Instructor Training: Key Points and References

Key Points

  • The Carpentries is a community 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 evidence-based teaching practices and how they apply specifically to The Carpentries.

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

Building Skill With Practice
  • Our goal when teaching novices is to help them construct useful mental models.

  • Exploring our own mental models can help us prepare to convey them.

  • Constructing a useful mental model requires practice and corrective feedback.

  • Formative assessments provide practice for learners and feedback to learners and instructors.

Expertise and Instruction
  • Experts face challenges when teaching novices due to expert awareness gaps.

  • Things that seem easy to us are often not experienced that way by our learners.

  • With practice, we can develop skills to overcome our expert awareness gaps.

Memory and Cognitive Load
  • Most adults can store only a few items in short-term memory for a few seconds before they lose them again.

  • Things seen together are remembered (or mis-remembered) in chunks.

  • Cognitive load should be managed through guided practice to facilitate learning and prevent overload.

  • Formative assessments can help to consolidate learning in long-term memory.

Building Skill With Feedback
  • Give your learners time to fill out the post-workshop survey at the end of your workshop.

  • Take the time to respond to your learners’ feedback.

Motivation and Demotivation
  • A positive learning environment helps people concentrate on learning.

  • People learn best when they see the utility in what they’re learning and believe it can be accomplished with reasonable effort.

  • Encouraging participation and embracing errors helps learners to stay motivated.

Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility
  • Inclusivity is a key attribute of a positive learning environment.

  • Universal design benefits everyone.

Teaching is a Skill
  • Like all other skills, good teaching requires practice and feedback.

  • Lesson study is essential to transferring skills among teachers.

  • Feedback is most effective when those involved share ground rules and expectations.

End Part 2 and Homework
  • So far, we have learned about how people learn, how to build a positive classroom environment, and how to give feedback.

  • In parts 3 and 4 we will cover specifics of Carpentries workshops and teaching practices.

Welcome Back
  • Instructors guide learners to construct the proper big picture (accurate mental model) of the topic rather than focus on details.

  • Instructors rely on frequent feedback from learners to monitor their own presentation of the material.

  • Instructors introduce a few concepts at a time to avoid cognitive overload.

  • The best way to motivate learners? Show them how to do something they can immediately put to use and be enthusiastic about it.

  • Teaching is a learned skill.

Getting Started on Instructor Certification
  • To certify, you must contribute to a lesson, take part in a discussion, and do a teaching demo within 90 days of your training event.

The Carpentries: How We Operate
Live Coding is a Skill
  • Live coding forces the instructor to slow down.

  • Coding-along gives learners continuous practice and feedback.

  • Mistakes made during participatory live coding are valuable learning opportunities.

Preparing to Teach
  • To teach effectively, you have to know who you are teaching.

  • Good learning objectives identify specific events that can be evaluated through formative assessment.

  • A good exercise informs Learners and Instructors when an objective is achieved.

More Practice Live Coding
  • (Reflective) Practice makes perfect.

Working With Your Team
  • Team work takes work, but allows you to share the load and build connections.

  • Working with a broad range of learners can be challenging, but there are many ways to keep a classroom happy and motivated.

  • The instructional team decides how to respond to Code-of-Conduct incidents during a workshop; all violations should be reported to The Carpentries Code of Conduct committee for follow-up.

Launches and Landings
  • A planned introduction is key to creating a functional workshop environment.

  • Conclusions support reflective practice and set the stage for continued learning.

Putting It Together
  • Having a plan makes it easier for you to remember to implement the important teaching practices you have learned.

Wrapping Up
  • Feedback applies to all kinds of learning, including learning how to teach.


