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A Scholarship of Generosity: New-form Publishing and Hybrid Pedagogy by Jesse Stommel
Image from Mochimochiland.com
Image from Mochimochiland.com

Image from Mochimochiland.com

This blog post by Jesse Stommel (Co-founder and Director of Hybrid Pedagogy) is part of a series that asks after new forms of scholarship and demonstrates how academic out-put is changing in the digital age.

From blogs like the Thesis Whisperer to Twitter communities like #PhDchat there are a number of ways in which academics are harnessing digital communication technology to support each other and their work within and without institutions. And some are even outright reinventing what academic scholarship might be. We are well beyond the early phase of academic listserves and blogs and into a – perhaps third wave – of digital discourse design.

In this series I’ve invited the people responsible for these types of projects to share what their intentions were when they established them. How their projects have changed the way they (and we, as participants) work, research, share, support and interact with each other as global colleagues. And how they might describe what the emerging skill-sets are and their benefits and pitfalls.

The idea for the name of Hybrid Pedagogy came from a job talk I gave in October 2011. The thesis of that talk now sits on the journal’s homepage: “All learning is necessarily hybrid.” The line is inspired by a blog post from February 2010, in which I write: “The teacher 2.0 must shift the focus from individual learners to the community of learners, drawing new boundaries that reflect a much larger hybrid classroom.” This sentence also describes the work of new-form academic publishing, which draws new boundaries by upsetting the distinction between scholarship and teaching — between the work we do in journals and the work we do in classrooms.

When Pete Rorabaugh and I began discussing what would become Hybrid Pedagogy in early 2011, we wondered if what we were describing was a “journal” or something else entirely. At various points, we flirted with calling the project a “symposium,” “colloquium,” “collective,” or “school.” It was clear to us, from the start, that what we were creating was not a traditional academic publication. What we wanted to build was a network, a community for engaging a discussion of digital pedagogy, critical pedagogy, open education, and online learning. At the same time, we wanted to build a collection of resources to help facilitate conversations within that community.

We worked from the start to develop the journal openly, gathering together an advisory board that had virtual “meetings” on the web via the discussion forum on the site. The goal was to interrogate academic publishing practices by making them transparent — to lay bare our process while it was in formation. We published articles about peer-review before we had established our own peer-review process, inviting feedback and commentary. We crowd-sourced the majority of our initial decisions, down to the layout and design of the site.

Hybrid Pedagogy has become a publication that combines the best aspects of an open-access journal with the best aspects of a group blog (timeliness, a nimble publishing schedule, and direct engagement with readers). Through the articles we’ve published and events we’ve hosted (like MOOC MOOC and regular #digped chats), we’ve brought together higher education teachers, K-12 teachers, the open education community, students, and lifelong learners. We’ve worked to disrupt the conventions of academic publishing, while still maintaining a careful attention to detail, context, and critical engagement.

Based on input from our initial advisory board, we’ve developed what we call “collaborative peer review,” in which editors engage directly with authors to revise and develop articles, followed by post-publication peer review. Once an article is accepted for review, we partner a new author with an editorial board member (myself, Pete, Sean Michael Morris, and Robin Wharton) and a guest editor (usually someone that has already published an article in the journal). Editorial work is done both asynchronously and synchronously in a Google Doc that evolves through an open dialogue between author and editors.

We fully expect our process will continue to evolve. Kathleen Fitzpatrick argues, “Peer review is extremely important — I want to acknowledge that right up front — but it threatens to become the axle around which all conversations about the future of publishing get wrapped.” Going forward, I think it’s vital that every academic publication continuously (and even publicly) interrogates its own practices. Given how rapidly education is changing, we need to keep pushing ourselves to innovate — to learn from our mistakes — and to stay nimble in our approaches. We need to actively overturn the existing hierarchies and power dynamics that fuel unethical practices like blind peer-review, the proliferation of overpriced and barely read monographs, closed-access publishing, and business models that rely insidiously on the free labor of contingent faculty.

I’m glad Pete and I ultimately decided to describe Hybrid Pedagogy as a “journal,” exactly because this designation allows us to push on the boundaries of what, when, and how academic work gets published. The notion of an “academic journal” needs dismantling and reimagining. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t continue to have traditional academic journals, but that we need to considerably broaden the landscape to make way for dynamic collaboration, new media, and participatory culture.

Since launching Hybrid Pedagogy in January 2012, we’ve published 94 articles by 17 authors. The majority of these have been peer-reviewed by at least two reviewers (all but the earliest articles and #digped announcements). We’ve worked especially hard to encourage collaboration; 21 of the 94 articles we’ve published was written by two or more authors, including one article by five authors, one article by twelve authors, and one article by hundreds of authors. Articles have covered a wide range of topics, from MOOCs to digital writing — from intellectual property to personal learning networks.

