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Suggesting a new discussion session schedule #74

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tobyhodges opened this Issue Nov 29, 2018 · 17 comments

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@tobyhodges
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tobyhodges commented Nov 29, 2018

I've been thinking about ways that we can encourage engagement in instructor discussion after the requirement for attendance is removed from the training checkout process.

I think it's really important to keep regular opportunities for instructors to get together and discuss workshops/lessons that they have taught/will teach i.e. the "standard" pre-/post-workshop briefing format that we've had in the past. But I've also been wondering about other things that we can do with the sessions to help give our community members an insight into how The Carpentries operates and where/how they can get involved if they would like to.

What I'd like to suggest (acknowledging that this would require buy-in from various other parties in different parts of the project) is a rotating schedule of monthly sessions from the different groups and committees that keep The Carpentries running. These sessions could be used however the committee/group in question wants to use it, to engage the wider community in a discussion of their work.

For example, a session with the Infrastructure Committee could be used (like our recent themed discussion session) to gather feedback and input from instructors that would then inform design decisions in future development of the styles repository or other infrastructure. The Mentoring Groups Program might want to use the session as an opportunity for onboarding new mentors and/or showcasing the impact of mentoring for our community members.

At first thought, I came up with the following list of seven groups within The Carpentries who might want to get involved:

  • Infrastructure
  • Maintainers
  • Mentoring Groups
  • Instructor Development
  • Executive Council
  • African Taskforce
  • Community Champions

If we could get commitment from six of these, it would mean each group would host a single hour-long discussion every six months.

What do you think? Would this be a good way to ensure that our instructors (especially those who are newcomers to The Carpentries) can engage with the wider community and the goals of the project? Would this encourage them to get involved in areas of the project that they're interested in? Would this be too much to ask of the members of our various Committees/groups, who already devote plenty of their time to doing wonderful things for The Carpentries?

@kariljordan

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kariljordan commented Dec 5, 2018

For context, I'd like to draw everyone's attention to #71 and #73 for more information.

@tobyhodges

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tobyhodges commented Dec 5, 2018

I hadn't determined that this would replace the current checkout requirement - this Issue only describes a proposal for a new schedule of discussion sessions to encourage engagement with the various different activities taking place in The Carpentries.

I still don't know what I would suggest to do about the checkout process, other than to remove the requirement to attend a discussion session.

@kariljordan

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kariljordan commented Dec 5, 2018

Thanks for that clarity Toby. I updated my comment above. Below are comments from staff as well.

Love the idea of the option for text based discussions, for a couple of reasons beyond Toby's primary point of accessibility. First, there would be a written record of all discussion which people could refer to and add to beyond the hour of the discussion. Not only internet access, but time-zone access hampers check-out/pre-post workshop discussion currently, I feel, and this issue will only grow as The Carpentries community expands into new regions. Setting an hour for people to be online and prepared to participate in a real-time discussion would make the space for dedicated discussion time, just like the video call discussions, but as a side-effect, people present and/or unable to be present could continue to discuss issues and questions for days or simply read the discussion. The etherpad notes are great, but they are often unclear or patchy, as verbal communication is the focus of the video discussions. Now for the challenges; if these discussions were made an option for check-out requirements, we would need to determine a measurement/set of measurements for 'participation'. It will be easier for people to multi-task during these text based discussions (and this may not be a bad thing), so I think there will need to be finite determinations of participation in place. There is always the classic format of post one question and one comment on someone else's question, but maybe we can do better than that. We could also consider setting a time limit for participation outside of the one hour (maybe 3 or 4?) for people to fulfill the requirements (depending on what they are). In addition to making it more possible for people to participate, like I mentioned above, this may be an opportunity to make it more possible for people to check out in uncommon-to-our-current-community time zones. This would add an additional step for the host, who would need to wait for that time period to elapse before reporting attendance. I think there would still need to be a host, but the role of the host would be different in this format, and that would need to be well documented. Similarly, the format of these discussions would need to be well-documented and understood by participants to keep the discussion from being a willy-nilly of question answering and commenting, with no coordinated focus or organisation. I'm not sure what this format would look like, but I would want it to help retain the sense of community that I get from discussion sessions, there a sense of togetherness, listening, cohesion. I know that the themed discussions were very well attended, and I think that it is a great idea to run with that by expanding the categories of themes to committees, etc... I think, psychologically, people are more excited about and better able to justify attendance if they have a clear idea of what will be discussed during the hour. I assume that any one of the committee, monthly themed, text based, pre/post or Q&A sessions being held within three months of the trainee's instructor training would fulfill the check out requirement, and I think giving the trainees many options is a great way to go. Not only will the be more flexible to pick a check-out requirement discussion that fits their schedule and interests, they will be exposed to the breadth of areas of involvement that are open to them as they make the choice! One challenge that I see is with the monthly Q&A sessions; I feel we may have the same problem here as we do with the discussion sessions currently, in that no/not very many experienced instructors will show up. What if we made it standard to have a 10 min Q&A session built into every community meeting? Or in just some discussions (themed and pre/post maybe)? Then, instructors can discuss what they are excited to discuss/can justify as being more useful to them and the instructors (maybe newer) with questions can listen and learn and know that at the end there will be some time for them to ask questions. If there are no questions when it gets to that time, I'm sure there will still be plenty to discuss! Plus, I bet if given the opportunity, experienced instructors may have random questions too.

