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Professor Freda Wolfenden

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Professional biography

My professional work is concerned with enhancing the quality of  pedagogic practices and teacher development particularly in low income contexts.  I have lead the conceptualisation, planning and delivery of teacher education programmes with a  focus on the use of open practices at scale in the pursuit of equality in participation in learning. 

I am currently Education Director at the Girls Education Challenge (GEC)  fund manager.  The GEC is a large DFID funded programme supporting the learning of over 1.3M marginalised girls in 17 countries.

Until early 2019 I was Academic Director of the TESS-India programme (www.tess-india.edu.in), a large scale Open Educational Resources (OER)  teacher education initiative working across 7 Indian states to reach up to 3 million teachers and funded by DfID (£10M).

I also led the Open University component of the GIrls Education Challenge (GEC) Project in Sierra Leone 'Supporting Marginalised Girls in Sierra Leone to complete Basic Education with Improved Learning Outcomes'. The OU is responsible for the Learning Assistant strand of activity, supporting young women to develop the skills - academic and professional, and confidence to enter Teacher Training.

Since joining the OU I have held a number of leadership positions including Associate Dean (Curiculum, Qualifications and Scholarship) and directed several teacher education programmes for both UK and global cohorts including the online professional development programme for teachers, teachandlearn.net, and the Masters in Education.   

From 2008 to 2012 I was Director of the TESSA programme.  TESSA – Teacher Education in Sub Saharan Africa (www.tessafrica.net), is a large research and development initiative exploring the use of Open Educational Resources to improve the quality of pre-and in-service teacher education at scale.  I secured over £2.5M to support TESSA development; TESSA OER use is now embedded in teacher education programmes across 10 countries and I am now focussing on leading research associated with the programme. In 2009 the Open University was awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for TESSA and in 2011 TESSA was a WISE Award winner (http://www.wise-qatar.org/awards).

In 2009 I established the Malawi Access to Teaching Saltire Scholarship programme; this enables women in rural areas to achieve qualifications and relevant school experience prior to entry to teacher training.  In 2013 this model was extended to Sierra Leone as part of a Girls' Education Challenge project. 

I came to the OU in 2004 from a background in secondary school science teaching in London and overseas.  I have also worked as an Advisor for a local Education Authority in England, materials producer, project director and manager in a number of education organisations in the UK and in Asia. 

Research interests

The primary focus of my work is enhancing teacher learning in development contexts and the ways in which new technologies and in particular OER (Open Educational Resources) can influence pedagogy and teacher change.  I adopt a socially situated theoretical stance and prioritise engagement with applied research to enrich the interplay between scholarship, teaching and innovation and to maximise the impact on practice (as evidenced by external grants).   A key characteristic is leadership of collaborative activity with colleagues from different institutions, cultures and contexts

Current Funded Projects  

2015 -2016

‘Engaging with the ‘world beyond’: the impact of OER on practices in teacher education institutions in East Africa’   ROER4D   (http://roer4d.org/)

  £28,000 Principal Investigator (PI)

2014 - 2017 

'Developing and modelling collaborative creation of local OER in Teacher Education Institutions in Ghana’  William & Flora Hewlett Foundation

$300,000 Principal Investigator (PI)

Teaching interests

I teach on the Masters in Education  at the OU and between 2007-2010  directed this programme.   I initiated a course in education and development (ET821) and I have taught on a number of other courses in the programme.   I am currently writing for a new module, EE814 Addressing inequality and difference in educational practice,  available from October 2015. 

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
CREET: Educational Studies Research ClusterClusterFaculty of Education and Language Studies