Instructor Notes

Table of Contents

I. Information For and About Instructor Trainers

Details about the Instructor Trainer role including the application process, duties, meetings, and administrative instructions are now housed in the Carpentries Handbook. To the extent that information in those instructions is directly pertinent to teaching an Instructor Training workshop, some items may be duplicated here. All other information previously housed on this page may now be found in the handbook. Instructions on running a Demo session are also provided in the Trainer Guide.

II. Running an Instructor Training Event (General)

Four Weeks before the Event

  • Contact your co-Trainer(s) to plan how you will co-teach. Suggested discussion questions include:
    • Are all Trainers able to be present throughout the event? If someone needs to step away, you can request a backup co-Trainer during that time if you wish.
    • What are some useful tips and tricks to organize yourself, pace yourself, share resources, etc. while teaching?
    • How do you ensure that all trainees stay engaged and participate?
    • How can Trainers help each other (at times when we are not the active Trainer)? How should we communicate with each other during the training?
    • How can we address trainee challenges? These may include internet connectivity problems, distractions caused by working from home, etc.
  • Create an event Etherpad using the Etherpad template). (Google Doc template may not be maintained) and a workshop website (using the training template). If you find areas where the template needs to be updated, please email suggested changes to . You are welcome to make quick fixes (e.g. links) yourself
  • Send Etherpad/Google Doc and website links to
  • Consider forking the Instructor Training curriculum and doing all of your preparation work based on your fork so that any changes do not impact your preparation.

One Week before the Event

  • Plan logistics with co-Trainer(s)
    • Review your teaching schedule.
  • Review (or set aside time closer to the event to review) the pre-assessment survey results for your workshop
  • For online events:
    • Test videoconferencing set up using login credentials provided.
    • Make a copy of the Virtual Minute Cards template and personalize for your event.
    • Plan how you will have trainees watch videos. If you plan to play them on zoom, familiarize yourself with audio settings and consider an ad management strategy.
  • For in-person events:
    • Confirm that breakout rooms are available or make an alternate plan
    • Determine who will bring paper (if needed for concept mapping) and sticky notes (for minute cards & demonstration).
    • Make sure you are prepared for the audiovisual setup in your room with the correct dongles/connectors etc.
    • Check on availability/timing of breaks, lunch, etc.
    • Familiarize yourself with the room, building, and accessibility resources as possible.

During the event

  • Take attendance. When marking trainees absent due to missed time, be sure to add notes describing what time was missed.
  • Monitor the Etherpad / Google Doc for questions and responses to exercises.
  • For online events, ensure that you are logged into the Zoom room with the host key so that you can mute participants and create breakout rooms as needed.
  • For self-organised training events, it may be necessary to remind trainees to fill out the application.

Immediately after the event

Long-term after the event

  • Join a Trainer discussion meeting to share details about your event with other Trainers. Consider:
    • What instructional choices did you make for this event, and why?
    • Did anything happen that would be interesting or useful for other Trainers to know or think about?
    • What activities worked well? Where were the rough patches?
    • Is there anything you would do differently next time?

Using Slides

Whether or not slides should be used during instructor training is a subject of frequent discussion.

The main advantage is that slides provide a visual aid when explaining complex concepts or when presenting learning objectives and challenges. The most notable disadvantage is that it can give the false impression that it is okay to use slides rather than live coding in SWC/DC/LC workshops For online instructor training events, there are two additional risks: the slides may fail to advance using Zoom’s screen share feature and you risk losing the audience’s attention because your face is less prominent.

If you chose to use slides in your workshop, this Google Drive folder contains slides with diagrams, cartoons, and text that trainers have used past workshops. Feel free to reuse the existing materials or add your own slides.

Using Etherpad

Each workshop will have an Etherpad. You can use the Instructor Training Etherpad template to quickly copy and paste challenges or useful information into your Etherpad.

Given the central role that Etherpad plays is running Carpentry workshops, you may want to take a minute to explain how to create a pad, what pads can be used for, and how long pads stick around. You may also want to point attendees to the “pad of pads”.

General Preparation

  • Have water and cough drops nearby.
  • Decide ahead of time if you will be using google docs or an Etherpad.
  • Most people like or enjoy this training.
  • There is no such thing as “too much coffee” or “too many donuts”

Using Helpers/Co-Instructors

If you have a helper for the training, or want to involve your co-instructor more, here are some ways where it is easy to do so without much prep:

  • give an example of a mental model in “Building Skill with Practice”
  • tell a motivational/demotivational story in “Motivation and Demotivation”
  • help collect 1-up, 1-down feedback by either writing or directing the participants
  • find + talk about a good (or bad) learning objective in “Preparing to Teach”
  • have this person monitor the chat (if online) and answer questions, catch “hands”

Episode order

Experience has shown that the current order of episodes works quite well. If you are a new Trainer, we recommend following the official order, however, the material is flexible enough to allow small shifts in episode order. If you are an experienced Trainer and you would like to re-arrange the schedule, make sure to communicate with your trainees and co-Trainers!

