In September of 2014 I started my PhD, as I write this I’m barely past the first half of the first year. Two courses, by two great professors, have encouraged the use of a commonplace book to help shape our thoughts. This blog represents a combination of my thoughts during my doctoral studies at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario. For the most part I focus on curriculum theorizing and academic writing, but occasionally I wander off topic.

Below are the specifications from the two main courses which prompted these efforts. Make up your own minds as whether I met their requirements…

For centuries, commonplace books have been collecting places for the memories, experiences, quotations, and ponderings of individuals. The commonplace book differs from a journal because it goes beyond being narratives of experience and reflection. Instead, the book is a montage of bits and pieces that becomes a location for interpretation. Besides personal experiences, ideas, and reflections, a commonplace book can contain the responses of others, images, articles, news clippings, a site on the Internet, or a printed piece from a web search. The commonplace book is a tool where you can collect and develop your thinking about narrative and writing by revisiting entries, writing responses, and understanding your experiences in the course, in your writing, and more broadly in your other academic investigations and daily living.

One way to write in your commonplace book is to use “flow writing.” Writing in this way begins with an image, a phrase or a sentence as a prompt for writing continuously within a defined length of time. With such an approach, the writer does not worry about grammar, spelling, or the logic of the ideas. Language can be shaped and honed later. Instead, the purpose of this writing is to open up to a flow of ideas and language.

Rebecca Luce-Kapler (January 2015)
Syllabus for EDUC-901: Scholarly Writing in Education
Faculty of Education, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario.

A commonplace book is a place to compile knowledge. Historically, these have taken the form of scrapbooks or some other text wherein the author writes notes, jots ideas, pastes other sources or clippings, and collects ideas, quandaries, recollections, and meanderings.

You may use a physical notebook or text as the basis for your commonplace book, or you may use a word processor/blog/personal medium that you feel comfortable manipulating.

Each class, you shall prepare a short, written response to the assigned readings.

The response does not need to be elegant prose. Notes, questions, sketches, graphics, and external links are perfectly acceptable.

Your response can be a personal response, considering your experiences, research interests, and contemporary questions in light of the readings.

Your response can be critical of the texts, or relate the reading to other experiences and materials.

Your response can include questions that you wish to explore in class discussion, or with peers, including matters requiring clarification.

When you are not leading a seminar, you are responsible for participating in the curriculum conversation being fostered in the class. Your journal will serve as a prompt and as a foundation for your participation.

At the end of the course, you will submit a hard copy of your commonplace book (or, in the case of electronic/alternative media, a link to the source), which will be returned to you after I have had occasion to read through it.

Theodore Christou (September 2014)
Syllabus for EDUC-910: The Traditions of Curriculum
Faculty of Education, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario.


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