Announcing The Carpentries Community Discussions

Instructor Training Checkout requirement to include Community Discussions

Thanks for all the discussion on discussions! Based on your great ideas and feedback, we’re creating a set of Community Discussions - pre/post workshop discussions, themed discussions, and Carpentries Conversations - that will all qualify for the ‘discussion’ component of instructor training checkout and provide opportunities for more topics, more people to participate and small group discussions. Read more below for all the details!

The discussion about updates to instructor checkout requirements and the recent RFC Regarding Instructor Discussion Sessions has sparked the interest of many community members who value the importance of communication and collaboration, sharing resources and experiences, and advocating for who we (The Carpentries) are and what we do. Recommendations have been pouring in involving a new discussion session schedule and even discussion sessions on Slack to accommodate those who have difficulty participating in discussions on Zoom. Additionally, there was an overwhelming desire to revive Communty Calls!

If you’re relatively new to our community, you may not be aware that Community Calls were once offered, but discontinued due to low attendance. Having successfully finished our first year as The Carpentries with improved committee structure, new curricula, and a new Lesson Program (welcome Library Carpentry!), we think it’s high time to revive the idea of community calls. But, this time discussions will not only pique the interest of new and current community members, they will offer a chance for small group conversations virtually, and help new instructors finish their checkout process. Read more below!

How we have been running discussion sessions

Currently we run about 14 instructor discussion sessions per month. These sessions accommodate 6-8 individuals, with 4-5 slots reserved for instructor training checkout participants, and 2-3 slots reserved for individuals who want to discuss their Carpentries workshop (upcoming, or recently taught). The discussion sessions are a chance for instructors to report back to the community about their workshop, and discuss teaching practices and workshop experiences, and for new trainees to meet community members and learn more about how a workshop is run, and how to prepare.

Previously we evaluated whether to remove the instructor discussion sessions from the checkout requirement for becoming a Carpentries instructor (see this blog post and vote summary. As more of our instructor training is happening online, the demand for discussion sessions for checkout participants is high, and the Instructor Development Committee has found it difficult to meet the demand. For that reason we re-introduced the idea of relaxing the discussion session requirement for checkout. Yet again, the community has expressed its desire to keep discussion session attendance as a checkout requirement, but instead, offer multiple pathways to participate in a discussion. From your feedback, we’re introducing a new set of discussions.

What’s changing? Introducing the new set of Community Discussions!

Rather than offering one type of discussion that can accommodate only a few people at time, we’re expanding the types of discussions, and the number of people that can attend, creating a set of what we’re calling Community Discussions. New instructors can attend any one of these Community Discussions to meet the ‘discussion’ checkout requirement.

Those wishing to complete their instructor checkout requirement will be required to participate in a Community Discussion, in addition to the required lesson contribution and teaching demonstration.

What are Community Discussions?

The Carpentries Community Discussions are designed for everyone in The Carpentries community interested in learning, educating and advocating for teaching foundational coding and data science skills globally. Discussion topics range anywhere from teaching workshops and developing curricula to building local communities and assessing the impact of our workshops globally. There are three types of Community Discussions:

  1. Pre- and Post-Workshop Discussions
    Description: These discussions fulfil the current purpose of discussion sessions where those getting ready to teach or having recently taught come to discuss their workshop with the community. These will now allow for greater number of participants by making use of the Zoom room breakout feature to have smaller discussions. There will be a minimum of two of these per week. Anyone who has gone through the ‘discussion host onboarding’ can host; we already have a few on the calendar. Keep reading for details on how to sign up to host.

  2. Themed Discussion Sessions
    Description: These discussions are centered around a particular topic ranging anywhere from teaching your first workshop to community building strategies. These also will allow for larger numbers of participants by using the breakout room feature. We piloted some of these this year and they were well attended. Anyone who wants to host, and has gone through the ‘discussion host onboarding’ can host a session on a topic of interest.

