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RFC Regarding Instructor Discussion Sessions #71

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kariljordan opened this Issue Oct 24, 2018 · 17 comments

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kariljordan commented Oct 24, 2018

Previously we evaluated whether to remove the Instructor Discussion Sessions from the checkout requirement for becoming a Carpentries instructor (see this blog post and vote summary).

The goals of our instructor discussion sessions are for new trainees to meet community members and learn more about how a workshop is run, and how to prepare. We are fulfilling the community component with teaching demos, and more instructor training is happening online. Future instructors are meeting other members of the community through their trainings. Additionally, if instructors want to learn more about running a workshop, it may make more sense for them to do it right before they start preparing when they have questions.

We still want to continue the discussion sessions to give instructors an opportunity to discuss their workshops and prepare, but we’re not going to require it for checkout. Our plan is to continue with the times and format for now, and remove the requirement for checkout. This will give us an opportunity to evaluate discussion sessions, and possibly offer more themed sessions.

The Instructor Development Committee is working to create new opportunities for community engagement. We are therefore proposing to relax the commitments of this committee regarding discussion sessions to give us the time and opportunity to plan.

We are requesting comments from the community, and will make a decision based on community feedback and in coordination with the instructor training team. Please leave your feedback in the issue below by November 5, 2018.

@tkphd

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@kariljordan

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kariljordan commented Oct 24, 2018

Thank you so much for adding the links!! I fixed the original issue as well with the links.

@tkphd

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tkphd commented Oct 24, 2018

Let me paraphrase the blog post, vote minutes, and RFC, to make sure I've got it:

It looks like the Mentorship Subcommittee discussed removing this requirement back in February, but the vote failed (15 yea vs. 16 nay), with one member requesting more discussion. There are no minutes since to document more recent debate (unless this occurred on TopicBox?). It appears that the Instructor Development Committee (IDC) has evaluated the instructor discussion status quo, and concluded that the time required of IDC members to facilitate the discussions outweighs the benefits of participating in the discussions for recent trainees. The IDC wants to free up some time and brain power to design and implement positive change. This RFC seeks feedback on the agreed-upon resolution, which is to reduce the burden of instructor discussions by removing the requirement that trainees participate.

As a recently-minted Instructor, I found the Instructor Discussion valuable because I did it just prior to teaching my first lesson. If I had completed it shortly after the training, I doubt it would have been as meaningful. If my understanding of this change is correct, then I'm in favor of this change: it should help focus the discussions on recently past or imminent lessons, as well as freeing up the IDC to work on developing the Instructor training curriculum and continuing education.

@brownsarahm

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brownsarahm commented Oct 24, 2018

I think removing the requirement to participate in a discussion session at least once might make people never try them. The community aspect has greatly improved my teaching and expectation setting for workshops and discussion sessions the the most frequent way to get this. However, I actually didn't find the session during checkout that helpful, but have found them very helpful as pre/post workshop debriefs. I checked out in November and first taught in March.

What about a provisional certification for completing training, contribution, and a teaching demo. Then allow provisional instructors to be scheduled for a workshop, and require participation in a discussion session prior to teaching the first workshop to complete certification. This keeps the requirement to participate once, but could help reduce some of the burden. Under this model, it might make sense to authorize, for example, member sites or other locations a large community to host their own pre-workshop discussion sessions that count toward certification of their instructors to help with scheduling.

@remram44

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remram44 commented Oct 25, 2018

I have no opinion on this, but I am surprised at the recent efforts to remove steps from the checkout procedure. There was discussion previously (and a vote, which came close) to remove the GitHub contribution requirement already.

Is it the case that many people go through instructor training and then never complete checkout?


On a side note, I like this RFC- style repository keeping track of discussions and votes, but I wish it was clearer which vote passed and which didn't 😉 (example this)

@Jaredabera

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Jaredabera commented Oct 25, 2018

I am a beginner in this kind of learning and sharing platform but I have gained a greater benefit in making this checkout. It has given me the chance to see what others are thinking and doing in this area. At first I couldn't see the need to do the instructors checkout. Then when I saw you guys talking different issues even how to improve teaching techniques and many more. It does give the beginner to see him/her self accordingly. Then helps to move on to the next step such as organizing/hosting Workshops or contribute in what way in the setting. I think and believe its good that everyone should go through the checkout. One thing I wish I can have in the room is a kind of session or experienced trainers that tunes the beginners of the things they should do while in the discussion room for the for the first time. Thank You.

