Sustainable Open Textbook Models for Social Justice

26 Sep 2022
Frontiers in Education journal logo
26 Sep 2022

‘Sustainable Open Textbook Models for Social Justice’ by DOT4D team members Glenda Cox, Michelle Willmers and Bianca Masuku was published in Frontiers in Education in July 2022.

This article builds on previous DOT4D research on the role of open textbooks in addressing social injustice in the classroom at UCT and is a summative piece in that it captures three years of research undertaken by the DOT4D team at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in the period 2018–2021.

The article identifies drivers for open textbook production and articulates open textbook models with varying degrees of colleague and student inclusion. Examining authorship, quality assurance and publishing activities as nodes of inclusivity, it provides insight into the different strategies open textbook authors at UCT adopt in order to address social injustice in the classroom related to access and representation. It also considers ways in which higher education institutions can address sustainability in order to support the endeavour.

Using Bovill’s (2020) framework of inclusion, the authors examine the processes of 11 open textbook initiatives at UCT in terms of their degrees of inclusivity, with a focus on student participation. They also draw on the work of political philosopher Nancy Fraser (2005) and her central norm of “parity of participation” in order to analyse the cases in terms of their ability to provide affirmative or transformative remedies to injustices in the classroom. 

The article offers models of open textbook authoring, quality assurance and publishing that follow affirmative or transformative remedies for social justice. The models are positioned on a continuum with the co-creation and partnership/co-creation models moving towards the social justice aspiration of parity of participation. 

The four models presented suggest that collaboration is an important aspect of sustainability, in that inclusivity is a key dimension of both social justice and sustainability, as multiple voices are required in order to achieve more equal epistemic representation. In order for open textbook activity to be sustainable, it needs to be “effective” (i.e. fit for purpose), making the efforts of the lecturer and students and the investment of the institution worthwhile. The sustainability factor therefore also relies on the extent to which students feel represented in the resource and the extent to which its development process addresses social (in)justice in the classroom. 

Read the full article here.