Teaching: 10 min
Exercises: 5 min
  • Who are we and how do we approach teaching?

  • What should you expect from this workshop?

  • Introduce yourself to your fellow workshop participants.

  • Describe what will and will not be covered in this workshop.

  • Understand that the Carpentries are communities of volunteers who develop lessons and teach workshops on basic computing and data skills for researchers.

Code of Conduct

To make clear what is expected, everyone participating in Carpentries activities is required to conform to our Code of Conduct. This Code of Conduct applies to all spaces managed by the Carpentries including, but not limited to workshops, email lists, online forums and on GitHub. Please review the Code of Conduct to familiarise yourself with it.


Introductions set the stage for learning. — Tracy Teal, Executive Director, The Carpentries

Hello everyone, and welcome to the the Carpentries instructor training. We’re very pleased to have you with us.

Information for Today’s Trainers

To begin your class, each Trainer should give a brief introduction that will convey (a) their capacity to teach the material, (b) accessibility/approachability, (c) desire for trainee success, and (d) enthusiasm. Tailor your introduction to the learners’ skill level so that you convey competence (without seeming too advanced) and demonstrate that you can relate to the learners. Throughout the workshop, continually demonstrate that you are interested in trainee progress and that you are enthusiastic about the topics. [We will have the opportunity to work more on this later on in the course, so don’t be daunted by the criteria above!]

Information for Today’s Learners

  1. Add your name to the Etherpad
  2. Introduce yourselves (preferably verbally)! In your introduction, (a) explain your work in 3 words and (b) say something you are proud of (not necessarily related to research or teaching).

Our First Exercise

In the Etherpad, write down your name, the best class you ever took (or one class from your top ten, if you can’t decide), and what made it so great. This exercise should take about 2 minutes.

Most of you are probably here because you have attended or helped at a Software or Data Carpentry workshop. To make sure everyone has the same context, we’ll give a brief overview of the Software and Data Carpentry organizations.

A Brief Overview of the Carpentries

Software Carpentry, Data Carpentry, and Library Carpentry are official Lesson Programs of the Carpentries. Together, they comprise communities of volunteer researchers, educators, and more who develop lessons and teach two day workshops on basic computing and data skills for researchers. Software Carpentry focuses on helping researchers develop foundational computational skills; Data Carpentry focuses on helping researchers work effectively with their data through its lifecycle; and Library Carpentry focuses on teaching data skills to people working in library- and information-related roles.

The main goal of these organizations is not to teach specific skills, per se - although those are covered - but rather, to convey best practices that will enable researchers to be more productive and do better research.

Instructor Training Workshop Overview

This two-day training focuses on developing teaching skills that are broadly useful across all of our lessons. These skills will be developed through discussion, practice, and feedback with fellow learners.

We will not be going over Data Carpentry, Library Carpentry, or Software Carpentry workshop content in detail (although you will get familiarity with some of the content through the exercises), This workshop is the first step in becoming a certified Carpentries instructor. The follow-up steps for certification will require that you dig into the workshop content yourself. We’ll talk about that more tomorrow afternoon.

To orient yourself, there is a schedule on the workshop webpage which is linked through this workshop’s Etherpad.

How Learning Works

One of our main emphases will be discussing the “best practices” of teaching. We will be introducing you to a handful of key educational research findings and demonstrating how they can be used to help people learn better and faster.

Building Teaching Skill

Just like learning a new language, a musical instrument, or a sport, teaching is a skill that requires practice and feedback.
We will have many opportunities to practice and give each other feedback throughout this workshop. We welcome questions and dialogue at any point. We’ll be using the Etherpad to help facilitate discussion. Please feel free to ask questions verbally or to put them into the notes or chat box of the Etherpad.

Creating a Positive Learning Environment

One part of making this a productive two days for all of us is a community effort to treat one another with kindness and respect. This training, as in all Carpentries workshops, is subject to the Code of Conduct. We will be able to give our best effort (and have the most fun!) if everyone abides by these guidelines. We will also be discussing and practicing teaching techniques to create a positive and welcoming environment in your classrooms.

Carpentry History and Culture

We will be introducing you to the teaching practices that have been adopted by the Carpentries communities, and our overall philosophy and procedures in order to prepare you to teach Carpentries workshops. The greatest asset of the Carpentries is people like yourselves - people who want to help researchers learn about these ideas and share their own experience and enthusiasm. We hope that this training gives everyone a chance to meet new people and share ideas.

Assessing Trainee Motivation and Prior Knowledge

It’s important to first assess the prior knowledge of the workshop participants because this will influence (to some extent) how you motivate the activities and how you communicate with the attendees.


Have you ever participated in a Software Carpentry, Data Carpentry, or Library Carpentry Workshop?

  1. Yes, I have taken a workshop.
  2. Yes, I have been a workshop helper.
  3. Yes, I organized a workshop.
  4. No, but I am familiar with what is taught at a workshop.
  5. No, and I am not familiar with what is taught at a workshop.

Which of these most accurately describes your teaching experience?

  1. I have been a graduate or undergraduate teaching assistant for a university/college course.
  2. I have not had any teaching experience in the past.
  3. I have taught a seminar, workshop, or other short or informal course.
  4. I have been the instructor-of-record for my own university/college course.
  5. I have taught at the primary or secondary education level.
  6. I have taught informally through outreach programs, hackathons, laboratory demonstrations, and similar activities.

This exercise should take about 3 minutes.

Now that we have a better idea of everyone’s prior knowledge and familiarity with some of the key Carpentries teaching practices, we’re ready to begin our training. Our goal is that by the end, you will have acquired some new knowledge, confidence, and skills that you can use in your teaching practice in general and in teaching Carpentries workshops specifically.

Key Points

  • The Carpentries are communities of practice. We strive to provide a welcoming environment for all learners and take our Code of Conduct seriously.

  • This episode sets the stage for the entire workshop. The introductions and exercises help everyone begin to develop a relationship and trust.

  • This workshop will cover general teaching pedagogy and how it applies specifically to the Carpentries.

  • Learner motivation and prior knowledge vary widely, but can be assessed with a quick multiple choice question.