Open for whom? The need to define open science for science education

Open for whom? The need to define open science for science education

MIT Open Learning

Commentary considers sociocultural contexts to foster inclusivity and transparency

Photo credit: Ellagrin on iStock
Open science will be a product of the community that creates it, not the other way around.

By Katherine Ouellette

This fall, assistant director of learning sciences and teaching for MIT Open Learning Aaron Kessler, along with coauthors Rasheda Likely (Kennesaw State University) and Joshua M. Rosenberg (University of Tennessee), published the commentary “Open for whom? The need to define open science for science education” in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching (JRST). This commentary was a response to the December 2019 editorial “A vision for the next phase of JRST” by JRST editors Troy D. Sadler and Felicia Moore Mensah. Kessler says that the original editorial, and science education overall, “approached open science from more of a methodological perspective than a sociocultural context.” While he and his coauthors agreed with the editorial on how open science will influence science education publishing, they wanted to expand on the importance of making open science and science education inclusive. Kessler says, “Open science isn’t dictated by someone outside of communities who engage with it. Learning is situated within specific contexts, and we believe that the unique experiences and ideas that come from the different parts of the science education community should determine what we want our community to be.”

Defining Open Science (even though there isn’t one “open science”)

Open science is transparent and accessible knowledge that is shared and developed through collaborative networks. This definition, from the Journal of Business Research in 2018, “helps the scientific community, the business world, political actors, and citizens to have a common and clear understanding about what Open Science is.” But the parameters of what constitutes “open science” are still debated between individual scientists and the other communities that interact with it. JRST’s editorial says, “We view the open science movement as an important development for all research fields including science education and agree with many of the underlying tenets. For example, we embrace the goal of making research findings, and in some cases, data sets, and analysis plans more accessible to broader audiences around the globe.” Kessler, Likely, and Rosenberg agree with that statement and wanted to expand the idea of open science beyond simply reading a free article. Kessler hopes that learners globally “can engage with [the material] wherever they are, whether that’s in a research-based way, methodological way, or as an educator.”

The thesis of Kessler, Likely, and Rosenberg’s commentary states, “the critical task ahead for science education researchers is to redefine what constitutes open science for science education. In so doing, we argue that we can bolster both science education and open science at the same time.” Although the need for open science in science education had been touted by MIT and other academic institutions prior to the pandemic, school closures due to Covid-19 underscored the existing inequities that prevent underserved students from accessing educational resources. Their commentary adds, “As the science education research community is grappling with issues of equity and social justice, we are presented with an opportunity to reimagine how we want open science to be instantiated in our discipline to address the needs of the broader community based on the assets and barriers science educators face.” In fact, Kessler says the pandemic has given researchers a surge of science education data to evaluate due to the increased use of educational technologies and changing ways people engage with learning activities. “From that standpoint, this is what open science should look like, so the ways researchers engage with this data becomes important,” Kessler says.

Co-author Rosenberg, assistant professor in the department of theory and practice in teacher education at University of Tennessee, had already been practicing open science prior to this article by sharing his own work in open ways, including open textbooks. After the JRST editors Sadler and Mensah published their editorial, Rosenberg invited Kessler and Likely’s thoughts on it. Their discussion quickly turned to sharing best practices in a science education context. Kessler says, “We knew this was something we needed to expand upon because we had something important to say.” Kessler and Rosenberg know each other from their work with Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) Special Interest Group in the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education. For nearly ten years, they’ve collaborated on various projects and educational frameworks revolving around science education, educational technology, teacher training, and implementing effective pedagogy. Kessler met Likely during the CSCL 2017 conference while she was still a graduate student. Kessler says, “Now she’s one of the amazing young scholars in science education. She’s on the cusp of important things. She has genuine concern and insight into the field.”

Open science at Open Learning

Like Rosenberg, Kessler tries to use open practices for his own projects. Some of Kessler’s most recent work for Open Learning includes co-authoring The Science of Remote Learning and Operationalizing the Learning Engineering Process to Create an Online Training, which are open access. Looking forward, Kessler is working with Anindya Roy, data scientist for learning analytics at MIT Open Learning, on research projects trying to engage in these practices, including being open about the instrument(s) they use, clear instructions about the creation of instruments in their methods, posting pre-prints, and sharing with community members for feedback before submitting as conference paper to be reviewed for publication. “As a whole, ‘open learning’ is in the name, our work connects back to our mission,” Kessler says. “Not to suggest that we have all the answers or we’re trying to dictate solutions, but we are trying to create a more inclusive conversation. Open science will be a product of the community that creates it, not the other way around.”

Open for whom? The need to define open science for science education was originally published in MIT Open Learning on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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