Instructor Training: Checkout Procedure

After you have finished the two-day training class, you must go through these steps in order to complete your training and be fully certified as a Data and/or Software Carpentry instructor:

  1. Make a contribution to a lesson’s content, exercises, or instructor’s guide.
  2. Take part in an online discussion session.
  3. Teach a short demonstration lesson online.

These checkout steps aim to introduce you to key components of being a Software and Data Carpentry instructor that are difficult to fully cover in the classroom setting of the two-day training. These are:

  1. Contributing to our lesson materials. As our materials are developed by the community, we want to ensure that all instructors know where and how to contribute to our materials, particularly so that you can contribute in the future.

  2. Participating in the larger Software/Data Carpentry instructor community. We include the discussion session in the checkout because we hear from many instructors that one of their favorite aspects of being an Software/Data instructor is meeting and talking with other instructors in the community.

  3. Practicing and confirming the skills you need to teach on your own. Before signing up for a workshop, you will have practiced preparing a lesson and doing a brief session of live coding.

We would like to get everyone through this process within two months of training. Anyone who has not completed within 90 days should contact us to discuss reasons and options.

Although all instructors must complete these three steps, there are some differences depending on whether you are qualifying as a Data Carpentry or Software Carpentry instructor. These differences are noted below.

Part 1: Submit a Small Contribution to One of Our Lessons

Our lessons are maintained and improved by the people who teach them, so this part of the checkout procedure gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with our collaborative curriculum development process.

Trainees must make a contribution to a lesson’s content, exercises, or instructor’s guide by doing one of the following:

  1. Submitting a change to fix an existing issue.
  2. Proof-reading a lesson and adding a new issue describing something to be improved.
  3. Providing substantive feedback on an existing issue or pull request.

Your contribution must be for a lesson in the curriculum of the Carpentry (Software or Data) for which you are qualifying. Instructors seeking to qualify for both Carpentries, must submit a contribution to both a Data Carpentry and a Software Carpentry lesson.

Data Carpentry instructors may submit their contributions through GitHub or by email. Software Carpentry instructors must submit their contributions through GitHub.

Trainees must do their work on one of the lessons for which we are currently seeking improvements.

Please note that:

  1. If you submit your contribution through GitHub, you need to [send us](mailto:lessons@software-carpentry.org] a link to the pull request or issue so that we can track your progress through checkout.

  2. Your contribution doesn’t need to be accepted in order for you to become an instructor: the point is to make sure that you understand the process and have met the people who review material.

  3. Be sure to format your submission in the same way as the content that’s already there. The CONTRIBUTING.md file in each lesson has guidelines (and improvements to these guidelines are welcome).

  4. The lesson maintainers get many pull requests, so please take some time to write a good commit message to help them understand what you’re doing. For example:

    Add a 'commit --amend' exercise
    
    Everybody will botch a commit message at some point.  This
    exercise introduces them to an easy way to fix those mistakes.
    

    will make life much easier for the maintainer than:

    Instructor-training assignment
    
  5. We do not want exercises or other material that introduce new concepts: our lessons are already full to bursting.

  6. We are happy to accept contributions of new diagrams for any of our lessons. Please use SVG (scalable vector graphics), since vector formats are easier to manipulate than raster formats. SVG files can be produced using Inkscape as well as other graphics programs.

  7. We also appreciate improvements to our lessons’ learning objectives. In particular, we would like our current learning objectives to be checked against the actual lesson content, and to be framed in terms of observables (e.g., “Learner will be able to do X”) rather than intangibles (e.g., “Learner will appreciate X”).

The lessons you may submit to are:

  1. For Data Carpentry instructors: we would prefer contributions to these right now.
  2. For Software Carpentry instructors: we are currently accepting solutions to existing exercises, diagrams, and improvements to learning objectives for any lesson. We are also accepting new exercises using the Gapminder data set for our new Software Carpentry Python lesson. Please don’t worry too much about formatting, and please only submit the Markdown files (not generated HTML) in pull requests.

What Makes a Good Exercise?