Susan Ambrose et al: How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching.
An excellent overview of what we know about education and why we believe it is true, covering everything from cognitive psychology to social factors.
Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill: The Discussion Book.
Describes fifty different ways to get groups talking productively.
Joshua Foer: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.
Discusses memory techniques within the context of training for the U.S. Memory Championship. Compelling read and also very informative.
Elizabeth Green: Building a Better Teacher.
A well-written look at why educational reforms in the past 50 years have mostly missed the mark, and what we should be doing instead.
Mark Guzdial: Learner-Centered Design of Computing Education: Research on Computing for Everyone.
A well-researched investigation of what it means to design computing courses for everyone, not just people who are going to become professional programmers, from one of the leading researchers in CS education.
Doug Lemov: Teach Like a Champion 2.0.
Presents 62 classroom techniques drawn from intensive study of thousands of hours of video of good teachers in action.
Therese Huston: Teaching What You Do not Know.
A pointed, funny, and very useful book that explores exactly what the title suggests.
James Lang: Small Teaching.
A short guide to evidence-based teaching practices that can be adopted without requiring large up-front investments of time and money.
Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher: Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing.
A groundbreaking report on the gender imbalance in computing, and the steps Carnegie-Mellon took to address the problem.
Claude M. Steele: Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do.
Explains and explores stereotype threat and strategies for addressing it.


Baume: “Writing and Using Good Learning Outcomes
A useful detailed guide to constructing useful learning outcomes.
Borrego and Henderson: “Increasing the Use of Evidence-Based Teaching in STEM Higher Education: A Comparison of Eight Change Strategies
Describes eight approaches to effecting change in STEM education that form a useful framework for thinking about how Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry can change the world.
Brown and Altadmri: “Investigating Novice Programming Mistakes: Educator Beliefs vs Student Data
Compares teachers’ opinions about common programming errors with data from over 100,000 students, and finds only weak consensus amongst teachers and between teachers and data.
Carroll, Smith-Kerker, Ford, and Mazur-Rimetz: “The Minimal ManualHuman–Computer Interaction, 3:2, 123-153, 1987.
Outlines an approach to documentation and instruction in which each lesson is one page long and describes how to accomplish one concrete task. Its focus on immediate application, error recognition and recovery, and reference use after training makes it an interesting model for Software and Data Carpentry.
Crouch and Mazur: “Peer Instruction: Ten Years of Experience and Results
An early report on peer instruction and its effects in the classroom.
Deans for Impact: “The Science of Learning
Summarizes cognitive science research related to how students learn, and connects it to practical implications for teaching and learning.
Guzdial: “Exploring Hypotheses about Media Computation
A look back on 10 years of media computation research.
De Bruyckere et al: “Urban Myths About Learning and Education
A one-page summary drawn from their book of the same name.
Gormally et al: “Feedback about Teaching in Higher Ed: Neglected Opportunities to Promote Change
Summarizes best practices for providing instructional feedback and recommends specific strategies for sharing instructional expertise.
Guzdial: “Why Programming is Hard to Teach
A chapter from Making Software that explores why programming seems so much harder to teach than some other standard subjects.
Kirschner et al: “Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching
Argues that inquiry-based learning is less effective for novices than guided instruction.
Lee: “What can I do today to create a more inclusive community in CS?”.
A brief, practical guide on exactly that with references to the research literature.
Mayer and Moreno: “Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning
Shows how research into how we absorb and process information can be applied to the design of instructional materials.
Porter et al: “Success in Introductory Programming: What Works?
Summarizes the evidence that three techniques—peer instruction, media computation, and pair programming—can significantly improve outcomes in introductory programming courses.
Wiggins and McTighe: “UbD in a Nutshell
A four-page summary of the authors’ take on reverse instructional design.
Wilson et al: “Good Enough Practices in Scientific Computing”.
Describes and justifies a minimal set of computing practices that every researcher could and should adopt.
Wilson et al: “Best Practices for Scientific Computing
Describes and justifies the practices that mature scientific software developers ought to use.
Wilson: “Software Carpentry: Lessons Learned
Summarizes what we have learned in 17 years of running classes for scientists.