Feedback on the instructor training course

May 7, 2015 • Evgenij Belikov

I have enjoyed learning many useful things from a great teacher and from other participants. Many of the introduced concepts were new to me. In particular, the suggested reading helped consolidate knowledge acquired during the meetings.

I liked the focus on becoming a better teacher and on various pitfalls that may make learning difficult, many of which I found omitted in other teaching workshops. In particular, the importance of assessing students’ prior knowledge and how well they follow along and keeping them engaged shouldn’t be underestimated. One good example was the use of sticky notes at one SWC bootcamp (green - I’m ok, red - I need help).

I believe visualisation (e.g. using Concept Maps) can help explain many of the concepts that are on the SWC syllabus. Live Coding is useful as it helps throttle the pace and provides examples and opportunities to practice for the participants (and show that teachers make mistakes and how they recover).

It was good to see teaching principles supported by reasearch results. To me it was surprising that high expertise may actually be detrimental in teaching. This insight is also good for encouraging more people to help with running workshops who otherwise might think they are not enough of an expert.

Another surprise for me was the effectiveness of MCQs. Perhaps previously I only came across badly-designed MCQs in rote learning context and dismissed them too quickly as not useful (maybe due to relatively high probability of guessing correct answers). False answers based on good distractors give valuable hints at problem areas.

This course has also assured me of the value of feedback (both to students and among teachers). This would be the only reason why I’d prefer teaching face-to-face. But overall, I liked the spread-out format as I spent more time in total on thinking about teaching and doing the homework than I could on a 2-day course.

I think there should be no formal requirements for participation in this course apart from high motivation to put in the extra hours for homework and commitment to participate in the online meetings. However, I found it helpful having participated in a bootcamp as a learner. I felt familiar with the content (e.g. git) and could focus on the new concepts and on the delivery of the material. It also made it easier to imagine teaching situations and map the concepts discussed to concrete examples and experiences. Technical issues (github/markdown) could be reduced by providing more detailed step-by-step instructions in advance. Knowing how to handle the tools used by the community is necessary for being able to effectively contribute to the development of the materials. It was nice to see how community members familiar with these tools stepped in to help.

I have enjoyed practicing online with others and I’m looking forward to put the learned into practice and help out at a forthcoming bootcamp in my region.