Teacher educators and OER in East Africa: Interrogating pedagogic change
This study examines the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) in six teacher education institutions in three contrasting East African settings – Mauritius, Tanzania and Uganda – all of which had previous engagement with OER initiatives. Drawing primarily on interviews with teacher educators, the study examines how and when teacher educators engage with OER, the factors that support and constrain sustained OER engagement, and the influence of such engagement on their teaching practice. It seeks to answer the following three research questions: What kinds of OER are teacher educators aware of and how do they access them? How and for what purpose are they using the OER? What intended and enacted pedagogic practices are associated with OER use?
The study takes a sociocultural approach, paying attention to the practices of teacher educators and the context and culture of the teacher education institutions within which they work, as well as the national policies relevant to these institutions. Surveys were sent to academic staff at each of the participating institutions who were, or had been, involved in curriculum development work involving OER. Male and female educators from different disciplinary backgrounds and with varying roles and periods of service within the institutions were targeted. From the respondents, selected individuals were asked to participate in semi-structured interviews concerning OER and their pedagogical practices. A total of 58 surveys were completed by teacher educators along with 36 in-depth teacher educator interviews and six institutional stakeholder interviews.
The results of the study indicate that teacher educators’ understanding and use of OER is highly fragmented, with little traction at department or institutional level. At all the study sites there was dissonance between the ways in which individual educators are using OER and the dominant institutional values and discourse. There were also numerous structural and cultural factors acting to limit agency with regards to OER use. The demands of curriculum and assessment, professional identity, digital skills, provision of equipment and connectivity, values and weak cultures of collaboration all exerted an influence and enabled or constrained teacher educators’ efforts to achieve agency with OER.
For a small number of teacher educators (OER “champions”), OER provides a tool for extending their agency to move towards more participatory practices. In their interviews, several of these educators spoke of the formative role of academic training and many were linked to external OER networks. These elements of historic identity formation influence how they respond to OER, and enhance their confidence to take risks in moving beyond conventional practice.
Enabling educators to act in an agentive way with OER is not easy. Moving forward, attention should be given to issues of access so that educators are able to locate and view OER relatively easily and experiment with their use. This study recommends that time be made available for educators to enhance their skills in working digitally and to become familiar with principles of learning design such that these become integral dimensions of their professional identity. It is also argued that extending and deepening engagement with OER requires opportunities for professional dialogue and collaboration to support the development of productive educator identities with OER and transformation of the community’s field of practice.