The Disciplinary Commons

Sally Fincher, Josh Tenenberg

We report on a work-in-progress called the Disciplinary Commons, a project jointly developed by Sally Fincher and Josh Tenenberg and run in parallel at the University of Washington, Tacoma USA, and at the University of Kent in the UK.

Computer Science education is an inevitably situated practice. It is situated within an institutional context, which dictates (amongst other things) quality assurance procedures and funding allocations; it is situated within a departmental context which depends on student intake, the chosen curriculum and academic expectations; and it is situated within individual classrooms - these students, this topic - where teaching is an enactment of private, personal, and largely tacit beliefs about teaching and learning.

The Disciplinary Commons brings together practitioners from different institutions to document their practice via the shared production of course portfolios. In this way, detailed knowledge is shared and a rich understanding of practices in the domain developed. At the same time, teaching is documented, making it public, peer-reviewed, and amenable for future use and development by other educators: we ultimately aim to create teaching-appropriate documents of practice, equivalent to the research-appropriate journal paper.

The course portfolio is a well known as a method for advancing teaching practice and improving student learning but one of the criticisms of the course portfolio approach is that complete examples are isolated (both by institution, type of institution and by discipline). However the power of the portfolio approach is multiplied when there are several examples available for a single disciplinary aspect: the Commons directly addresses this. Firstly, participants have similar practice, all teach introductory computing, and share background and vocabulary. Secondly, by preparing portfolios together participants negotiate a shared form which makes important aspects of content and context apprehensible to other educators. Finally, the Commons will act as portfolio repository and archive, charting and calibrating development over time.

For further details see:

Corresponding Author:
Sally Fincher
University of Kent
Computing Laboratory
Tel: 01227 824061
Fax: 01227 762811
Email: S.A,