Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

December Instructor Training Selection Debrief

Many of you who applied for instructor training in December are undoubtedly receiving disappointing news. We had 250 applicants on 45 teams from a wide range of locations. I'd like to talk through a few things about this process and how it played out as I think it will help the community understand the situation we were in with instructor training demand and our ability to meet demand.

Instructor training and consistency in instructor training is a major key to our success and as we seek to scale this training there will be some bumps in the road. The secret, if there is one, to Software Carpentry is the pedagogical approach including tricks and tips for self-reflective teaching that we convey to instructors and continue to advance as a community. For that training to be successful and impactful we have limits to how many people we can train, we are starting to fix that, see below. Bear with us, as with any small organization with pressure to grow, we're finding our way. Community feedback is the essence of what will keep us innovative and relevant to the needs of the scientists around the world, so we welcome feedback, negative and positive on this or any process we use in the Software Carpentry Community.

The intent of this process was for testing an online instructor training method that will enable us to meet the pent-up demand for instructors by teaching a focused online training in a shorter period of time (2-days). We simply don't know if this method will work well at scale, so it is a community experiment. In our in-person instructor trainings for member organizations we use breakouts of of 2-3 person groups where students video each other teaching and reflect on the video seeking to give honest feedback and find ways to improve their approach and methods. This has been an immensely valuable part of our recent cohorts of in-person trainers. We're trying to duplicate that online, and it has been a bumpy road.

In the past, as you may know we've taught instructor training over 9-18 weeks. This drawn-out process has been good for some, but the completion rate of instructors at the end has been abysmal. This is why we've tried to reboot online training in a two-day form. In conjunction with this we're moving from Greg Wilson doing all of the instruction to a new team of instructor trainers. These new trainers are teaching for the first time in this round and our hope is that they will begin to remove the log-jam of instructor training demand throughout 2016.

For this round our process for selection was that 19 community members from the mentoring sub-committee, steering committee and administration were invited to vote on the applications. Teams receiving the most votes were matched with instructors in nearby timezones as possible. We limited the number of teams any one instructor trainer would have to teach to 3. We're new at this and we simply don't know what will and will not work at this scale.

Applications came from 45 teams comprised of 226 individuals. In the end were able to select 9 teams from four continents. The number of people that applied for this training is about 50% of our entire existing instructor corps of 450! We're having some growing pains, and I am sorry we can not immediately meet all team's needs.

I hope you understand the hard place we're in and I also hope we can have all of the teams come to a training soon!

Dialogue & Discussion

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