How do instructors get placed at workshops?

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

If you are a badged Carpentries Instructor, you have most likely received emails about upcoming workshops that need Instructors. After the emails go out, we sometimes get questions about how Instructors are actually chosen and placed, so we want to share our methods with you.

First, it is not first come, first served.

That would not be fair, as that just shows who was lucky enough to be online and able to check their calendars at the moment my email went out. Rather, we give it a few days, or sometimes even a couple of weeks, depending on how quickly the workshop may be coming up.

Once we have a number of Instructors expressing interest, we look at a few things:

What other workshops have you signed up for in that time period?

If you’ve volunteered to teach three workshops over the next few months, we likely won’t place you at all of them. However, we will take advantage of your flexibility to get you in on at least one.

How much experience do you have with the Carpentries?

All our workshops are taught by two Instructors. We look over the list of participants and match up an experienced Instructor with a newer Instructor. As our Instructor pool grows, we want to make sure everyone has the chance to teach with us. We have many Instructors whose workshop tally is well into the double digits. As excited as we are to see that level of dedication, we also want to make sure other Instructors have a chance to get real teaching experience. So we may ask our most experienced Instructors to step aside so others can reach that point.

What Carpentries’ lessons are you comfortable teaching?

In the call for Instructors, we always note the workshop content. While the two Instructors will divide up teaching responsibilities for the different lesson modules, we do want to make sure each Instructor is comfortable enough with all the content to be a helper while their co-Instructor is leading a lesson. Even better is when Instructors can fill in for each other in case of an emergency, like illness or a missed flight.

What is your own academic background?

The Carpentries’ model is one of practicing scientists and researchers teaching other practicing scientists and researchers. Regardless of your field of research, your passion for the tools we teach will always come through. When possible, however, we try to match up the research fields of Instructors and the sites hosting the workshop. That way, Instructors get opportunities to network in their fields, and learners get to hear from people working in those same fields.

How close are you geographically to the host site?

We know that many workshops offer a chance for Instructors to travel and make connections in new places. However, there are times we prioritize local Instructors. This is partly to be sensitive to host sites’ budgets but also because it helps build local communities as the hosts and Instructors get to know each other. We cannot guarantee that host sites can get local Instructors but we do take this into consideration.

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