@arockenberger

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arockenberger commented Oct 25, 2018

I don't have a strong preference for either removing the discussion sessions as requirements for checkout completely or leaving them as a mandatory thing. Community size, connectedness and instructor interaction seem to vary greatly depending on where you are in the world. Here in Oslo we have very lively, active community of instructors, helpers and organisers of SWC and adopted workshops; we meet weekly(!!) for a self organised study group and have 1day workshops almost every other week with 30+ participants. Additionally, we have a GitHub group and do a couple of planning and recap meetings per year to organise and schedule our Carpentries efforts. I have been part of this community since 2016. So, for me, personally, being part of the discussion session is neither helpful nor needed; it is just a mandatory requirement for checkout that I somehow have to fit in my tight work schedule and don't really see the point in it.
However, for someone being the only instructor-in-training at their institutions or area, with no one else to talk to and exchange ideas, questions, issues etc., it might be extremely helpful and useful for staying in the community and not giving up on SWC.
Thus, I suggest the following model:
If an instructor-to-be is located in an area or institution with little to no SWC activities and community, the discussion session should be mandatory. If an instructor-to-be is close to or already part of an active community with other certified instructors, these could confirm the participation instead of having to take an additional discussion session.
The second alternative is, however, based mainly on trust and potentially open for misuse (friends confirming for friends…). I think this is negligible though, because you're not gaining anything from becoming a certified SWC instructor apart from being able to teach SWC workshops. And why would you do that if you're not interested in the SWC community and activities to begin with?
Thanks!

@tobyhodges

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tobyhodges commented Oct 25, 2018

As Co-chair of the Instructor Development Committee and one of the more outspoken opponents of this change last time it was raised, I'd like to try to provide a bit more context for this. Especially so as it looks like we didn't do a very good job of documenting our ongoing discussions on this topic in the last few months...

Through almost the whole of this year we've been struggling to recruit hosts for the discussion sessions, with a handful of (amazing) volunteers leading most of the sessions[1]. Additionally, we've seen relatively few instructors attending discussions for pre-/post-workshop [de-]briefings[2], meaning that these discussions are sometimes attended only by checking out trainees who are there because the process requires them to be.

To address the first problem, we ran a few onboarding sessions for new hosts, which were fairly successful and I have been delighted to see more community members volunteering to lead these discussions in the past couple of months. I'd also be interested to hear other ideas for how we might encourage a greater number/diversity of hosts.

The second problem is harder to address. How do we encourage experienced instructors to join the discussions? To come and ask questions of the other instructors before they teach a lesson/organise a workshop? To reflect on and share their experiences from a recent workshop/lesson and gather comments/suggestions from other community members? Why don't they attend already, given that we know there are several workshops being run in any given week?

Without wanting to spend time going back over arguments that I've made before, I still believe that involvement in discussion sessions is helpful for trainees: it gives an opportunity to connect with other members of the community; gives an insight into how amazing, inspiring, and helpful our instructor community is; and our post-workshop debriefs are a great example of the "never teach alone"/feedback and reflection that we teach in our instructor training.

But, as the community has grown quickly over the last year or so, I have to accept that the way that we used to do things may no longer be tenable. The principle purpose of discussion sessions should (IMO) be to give instructors a chance to discuss questions/issues related to teaching and workshops and right now that is not really the case. I strongly believe that they serve to make us a cohesive global community and I would hate to see that stop. But removing the checkout requirement is not the same thing as removing the sessions themselves.

My hope is that, if we do go ahead and remove the checkout requirement, it will allow us to organise more themed discussions like the ones that ran successfully earlier in 2018. I also hope that having fewer checking out trainees would encourage more experienced instructors to join the discussions in the knowledge that they will have more time to explore things that are relevant to them. And, I hope that new instructors/trainees will join the sessions voluntarily anyway.

I must say that I like the suggestion that Sarah (@brownsarahm) made above, perhaps requiring new instructors to attend either a pre- or post-workshop session before/after they teach their first lesson. Of course, people will always be welcome to join outside those parameters - these sessions should always be open to anyone who wants to be involved.

[1]: ~60% of all sessions in 2018 have been hosted by one of six people, ~30% by one of only two
[2]: 77% of all attendees in 2018 have been checking out trainees. This was remarkably consistent throughout the year: 77% Jan-Mar; 77% Apr-Jun; 76% Jul-Sep.

@gvwilson

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gvwilson commented Oct 27, 2018

Can we make "lead at least N instructor discussion sessions per year" a requirement for people to keep their instructor certification? Some orgs require people to stay active (and require them to re-certify if they don't); this might therefore solve two problems at once.

