Instructor Training Checkout Procedure

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

After a lot of discussion, we have come up with a new procedure for completing instructor training for Data Carpentry and Software Carpentry. Its goals are to ensure that people are familiar with the lesson material while introducing them to our community. The steps are:

  1. After completing the instructor training course, the trainee picks one of the core lessons (described below) to focus on.

  2. She then submits a new exercise for that lesson (also described below).

  3. The trainee then takes part in an hour-long group discussion of that lesson led by an experienced instructor. The trainee is expected to have gone through the lesson before this session so that she can ask lots of pointed questions during that hour. If the mentor leading the session feels that the trainee is unprepared, she may be asked to do some more work and attend a future discussion session before moving on.

  4. The trainee then signs up for a demonstration lesson session (described below). In that session, she is asked to teach a five-minute segment of her lesson chosen by the person running the session. Since she does not know in advance which five-minute segment she will be asked to teach, she must be ready to teach any part of the lesson. She may also then be asked some questions about the material covered in the instructor training course.

  5. If all goes well, she gets her badge. If the examiner feels that she needs to do more work, she will be given feedback and asked to try again.


  • The core lessons for Data Carpentry are those listed under Biology Workshop Lessons: spreadsheets, OpenRefine, SQL, programming with R, and programming with Python. The core lessons for Software Carpentry are the ones on the Unix shell, version control with Git, and programming with Python or R.

  • Exercises for Software Carpentry lessons must be submitted as pull requests on GitHub. Exercises for Data Carpentry lessons must be added to a Google Doc.

  • Demonstration sessions will be scheduled at regular times throughout the week, rather than on demand. Each session will be one hour long, so four or five people will be able to do their demonstrations and get feedback from the trainer and their peers.

This process won't be the last word in instructor training—we learn something new every time we run a class—but we believe it improves on what we're doing now, and that we can implement it with the resources we have. We will start running mentoring and checkout sessions in the second week of January; until then, best wishes from all of us for a happy New Year.

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