  3. Carpentries Conversations
    Description: These are meant to be much like the previous Community Calls, with more of a focus on discussion rather than solely a presentation. These Conversations will be hosted by one of our Committees or Task Forces to provide the community with the opportunity to learn about and discuss new developments and programs in our organisation. These Conversations will accommodate many participants and like the other discussion sessions, utilise break out rooms for smaller group discussions. They will be held once a month, but at multiple times to accommodate all time zones. Our committees and task forces include:
          a. African Task Force
          b. Carpentries en Latinoamérica
          c. CarpentryCon Task Force
          d. Code of Conduct Committee
          e. Instructor Development Committee
          f. Lesson Infrastructure Committee
          g. The Carpentries Executive Council

We’re also piloting non-video approaches to Community Discussions in Slack to provide other accessible options. More information on these will be coming soon. Be a part of the pilot by commenting on the Github issue.

How are Community Discussions organised and executed?

Coordinated by the Instructor Development Committee, Community Discussions are scheduled quarterly. For example, we are currently planning the discussions to take place in the first quarter of 2019 (January, February, and March). To see upcoming Community Discussions, check the community-discussions etherpad.

All Community Discussions are 60 minutes, and are formatted as follows:

  • Welcome, Introductions, and Code of Conduct (5 minutes)
  • Presentation from the facilitator/presenting group (20 minutes)
  • Small group breakout sessions for discussion questions from facilitator (15 minutes)
  • Recap in the main room to discuss responses to questions (10 minutes)
  • Closing Q&A, recap of how to get involved with the topic being presented (5 minutes)
  • Reminder to trainees how to get credit for their checkout requirement (5 minutes)

The format will be consistent across all the Community Discussion types to provide more structure and make it easier to host and participate in these events.

Who is invited to attend Community Discussions

Community Discussions are open to everyone. All upcoming discussions will be placed on The Carpentries Community Calendar, in the newsletter, and announced on the Discuss mailing list. Instructor training checkout participants can attend any Community Discussion listed on the community-discussions etherpad to earn credit for their checkout requirement.

Who can facilitate a Community Discussion?

Any certified Carpentries instructor having attended a Discussion Host Onboarding can facilitate a community discussion. Discussion Host Onboardings are held quarterly, and include training on how to facilitate discussions and utilise breakout rooms for small group discussions. These Host Onboardings will also be recorded and captioned so they can be viewed if you can’t attend an onboarding session.

How do I sign-up to facilitate a Community Discussion?

There are a lot of details in this blog post, so we want to make sure anyone interested in leading a Community Discussion has the resources they need. We are hosting two Discussion Host Onboardings 7 January, 2019 at 0200 UTC and 1900 UTC. Sign up to attend by adding your name to the community-discussions etherpad under the time slot that fits your schedule.

Have an idea for a discussion right now? Complete the Call for Community Discussion Facilitators form to be placed on the schedule!

Need ideas for topics? Here are a few:

  • Tools to engage your learners
  • Unpredictable learning environments
  • How to get learners to come back
  • Informing teaching through assessment
  • Think-Pair-Share to Engage Students in Learning
  • Strategies for Active Learning
  • Engaging new learners through community building
  • Talking about the Code of Conduct
  • Building infrastructure to sustain The Carpentries community
  • How to run a workshop with no money
  • Designing workshops for diversity, accessibility, and inclusion
  • Blending Carpentries lessons to create a dynamic workshop
  • Marketing your workshop like a pro

In summary, we’ve decreased the number of pre/post workshop discussion sessions offered to put less strain on the Instructor Development Committee for finding hosts. We’ve also increased the number of slots for checkout participants, and revised the host-onboarding such that hosts know how to utilise Zoom rooms. Lastly, we’re reviving community calls as Carpentries Conversations, and will pilot this opportunity for the first quarter of 2019.

If you’ve recently participated in an instructor training event and need to attend a Community Discussion, sign up on the community-discussions etherpad now, and check back often as more discussions will be added soon.

For more information please contact

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who contributed ideas, feedback or discussion on this topic, particularly to the Instructor Development Committee, its chair Toby Hodges, and our Discussion Session Coordinator Martin Dreyer for your work keeping the discussions running while also working with the community to develop these new approaches.

Dialogue & Discussion

Comments must follow our Code of Conduct.

Edit this page on Github