@raynamharris

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raynamharris commented Oct 31, 2018

I am in favor of removing discussions as a requirement. Even though we are building capacity to train Spanish speaking instructors, we do not have the capacity to host enough discussion sessions and demo sessions to match the demand for checkout.

@malvikasharan

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malvikasharan commented Oct 31, 2018

With Karen we were discussing a possibility of in-person instructor discussion session for places which have either a lively community like in Oslo or where time-zone/unreliable-internet makes it impossible for people to attend such meetings. However, if this setting gets approved, such meetings should be reported to the carpentries if used for the check-out process. I am sure a format like this can also be used for coding-demo.

However to add to the discussion, I agree with @arockenberger, it should be a requirement for only those trainers who are new to the community and have no prior involvement. It is easy to track for each session, or can also be asked in the pre-/post- survey.

@alex-konovalov

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alex-konovalov commented Nov 1, 2018

+1 for keeping the discussion requirement in the checkout. I think they are important part of welcoming new instructors into the community.

@ChristinaLK

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ChristinaLK commented Nov 1, 2018

I am in favor of keeping discussion sessions going as a pre/post workshop resource (as this seems to be what most people find useful) but removing participation as a requirement for checkout.

It sounds like the main concern with this approach is that people wouldn't ever attempt the discussion sessions when they will be helpful for them (when prepping for workshops). I'm not sure we'll know until we try it. Personally, I think some people WILL be interested and come anyway and we might be able to use some other strategies to motivate first-time attendees (badges? something similar?). We could still have people in instructor training sign up to attend if they're interested, for example.

@ChristinaLK

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ChristinaLK commented Nov 1, 2018

In a separate comment, because it's a different idea -- the goal of the discussion sessions is to connect people with the broader Carpentry community and to do some knowledge sharing. Instead of the open discussion sessions, what if we had more of a "regional/local/interest" set-up where after training, each instructor is connected with either:
a) a site: sites/members choose a person to be their local contact and this person organizes local meetings/discussions for their instructors
b) OR a region: for different regions of the world, interested people stand up as community organizers and have them organize discussions/events sessions where they can target their local folks but anyone can join.
c) OR, if they want to jump into something like maintenance/mentorship/etc, sign up for that
d) OR, if they're more interested in lessons, getting involved with a lesson community

(This is not * exactly * the way things are organized now, so obviously there would be a fair amount of work to set this up and reorient some of our community structures, but this is maybe another way to create engagement channels that spreads out the load.)
In this case, I wouldn't require a discussion to checkout per se, but I would make sure that each person is connected with the appropriate sub-community that they belong to (site, regional, committee or lesson) before instructor training is over (probably at least joining a mailing list).

@tobyhodges

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tobyhodges commented Nov 6, 2018

Thanks everyone for your input.

The Instructor Development Committee and Instructor Training Team need time to discuss all this and re-envision the goals and requirements for the checkout process for instructor training, but we realize there are several instructor training events taking place through the end of the year. Therefore, we will make the following adjustments:

  • Anyone wishing to complete their Carpentries instructor training checkout through to December 31, 2018 will complete the current requirements for instructor discussion sessions.
  • Anyone wishing to complete their Carpentries instructor training checkout beginning January 1, 2019 will do so with the revised requirements, i.e. anyone who is yet to complete their checkout when 2019 begins will then be required to fulfill whatever new requirements are decided on regarding discussion sessions.

We (the Instructor Training Team, Instructor Development Committee, and Community Engagement Lead) will be re-envisioning these requirements over the next two months. The new requirements will be similar in time commitment to the current discussion session requirement.

@norcalbiostat

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norcalbiostat commented Dec 7, 2018

I'm +1 for keeping the discussion call as a check out requirement AND adding a "re-certification" type requirement where people have to participate in at least one group discussion each year. A group discussion full of newbies is not going to be that helpful for the newbies (if no one knows what's going on, there's noone to help mentor). That would be difficult to manage for sure, but just my 2c. Or perhaps you have to HOST a discussion section sometime in the first couple years of being an instructor.

Requiring it for check out forces the new folks to get to know people in the community better, they're more likely to join mentoring groups (i'm totally assuming based on my own experience here btw). Especially for those of us who are the only instructor in the region and don't have the community that places like UC Davis, UCSD and it sounds like Oslo has.

I expect to be flamed for my dissenting opinion of more work not less. I also admit it may reduce the interest level if there are more hoops to jump through.

@kariljordan

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kariljordan commented Dec 11, 2018

@norcalbiostat your feedback is extremely valuable to me. Thank you for these wonderful ideas.

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