Shortly after we launched Hybrid Pedagogy, Pete and I wrote an article about the changing nature of citation in the digital age — an article in which we made nods to the various sources for our work on the journal. In that article, we write, “In digital space, everything we do is networked. Real thinking doesn’t (and can’t) happen in a vacuum. Our teaching practices and scholarship don’t just burst forth miraculously from our skulls. The digital academic community is driven by citation, generosity, connection, and collaboration.” I believe generosity is what will drive the future of digital publishing.

Check out the most recent articles on Hybrid Pedagogy: Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 1 and pt. 2 and follow @hybridped on Twitter.

Book and Other Reviews by Raphael Susewind
Image c/o Eric Lanke


Image c/o Eric Lanke

is a political anthropologist at the Universities of Bielefeld and Oxford. He works on Muslim belonging, the ambivalence of the sacred and diplomatic culture in India – and blogs and tweets about these issues and academic life in general. Today’s post also gave him a good excuse to further delay his seventh book review

In her last post, Laura Pasquini suggested that publishing book reviews provides not only writing practice, but also improves one’s reading skills and habits. Today, I want to highlight one more synergy: book reviews prepare you for grading student papers (and probably also for other kinds of reviews) and vice versa. I learned this lesson when I recently had to write a stack of concise narrative evaluations of undergraduate disserations; the next book review flowed from my pen (well, keyboard) like a charm. Pleased about this, I discovered three similarities:

  • Firstly, as Laura emphasized, book reviews require analytical reading – and they are best if you are able to concentrate on one key point only (which should be the key argument, if present). The same holds for grading student papers: for speedy marking alone, you need to read analytically rather than sequentially – and students generally prefer one major and substantive suggestion for improvement over a heap of nitty-gritty details of what else could have been better, too. Though admittedly finding the key point in student papers can be harder than in a good monograph…
  • Secondly, and again going back to Laura, book reviewers should evaluate. There are good books, and there are not so good ones – your readers want to know your reasoned opinion. Likewise, lecturers have to decide in the end which mark to assign. If all book reviews and marking sheets screamed excellence, the whole point of the exercise were lost. Because they are rare, review editors in fact love differentiated evaluations (almost as much as submission on time); one even called me up to congratulate me for my balanced, but in the end negative review. My judgement balance now stands at two excellent, two good, one “ok” and one terrible book – which about reflects the state of publishing in my field.
  • Finally, book reviews and narrative evaluations of student papers (as well as other kinds of reviews) share the same basic structure: one introductory sentence, a weighted summary highlighing one particularly mentionable section or chapter, an evaluation of the key argument, a comment on style and presentation (only if particularly commendable or really dismal, in my opinion), and a final mark/recommendation. Practicing this structure in book reviews will make your grading more effective; and evaluating student work can improve your review style.

Importantly, the two formats have differences as well however. Above all, they are written with different audiences in mind: other readers in the case of book reviews, but authors in the case of student papers (or other kinds of reviews). This difference needs to show:

  • In book reviews, your suggestions on how to improve should preferably target the field at large, not the specific work under review. The book has been published and cannot be changed anymore: it is as good as it is. If it isn’t good, it is sufficient to point out why; you need not make the author suffer by demonstrating that you could do better within your 800 word review. But more can always be done by others, and lessons can be learned by the whole discipline. Focus on these. In contrast to books, however, student papers can be resubmitted – and it is only the student him- or herself who hopefully learns a lesson. This should render different kinds of suggestions.
  • And book reviews are of course public, so being nasty or sloppy is not an option (and will most likely backfire, too). Oh wait – shouldn’t “being nice and careful” be an integral part of teaching, grading (and journal refereeing) as well, precedent notwithstanding? How could I forget…

Finally, there is a last similarity between book reviews and teaching: neither count for much on the academic career ladder. Which is another good reason to be rather efficient about them (and efficiency stems from practice, and from synergies such as the one pointed out above). But going back to Laura’s earlier post, both teaching and reading (and by extension book reviews) are also seedbeds for ideas: they may not count directly, but practicing them will ultimately help you achieve what counts.

Publishing as Pedagogy by Jesse Stommel


Publishing and teaching can both terrify new academics, often to the point of paralysis. Their mutual support for one another is often frustrated by institutional demands. For example, the traditional workload split for full-time faculty at R1 institutions in the US is: 40% teaching, 40% research, 20% service. This division and its usual inflexibility highlights the ways that teaching and scholarly production are kept separate and distinct as forms. Yet, by looking at how publishing is teaching and teaching is publishing, we can lessen the anxiety around these activities and begin to notice how they are, in fact, co-constitutive practices. More than that, we can start to think about the open ends of these aspects of our work. The word “publishing” often implies some sort of finality, research that is finished or complete. This misses something vital about academic work.