If you are submitting a new exercise for the new Software Carpentry Python lesson:

  1. Follow the coding style of the lesson you’re submitting to. Read the lesson’s CONTRIBUTING file for explicit guidelines.
  2. Include a solution to your exercise.
  3. Do not rely on software that isn’t easily available on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, since most workshops have users on all three platforms.
  4. Try to give exercises a scientific theme: reversing a string isn’t particularly motivational for our audience.
  5. Include a comment when you submit the exercise to explain the purpose of the exercise (i.e., what it is demonstrating or checking for).

Part 2: Take Part in An Online Discussion Session

After you have submitted a contribution to one of our lessons, the next step is to take part in an hour-long discussion session led by an experienced instructor. This session gives you a chance to ask questions about the material you plan on teaching and to clarify anything that may be unclear about our operations in general.

Regardless of whether you are qualifying as an instructor for one or both Carpentries, you only need to participate in one discussion session. You are, however, welcome to join the discussions as often as you like.

Our discussion sessions are run as video conferences several times per week: please see our Community Calendar for times. You can sign up for a session on this Etherpad; if none of the available times work for you, or if you need any special arrangements, please let us know

The link to connect to the video conference is at the top of the Etherpad. Please be sure to use a headset with a built-in microphone during the session rather than open-air speakers and your laptop’s built-in microphone, since the latter often lead to audio quality problems.

To prepare for your session, pick one lesson that you plan on teaching and read the whole lesson. As you are reading, make notes about the following:

  1. Was there anything that you found unclear in the material? Did you get stuck anywhere?
  2. Did you feel like you would like to change the flow or present the concepts differently? If so, what and why?
  3. What are some misconceptions that the students may have when learning this material? Which bits of the lesson may be tricky and if poorly explained, may lead the students to broken mental models?
  4. What prior knowledge do learners need to have before participating in this lesson? If you were to list any prerequisites, what would they be?

The first two questions are intended to help you become more comfortable with our collaborative lesson development methods. The third and fourth question refer back to the instructor training course, and are meant to give you a chance to apply some of what you’ve learned to these specific lessons.

During the session, you are expected to ask questions to show that you’ve thought about what you’re going to teach (including questions you had while reading through your chosen lesson), and about how our workshops are run in general.

Sample questions include:

Trainees may also ask about:

If the discussion leader feels that you have adequately participated in the conversation, she will notify the training coordinator who will then ask you to sign up for a teaching demonstration (described in the next session).

Part 3: Teach a Short Demonstration Lesson

Once you have completed your discussion session, the final step is to sign up for a 5-minute teaching demonstration online using this Etherpad (or add yourself to the top of the pad if none of the available times work for you). These demonstrations are run as video conferences using Google Hangouts. The instructor leading the session will post connection details and other information in the Etherpad shortly before it begins.

Your demo must be for a lesson in the curriculum of the Carpentry (Software or Data) for which you are qualifying. Instructors seeking to qualify for both Carpentries must teach 5-minute demonstrations for both a Data Carpentry and a Software Carpentry lesson. You may choose to do these two demonstrations in the same session or on separate days.

If you want to do your demonstration(s) in a language other than English, please let us know in advance so that we can attempt to find someone to moderate. We may not be able to accommodate all languages.

For your teaching demonstration, you will teach a short segment from your chosen lesson(s). We will pick the segment of the lesson(s) you are to teach on the day of the demonstration, so you must be prepared to teach any part of your chosen lesson(s). For example, you may choose the Unix Shell lesson and be asked to teach starting from the loops segment. Or you may choose the Data Carpentry R for Genomics lesson and be asked to teach the introduction to data frame segment.

For your demonstration(s), you will screen-share and live code as if your computer was plugged into a projector and you were standing in front of a class. You may use whatever notes you want, provided they are not visible on your screen. You are not to read the lesson aloud line by line: instead, you are to teach as you would in an actual workshop. When your five minutes are up, the trainer leading the session will call time, and then you and everyone else taking part in the session will give feedback on your teaching in the session’s Etherpad. Note that people are required to give feedback on themselves as well as on others; note also that it’s useful to organize your feedback along the two axes of positive vs. negative and content vs. presentation, just as you will have done during the two-day class.

If all goes well, we will send you your certificate and instructions on how to add yourself to the teaching roster and our website. If for any reason the trainer leading the session feels that you should try again, you will be told what to focus on and when and where to sign up for another session.

Contacting Us

If you have any questions or suggestions about any of the above, please contact us.