From Open Education to Epistemic and Social Justice

In the March edition of Edubytes, our guest editor is Associate Professor of Teaching from the UBC Faculty of Education Dr. Surita Jhangiani. She takes a critical approach on open pedagogy and shares new and existing resources dedicated to this process.

Over the last few years my interest in open educational resources (OER) has led me to focus on critical open pedagogy, an approach centred on advancing epistemic and social justice. That is, to develop materials that are “by and for the benefit and empowerment of non-privileged learners who may be under-represented in educational systems or marginalized in their global contexts” (Lambert, 2018). What drove this point home for me was a comment from a learner who shared that they didn’t feel reflected in their courses. I realized a critical approach to open pedagogy was needed.

A focus on social and epistemic justice makes way for learners to be seen and reflected in our educational materials. Epistemic injustice is the harm or wrongdoing done to those who are holders of knowledge (Fricker, 2007), while social justice may be understood as both a “process and a goal to achieve a fairer society which involves actions guided by the principles of redistributive justice, recognitive justice and representational justice” (Lambert, 2018, p. 227). Our students are not being served by learning materials that reify dominant epistemologies and pedagogies. In fact, we perpetuate further harm when we reinforce existing inequities in our systems, which emphasizes the hidden curriculum and a neo-liberal agenda. One way to counter this is through critical pedagogy. In combination with open pedagogy, it serves as a means to challenge and decenter dominant epistemologies and pedagogies and allow for perspectives that are too often dismissed or trivialized in our society and our educational contexts to be centered upon.


Fricker, M. (2007). Epistemic injustice: Power and the ethics of knowing. OUP Oxford.

Lambert, S. R. (2018). Changing our (Dis)Course: A Distinctive Social Justice Aligned Definition of Open Education. Journal of Learning for Development, 5(3).

Resources to go further:

David Lam Chair in Multicultural Education Speakers Series: From Open Education to Epistemic and Social Justice

In this speakers’ series, Apurva Ashok, Jasmine Roberts-Crews, and Sukaina Walji speak to the importance of epistemic and social justice, and how open education can be leveraged to advance these goals. The links to these talks will be available on my faculty page soon.

Learn more


Jasmine Roberts-Crews: Creating a Socially Just Open Education

A talk by Jasmine Roberts-Crews on the Open Education Network about the designing open educational program with a social justice focus. Roberts-Crews speaks to the intersection of open education and social justice, addressing questions such as what social justice is, and why it is important.

Watch the talk


D. Wallis, P., & Rocha, T. (2022). Designing for resistance: epistemic justice, learning design, and open educational practices. Journal for Multicultural Education, 16(5), 554-564.

This paper takes a deep dive into epistemic justice, open learning, and learning design. Further, this paper also stresses the importance of not reproducing existing educational injustices.

Read the paper


Bali, M., Cronin, C., & Jhangiani, R. S. (2020). Framing open educational practices from a social justice perspective. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2020(1).

Another brilliant article on considerations when engaging in critical pedagogy to further social justice, especially with respect to not perpetuating further harm. This article builds on the work of Nancy Fraser to discuss ways to further open educational practices.

Read the article

Enjoyed reading about open education to epistemic and social justice? Learn about other topics we covered in the March 2024 edition by reading the complete Edubytes newsletter. To view past issues, visit the Edubytes archive.

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