fortress is invigorated by the union of these two powerful forces, ensuring its continued relevance and resilience in an ever-evolving world.

Climbing the Mountain of Assessment: Comparing Ungrading, Open Recognition, and RPL

Note: cross-posted at LinkedIn

UngradingOpen Recognition, and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) are distinct yet related ways of improving the assessment of learning. At a time when assessment is in the spotlight due to advances in AI technologies, it’s worth exploring their similarities and differences — as well as how they can be used together.

Let’s explore this further using one of my favourite metaphors: walking in the mountains ⛰️

Ungrading is akin to focusing on the process of learning, rather than the outcome. It’s like a Sherpa guiding a climber up a mountain, emphasising the skills and knowledge developed along the way rather than simply reaching the summit. Through ungrading, educators can provide personalized feedback and support that allows students to reflect on and improve their learning journey.

Open Recognition, in contrast, is like providing multiple paths to the summit. It’s like creating a mountain range with different peaks, each representing a different set of skills or knowledge. This approach allows individuals to showcase their competencies and achievements in ways that are recognised across different contexts, such as earning badges that demonstrate their skills.

RPL is like mapping out the best route to the summit. It’s like a mountaineering guide who takes the time to understand each climber’s abilities and experiences, and then tailors a plan that meets their specific needs. Through recognising prior learning, individuals can receive credit for their existing knowledge and skills, and identify the most efficient and effective way to reach their goals.

So, in summary, while ungrading emphasises the process of learning, Open Recognition offers multiple paths to its recognition, and RPL focuses on customising the learning journey. By using (and potentially combining) these approaches to assessment, educators can improve the quality of learning and recognition in a variety of contexts.


Background image to Venn diagram by Jerry Zhang

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