III. Online vs In Person Training Events

In-person trainings

  • When watching videos, project them to the whole group.
  • Assign (or let participants select) physical breakout groups.
  • Use physical sticky notes to get minute card feedback at lunch breaks and end of each day.

Online trainings (a few small groups)

  • When watching videos, have one Trainer do a screenshare with their audio on or have one person in each group play the video for the participants at their site.
  • Assign (or let participants select) physical breakout groups.
  • Use the virtual minute card form to get feedback at lunch breaks and end of each day.
  • Have participants do all small-group exercises with participants at same site.
  • See section IV below for more tips.

Online trainings (completely distributed)

  • When watching videos, have all participants watch separately.
  • Assign breakout groups randomly to breakout rooms in Zoom. Be sure to remove Trainers and helpers when assigning groups.
  • Use the virtual minute card form to get feedback at lunch breaks and end of each day.
  • Have participants screen share with their breakout room during the live coding exercises.
  • For exercise to set up a workshop website, put participants in breakout rooms and have one person screen share while the others help guide them verbally.
  • See section IV below for more tips.

IV. Using Zoom for Online Trainings

Online Carpentry Instructor Training events are held on Zoom. You can set up a personal Zoom account for yourself for free. This personal account will be able to attend the training event (or any other online Carpentry event), but will not be able to act as host.

Becoming the meeting host

About a week before your event, you will be given login credentials for a Carpentry account. Alternatively, if no one has yet claimed “host” in your session, you can click “claim host” next to your name in the Participants list; you will be asked for a 6-digit host key, which you can find in this message. See the explanation here for step-by-step instructions on how to claim host in Zoom Rooms using the host key.

General tips for online training:

  • Support the lead
    • Ways that you can support your co-teacher when they are leading are:
      • Monitor the chat in zoom/notes
      • Help post exercises + provide instructions
      • Find links or references
    • When you take turns instructing, remember to hand-off host privileges as needed, especially if anyone is stepping away.
  • Exercise management
    • After the first exercise, keep a list of all the participants in a plain text file on your computer so can you can easily paste it into the shared note-taking doc for exercises. This way, everyone immediately has a place to start writing.(GW) Tip: randomise the order of names every once in a while so it is not always the same person that is first or last in the list, and thus may get more or less attention when you discuss the responses (LN).
    • Screen-share a timer/countdown clock (like this timer from so participants know how long they have to work on exercises. (L.N) Cuckoo timers can also be helpful, especially during breakout room sessions: the countdown timer is shared between everyone visiting the webpage and all participants will hear an alarm sound when the timer runs out.
  • Shared notes tips
    • No matter what kind of shared doc you are using, it is usually a good idea to create two documents – one for each day of the training.
      • Suggestion from AN: create a third doc for sharing concept maps, since they are images and can slow down the document.
    • Etherpad pros + cons
      • Pros: line numbers
      • Cons: simple formatting
    • Google Doc pros + cons
      • Pros: richer formatting
      • Cons: no line numbers
    • Have a plaintext list of names that you can paste into the Etherpad/Google Doc. Reduces confusion when a bunch of people need to answer something at once, and subtly makes it clear that everyone needs to respond.
  • Zoom tips
    • Announce at the beginning of the training that all participants should mute when they are not talking. You may need to repeat this a few times during the early part of the training, until people are doing it consistently.
    • In general, it works best to have everyone use zoom individually on their computers (so you can see everyone’s faces); for trainings where some of the participants are co-located, have them use their own computer for video but pick one person to use for mic/sound.
    • “Gallery view” in the upper right toggles the display to show more participants’ videos.
    • “Share screen” is at the bottom middle of the screen. To end “share screen”, click the red button that will appear at the top middle of the screen when you are in screen sharing mode.
    • When you screen share, you have the option to share individual apps or your entire desktop. The default is the full desktop.
    • The Zoom chat is not stable (it is not saved across sessions or after going into breakout rooms, and people who have just joined a room cannot see previously posted chat items). We highly recommend using the Etherpad or Google Doc chat instead. For those who want to save the chat, they do that using the “More” option in the chat window, which offers “Save chat”. Choosing this will save the chat to a local text file on the person’s computer.
    • During breaks, learners will often turn off their video and wait for your audio cue to re-activate. This makes it look like no one is back from break, but just saying ‘hello’ will generally get a bunch of people to come back on video quickly.
    • When several attendees are in the same room (member trainings): it is helpful to have every participant log in separately so that you can see names and faces and they can interact by waving or using the chat. However, it is important that only one microphone and speaker should be active in the room at one time or feedback and noise will be a problem. When creating breakouts, you can either leave these people in the main room or shuffle people around to create a room just for them. Either way, ask them to leave a mic on so you can listen in.
    • Attendees might like to have a separate room (without Trainers) to network in over lunch or other breaks. Be prepared to assign that room and then close it to restart the main session.
    • You can never practice too much with Zoom!

V. Curriculum Teaching Tips

This is a place for Trainers to leave tips and observations for those newer to the curriculum. This can provide guidance on how to navigate difficult places in the curriculum until problems can be fixed, or may provide additional instructions that are conditional to an audience or are otherwise not appropriate to/ready for a change in the curriculum itself.


