Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

2015 Post-Workshop Instructor Debriefing, Round 21

The mentoring subcommittee held the 21st round of debriefing for instructors on October 27. We had some great discussions with a few instructors about recent workshops and their experiences with implementing a module on imposter syndrome and methods for integrating lessons throughout the workshop.

Module on Imposter Syndrome

A workshop in October at University of Michigan added a module on stereotype threat and imposter syndrome. Students were asked to read a blog post from Dynamic Ecology prior to the workshop. During the module, instructors (Michelle Berry and Marian Schmidt) defined stereotype threat and imposter syndrome and shared a personal story about when they personally dealt with these issues. Students discussed in small groups how they might counter these problems, and then worked with a partner to post answers to each of the following prompts in the etherpad:

  • One thing you can do to try to counter stereotype threat that you might experience related to this workshop.
  • One thing you think classmates can do to try to counter stereotype threat or imposter syndrome in themselves.
  • One thing you think classmates can do to try to avoid triggering stereotype threat in others.

While one student questioned the usefulness of this exercise on the post-class assessment, several learners (especially women) gave positive feedback about this module. Moreover, this exercise encouraged students to use the etherpad as a collaborative and information-sharing tool.

Integrating lessons

Students continue to express interest in understanding how the independent lessons we teach fit together in practice. Instructors mentioned a few strategies noted to help link different sections of material. Following a lesson on R-genomics (see teaching notes here), UMich instructors showed a demo of analyzing genomic data with a script, which helped link the R and shell lessons.

We also discussed the importance of the order of lessons. Placing git as the last lesson may be challenging for some learners, and teaching it earlier (afternoon of Day 1) will allow you to demo integration with RStudio. This teaching order can still allow you to teach git using a shell script (instead of plan text file), which can also integrate the useful of git with coding practices. The tradeoff is that some students may be overwhelmed by the double cognitive load of trying to keep coding syntax straight while also learning git. These decisions will be partially based on the background of learners. Tiffany Timbers has two modified git lessons that help with integration of shell, either through creation of a README.md or by using a script in the collaboration section.

Thanks

We are grateful to the instructors who attended debriefing sessions this round:

  • Michelle Berry
  • Ariel Rokem
  • Tiffany Timbers
  • Marian Schmidt

Dialogue & Discussion

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