Creating a Disciplinary Commons in Computing Education

Commons: a general term for shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal interest.

The Disciplinary Commons project concerns computing education in the UK. The first instantiation will focus on the initial teaching of programming (itp) and is open to anyone who currently teaches introductory programming in a UK institution of higher education. Over the course of the academic year 2005/6 up to 20 teachers will meet every 4-6 weeks to document itp practice and create a powerful community resource.

Our Disciplinary Commons has twin aims:

By engaging in shared exploration of our teaching in this way, we will achieve:

Course Portfolios

The course portfolio, well known as a method for advancing teaching practice and improving student learning (Hutchings, 1998), is a set of documents that "focuses on the unfolding of a single course, from conception to results" (op cit, p.13). The purpose of the course portfolio "is in revealing how teaching practice and student performance are connected with each other" (Bernstein, 1998, p77). Course portfolios typically include a course's learning objectives, its contents and structure, a rationale for how this course design meets its objectives, and the course's role in a larger degree program. Importantly, the portfolio also includes evaluations of student work throughout the term, indicating the extent to which students are meeting course objectives and the type and quantity of feedback they are receiving. Each participant in the Commons will construct a course portfolio for the programming course that they teach, as well as evaluating the portfolios of other participants and collectively deciding on appropriate content for itp portfolios.

Outcomes & benefits

Benefits to Participation

Community Benefit

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: our Disciplinary Commons will act as an itp repository and archive, charting and calibrating development over time.

Project Description

Up to 20 participants will be solicited from UK institutions.

What it involves

If accepted, each participant commits to:

  1. Attending both initial and capstone full-day workshops,
  2. attending all interim meetings, at 4-6 week interval,
  3. completing a course portfolio for your itp course

As well as committing to attending and undertaking your own work, these activities will involve:

The Commons project will pay for all meetings and for participants' travelling expenses.

What it isn't

Please note: the Commons does not:

Workshop Leader

The leader for this project and workshop facilitator is Sally Fincher, Senior Lecturer in the Computing Laboratory at the University of Kent where she leads the Computing Education Research Group. She is a Fellow of the Staff and Educational Development Association (FSEDA) and a 2005 National Teaching Fellow (NTF).

Sally has worked on many computing education projects. Most recently, she has been collaborating with Josh Tenenberg (University of Washington Tacoma) and Marian Petre (Open University), on projects that centre on bringing practitioners and expert researchers together in order to initiate principled, large-scale teaching and learning research in Computer Science. As part of this effort, she has been involved with two major grants from the National Science Foundation, both of which use a workshop format to provide Computer Science faculty with a "way in" to high-quality CS Education research.

The Disciplinary Commons project has been co-developed with Josh Tenenberg who will be running a parallel series of workshops in the US.

How to Apply

Deadline for applications is Friday 9th September 2005. Applicants will be notified by Monday 12th September.

Application Details


Daniel Bernstein, Putting the focus on student learning, in The Course Portfolio, Pat Hutchings (ed.), American Association for Higher Education, 1998.

Pat Hutchings (ed.), Making Teaching Community Property: A Menu for Peer Collaboration and Peer Review, American Association for Higher Education, 1996.

Pat Hutchings (ed.), The Course Portfolio: How Faculty Can Examine Their Teaching to Advance Practice and Improve Student Learning, American Association for Higher Education, 1998

Small Print

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