  • Giving breaks is extremely important – for learners to decompress, take a walk, check email, etc. Make sure to give learners a full 60 minutes for lunch and 15-20 minutes for the morning/afternoon break. (EW)

  • Make good use of breaks - use them for a short exercise, or just give a break entirely for people to take a breather.


  • From JS: “What happens is that we send participants home at the end of day one with a request to look up more about the Carpentries workshop types and then we ask them what questions they have at the start of day two. While the intent is that these questions will be put in the Etherpad and then taken up later in one way or another this does not happen or at least only happens in part. The result is either a lot of saying,”We will cover that this afternoon” or pulling parts of the relevant afternoon sessions into the morning. Participants thus either end up a little frustrated (because they would really like an answer now) or the schedule ends up being a little fractured.”
    • Response from CK: I have never had the problem described by JS; people are usually willing to wait (especially once we dive into live coding), and I make sure to answer all questions (and take new ones!) in the afternoon.
    • Response from KW: Another option is to have people put questions into the Etherpad in the morning, and then answer them (in the Etherpad) during the live coding practice. Trainees can read them at any time then, and you can refer back to them when necessary.

Building Skill with Practice

Expertise and Instruction

Memory and Cognitive Load

Building Skill with Feedback

Motivation and Demotivation

As written, this can run long. Suggestions:

  • CK: In general, I approach this section as “which 3 out of the N exercises do I want to make SURE I do?” and then if there is time (or interest! depends on the group) I will add or adapt.


Teaching is a Skill

Wrap-Up and Homework

Welcome Back

Live Coding is a Skill

Lesson Study

More Practice Live Coding

Managing a Diverse Classroom

The Carpentries: How We Operate

  • CK: Not an “official” exercise, but after explaining the workshops and how to run them, go around the room, asking each person if they have a question + then answer them.

  • Exercise: Creating a Workshop Website

    • CK: This takes some time, so some people opt to skip this section. Inevitably, when working with a group of mixed experience with GitHub, some will be able to zip through this exercise, where others will struggle. We have gotten positive feedback about this exercise as well, where learners felt like it was a valuable experience. Can be especially valuable for groups that will probably be running workshops on their own (so open trainings, or trainings for folks who are ready to get started right away).
  • CK: The coffee break after this would be a great time for an “Ask and Offer” if the group is interested.

Workshop Introductions

  • More or less time
    • CK: The second major exercise (writing a mini-introduction and then practicing) can be made longer if you have the time or people are very keen on practicing their introductions. Instead of 2 minutes, people could talk for 4-5 minutes each.

Afternoon Wrap-Up

VI. Teaching Demonstration Tips

Here are suggestions from the Trainer Community for running a low stress teaching demo. For official/technical guidelines on how to run a demo, see the Handbook.

Points to make during introductions:

  • This is not a high-stakes test! This is a friendly opportunity to give and receive feedback. On occasion, we do invite people to return for a second try. If we do this, your follow-up email will contain very clear instructions on exactly what we would like you to change on your next visit. This does not mean we do not want you as an instructor, it means we want you to be ready to put your best foot forward in the classroom and we are here to help you do that. (KW)
  • I will not tell anyone that they have passed or ask anyone to repeat during this session. That information will come in the follow up email. (KW)
  • The feedback you give sometimes says as much or more about your approach to instruction as the demo itself. (KW)
  • Have trainees introduce themselves (name and institution or location) at the start. This makes sure everyone knows where the mute button is. (EB)
  • I have already determined a random order for you each to do your demonstration. When it is your turn, you will have a minute or two to set up your screen. You will screen share (describe where the button is) and will have the option to share your whole Desktop or just a single application. I recommend sharing only the application you will be teaching from, that way you can keep your notes up on your screen without us seeing them. It is perfectly fine to teach using your notes - that is how I always teach. (EB)
  • When your time is up, I will stop you and ask you to give feedback on yourself and then ask others to add their feedback. (EB)

Different ways of managing feedback:

  • Create your own Etherpad and populate it with episode links, feedback templates, whatever. For example: etherpad-teaching-demo-template (LS)
  • Use +/- content delivery rubric. (Or use “improvement” in place of “-” as suggested by MC). Keep in mind that some learners (like some Trainers) do not have the content expertise to be able to fully evaluate that category for all lessons.
  • If there is time (4 people or less) you can do feedback entirely verbally, or have them issue verbal feedback after writing notes in the Etherpad. If you do this, suggest having presenter give their own feedback, then other learners, then Trainer can summarize/disagree/add/emphasize as needed.
  • I take notes on physical paper during each demo with points I think need to be made, then mark things off as others mention them in their feedback. Usually, the trainees catch most of the things I wanted to mention, and I can choose just one or two things to comment on. (EB)

Points to make during wrap-up:

  • Thank you for your excellent feedback! Instructors like you help to make this community what it is.
  • I will follow up with each of you by email within ___ (time period). If you do not hear from me by __ feel free to check in.