This article on PhD2Published, “Publishing as Pedagogy” by Jesse Stommel, is both implicitly and explicitly linked to “Pedagogy as Publishing” by Charlotte Frost on Hybrid Pedagogy: A Digital Journal on Teaching & Technology. As publishing venues, both PhD2Published and Hybrid Pedagogy, work to build scholarly community by creating open and ongoing conversation.These twinned articles, which were written together in a Google Doc, combine to introduce communities, points of convergence, and to create a collaborative dialogue on publishing and pedagogy from two complementary perspectives.

Since I first started teaching in 2001, I’ve spoken the words almost like a mantra, “my scholarship and teaching are married.” And it isn’t just that the academic writing I do is influenced by the work I do in the classroom, even though I’ve put some version of this statement in nearly all of the 200ish academic job applications I’ve submitted. Here it is, right out of my mouth (er, fingers), in the job letter that led to my recently being hired as an Assistant Professor at Marylhurst University: “My research has considerable influence on my teaching.” To speak frankly, this line is bullshit, something I felt pressured to write by colleagues and in a half-dozen academic job search workshops.

And by “bullshit,” I don’t mean that what I said was false. I mean that the phrasing was disingenuous. Put simply, my research is my teaching. For me, the two practices are inextricable from one another. When I was finishing my PhD, I didn’t “teach to my dissertation” as so many academics recommend. My dissertation was born out of my teaching, out of interactions I had with students and out of my witnessing countless interactions between students.

It would be an oversimplification, though, to say just that my teaching is a source (or even the primary source) for my published writing. I would go even further than this to say that teaching itself has become, for me, my most important act of writing and publishing. There is a way in which I author myself and my work in the classroom, but I also produce countless tangible artifacts in the service of (or as part of) the act of teaching. The syllabi I publish to the web (like this or this) are an example, living documents that evolve over the term (and hopefully even after the term is over).

I will even go so far as to say that my syllabi are peer-reviewed, not only approved by the various department chairs I’ve worked for but also reviewed by the colleagues I share my work with and by the larger scholarly community that use (and sometimes cite) the work I’ve done. The syllabi I create also evolve through careful work with students (who I consider my closest learning community peers).

The scholarly work I produce in collaboration with students doesn’t stop there. I create class projects that have students working closely with each other and with me. In 2011, while teaching multimodal composition at GA Tech (a required course for Freshman), I had classes of 25 students working together to produce a short horror film. One student, Ben Lambeth, chose to continue working on his class’s film after the semester was over, and I worked with him as an assistant editor (not as his teacher but as an artistic collaborator). Here’s a preview for the finished film, Zombie Proof, and a short behind-the-scenes documentary about its creation. At the same time,  I also worked on GA Tech It Gets Better, a documentary film I co-produced with yet another former student, outside any assigned class project.

As I’ve continued to evolve as a scholar and teacher, I’ve become more and more concerned with thinking about ways to make what I do in the classroom and what I do in the safe confines of a word-processing window more public. The impetus for my scholarly work and publishing is to do my pedagogy in much larger and more open spaces. I teach, because I have to, because it’s in my bones. I write, because it allows me to teach more and to teach more people.

One way I’ve worked to bring my teaching and scholarly lives into closer public conversation is to have my CV and Teaching Portfolio exist alongside one another on my personal homepage. I’ve also begun publishing more about pedagogy and my teaching practices, something I’ve formalized through Hybrid Pedagogy. Finally, I force myself to build my scholarly writing out of the work I do in the classroom and to share my scholarly work in the classroom. This is particularly possible when I’ve taught writing, where I am able to work with my students as part of (not just facilitator of) a community of writers. It is students in writing classes I’ve taught, in fact, that I credit for the completion of my dissertation.

It’s important for me, as a teacher and scholar, to be open not just with my intellectual and pedagogical products but even more so with my academic process and pedagogical practices. This intention has been the driving force behind my most recent scholarly writing / pedagogical project, Hybrid Pedagogy: A Digital Journal on Teaching & Technology. An open-access networked journal, Hybrid Pedagogy creates meaningful connections between discussions of critical pedagogy, digital pedagogy, and online pedagogy. The journal also invites its audience to participate in (and be an integral part of) the peer review process, and thus makes transparent (and interrogates) academic publishing practices. In this way, Hybrid Pedagogy is a journal about pedagogy while also taking a pedagogical approach to publishing, by allowing its readers to peek behind the proverbial curtain of the publishing machine. In the wake of rapid changes in publishing, education, and technology, this kind of openness and transparency is becoming less and less an experimental indulgence and more and more a brunt necessity.

[Charlotte Frost’s companion-piece (“Pedagogy as Publishing”) offers a peek into the process of the creation and publishing of this article by Jesse and the one Charlotte wrote simultaneously for Hybrid Pedagogy.]