Creating a Disciplinary Commons in Computer Science through the use of Course Portfolios

Commons: a term for resources that require shared governance for their sustenance.

The Disciplinary Commons is a new project funded by the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges and the University of Washington, Tacoma, having two primary objectives.

The mechanism for achieving the project goals is via the shared production of course portfolios. This mechanism will be instantiated through a series of monthly seminars involving 8 - 10 Computer Science faculty members at community colleges and baccalaureate-degree granting universities in the South Puget Sound region of Washington State. Participants will have an initial, full-day meeting in September 2005 and will then meet one afternoon per month over the 2005-6 academic year at locations that rotate among the participant home institutions. At these meetings, participants will learn how to construct a course portfolio, skills of classroom assessment and peer review, and will critically evaluate one another's work-in-progress.

Course Portfolios

The course portfolio, well known as a method for advancing teaching practice and improving student learning, is a set of documents that "focuses on the unfolding of a single course, from conception to results" (Hutchings, 1998). 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 project will construct a course portfolio for a course that they teach that is on the path for a baccalaureate degree in a Computer Science program.

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 a portfolio repository and archive, charting and calibrating development over time.

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:

What it isn't

Please note: the Commons does not:

Workshop Leader

The leader for this project and workshop facilitator is Josh Tenenberg, Associate Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator in Computing and Software Systems at the University of Washington, Tacoma's Institute of Technology. Most recently, Josh has collaborated with Sally Fincher from the University of Kent at Canterbury and Marian Petre, from the Open University (UK), on research that centers 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, he is Principal Investigator in two grants from the National Science Foundation, (known as Bootstrapping and Scaffolding) that 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 Sally Fincher who will be running a parallel series of workshops in the UK.