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And ‘more people sharing resources in new ways’ is the history of civilisation in — pause — seven words.

Key characteristics & structure of Disciplinary Commons:

A Disciplinary Commons involves a group of educators from diverse institutions who teach within the same discipline meeting monthly during an academic year to share, reflect on and document their teaching. The participants prepare a course portfolio, describing their own teaching of a particular module during a single academic term; additionally they critique each otherís portfolios, and visit each otherís classrooms. This combination of critical self-examination and peer review helps participants understand their own teaching, identify places where innovation and change are desirable, share what works, borrow from others, and see their own teaching in the context of a broad range of possibilities.

There are two primary roles associated with a Disciplinary Commons: a group of participants and one or more leaders. The mechanism for instantiating a Disciplinary Commons is a series of workshops over the life of an academic course. However, this straightforward and well-understood method of delivery is not what defines the characteristics of a Commons: it is only the visible expression of a series of interlocking design decisions, the top of the iceberg. An intervention described as a Disciplinary Commons is informed by a theoretical rationale and incorporates practical elements suggested by previous work.

The 2007 paper "Opening the Door ...", below, outlines some basic features. The 2007 paper "Warren's Question" gives a flavour of some of the experience. If you are interested in running a Commons yourself we have written a handbook: A Commons Leader's Vade Mecum (and accompanying Big Illustration) which you may find useful. If you would like a hard copy of this, please get in touch. There is also additional "backstage" information available from the Commons Leader's page.

Sally Fincher, Josh Tenenberg: 13th April 2011

Project Home Pages:






Papers and presentations about the Commons

11 November 2013, Aarhus, Denmark Classrooms, Kitchens and Farms: The Narrative Nature of PCK
Presentation (.pptx)
Eighth Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education (WiPSCE) Sally Fincher
9 September 2012, Auckland, New Zealand Adapting the Disciplinary Commons Model for High School Teachers: Improving Recruitment, Creating Community
Paper (.pdf)
Ninth International Computing Education Research (ICER) conference Briana Morrison, Lijun Ni, Mark Guzdial
9 March 2011, Dallas, Texas, USA Building a Community to Support HS CS Teachers: the Disciplinary Commons for Computing Educators
Paper (.pdf)
Forty-second SIGCSE Symposium Lijun Ni, Mark Guzdial, Allison Elliott Tew, Briana Morrison, Ria Galanos
28 June 2010, Abertay, Scotland A Disciplinary Commons for Database Teaching
Presentation (.ppt)
Teaching, Learning and Assessment of Databases (TLAD) Conference, 2010 Richard Cooper
March 2010, Milwaukee. Wisconsin, USA Useful Sharing
Presentation with audio (mp4)
Forty-first SIGCSE Symposium Sally Fincher
19 February 2009, Glasgow, Scotland Useful Sharing
Presentation (.ppt)
Video of session
Evening Seminar series in Computing Education Sally Fincher
11-13 December 2007, Brighton UK Re-shaping practices of academic development: The Disciplinary Commons
Paper (.pdf)
Presentation (.ppt)
Annual Conference of the Society for Research into Higher Education Sally Fincher & Josh Tenenberg
15-16 September 2007, Atlanta, Georgia, USA Warren's Question
Third International Computing Education Research (ICER) conference Sally Fincher & Josh Tenenberg
7-10 March 2007, SIGCSE Symposium, Covington, Kentucky, USA Opening the Door of the Computer Science Classroom: The Disciplinary Commons
Paper (.pdf)
Presentation (.ppt)
Full paper Josh Tenenberg & Sally Fincher
Summer 2006 Experiences of a Disciplinary Commons (.pdf)
pages 31-33
University of Gloucestershire Electronic Journal of Learning and Teaching (e-JOLT) Vicky Bush
29th-31st August 2006
Trinity College, Dublin
  1. Laboratory Exams in First Programming Courses
    Paper (.doc);
    Presentation (.ppt)
  2. Some Good Ideas from the Disciplinary Commons
    Paper (.doc);
    Presentation (.ppt)
7th Annual Conference of the ICS HE Academy
  1. Quintin Cutts, David Barnes, Pete Bibby, James Bown, Vicky Bush, Phil Campbell, Sally Fincher, Stephan Jamieson, Tony Jenkins, Michael Jones, Dimitar Kazakov, Thomas Lancaster, Mark Ratcliffe, Monika Seisenberger, Dermot Shinners-Kennedy, Carole Wagstaff, Linda White, Chris Whyley
  2. Sally Fincher, David Barnes, Pete Bibby, James Bown, Vicky Bush, Phil Campbell, Quintin Cutts, Stephan Jamieson, Tony Jenkins, Michael Jones, Dimitar Kazakov, Thomas Lancaster, Mark Ratcliffe, Monika Seisenberger, Dermot Shinners-Kennedy, Carole Wagstaff, Linda White, Chris Whyley
18th & 19th May 2006
City University, London
The Disciplinary Commons (abstract)
The Disciplinary Commons (presentation)
London SoTL 6th Annual International Conference Sally Fincher & Josh Tenenberg
5th May 2006
Building a Disciplinary Commons using Course Portfolios (.ppt) Pacific Northwest Higher Education Teaching & Learning Conference Josh Tenenberg, Janet Ash, Donald Chinn, Ravi Gandham, Michael Gelotte, Richard Hoagland, Laurie Murphy, Brad Richards, John Staneff, Phyllis Topham, Jeffrey Weiss
2nd May 2006
University of Kent
National Teaching Fellowships & the Disciplinary Commons (.ppt) Seminar, Academic Development Week Sally Fincher
March 2006
University of Bolton
Fridays: Where's Pete Been? (.ppt) Departmental Seminar Pete Bibby
3rd March 2006
SIGCSE Symposium, Houston
Creating a Disciplinary Commons in Computer Science (.ppt) SIGCSE Special Projects Showcase Josh Tenenberg
24th January 2006
Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
UK National Teaching Fellowships & the Disciplinary Commons (.ppt) Seminar Sally Fincher
14th & 15th October 2005,
University of Washigton, Bothell.
Using Course Portfolios to Create a Disciplinary Commons Across Institutions (.doc) Seventh Annual Northwestern Regional Conference of the Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges, CCSC-NW Josh Tenenberg & Qi Wang
11th March 2005
University of Washington, Tacoma
Report on a pilot project: Creating a Disciplinary Commons in IT using Course Portfolios (.ppt) Institute of Technology/CCTC Cojoined meeting Josh Tenenberg & Qi Wang