I like the idea of fostering discussion via Slack. Even for people that have better bandwidth, you can still have issues with Zoom. And for some people, text-based communication can be less intimidating, but it can also be a more flexible communication medium, where people can chat at reasonable hours of the day. My first reaction to the themed discussion was that there might be too many themes? Otherwise, I can offer my experience with The Carpentries in Libraries monthly calls. It takes some time to decide on the theme, find speakers, develop the content for the sessions. I'm currently trying to wrangle with the schedule for next year and it is taking some time. The calls have been dominated by the theme/talk. We've built in time for community discussion but the guest speaker has always needed more time and people are mostly focused on the talk theme. FYI, here is The Carpentries in Libraries page.

@wrightaprilm

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wrightaprilm commented Dec 5, 2018

I'm not sure I understand this correctly. Can I summarize, and see if I'm on-base?

Discussion attendance is being removed as a requirement for instructor check-out [Edit: My misunderstanding, see below]. But we'd still like to encourage new instructors to hear about different roles in the community and how they can become involved in these roles. What's proposed here is a schedule of discussion sessions where anyone, not just new instructors, could hear from a person who occupies a certain type of role in the community. And that person could talk about anything - whether they want to use that discussion just to inform, or to recruit help, or talk about open challenges, etc.

If I'm understanding that correctly, I like the idea a lot. We often have ongoing challenges in the dc-ecology-py repo, and there's no real centralized way to recruit help on them. You can tag things well - but people need to know to go look. You can try tweeting about it, but that's always a mixed bag. I can see easily how this could benefit both people doing longer-term work, and people looking to be more involved.

But we did used to have community calls, and they ended up petering out due to lack of participation. Generating and sustaining a series like this is a big undertaking. It doesn't seem like a lot, but having enough interest from folks looking to be involved is tricky. Do we have evidence that there is consistent demand for this type of call? Is there a large population of members who want to be more involved, but don't know how? Perhaps one way to approach it might be to have each speaker make a condensed set of notes that could be put on the blog the week before the session, so that folks could see what's on the docket, and the event could be promoted?

@kariljordan

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kariljordan commented Dec 5, 2018

Hi @wrightaprilm. Thank you so much for the summary. We have not decided to remove discussion sessions as a requirement officially. It is an idea that is on the table though. If the requirement is removed, we (the Instructor Development Committee and Instructor Training Team) must provide ways for new instructors to get involved with community meetings, and that's what Toby is proposing.

I love your ideas! Thank you for your comments and questions.

@wrightaprilm

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wrightaprilm commented Dec 5, 2018

OK, thanks for that update - the discussion around this has really sprawled! This, then, would be an optional monthly event that could potentially replace that requirement (if it is removed), but would otherwise be an open discussion for anyone who wants to be more involved?

Something else that might work might be mixing up speakers from the seven categories, with each week being a round robin of topics. That way it's not like "Oh, I missed the call on something I'm interested in, see you in 6 mo." And it's pressure off any one group. If you, as an infrastructure member, do have some pressing need to recruit community input and you can't make one month, you can get the next month rather than 6 mo.

@dvanic

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dvanic commented Dec 6, 2018

Sorry, so is the final proposed setup:

  1. Instructor checkout sessions, where trainee instructors can get feedback on their teaching as part of the checkout process
  2. Monthly discussion sessions around a specific topic
  3. ? frequency pre/post workshop debrief sessions

Am I missing something, or have I gotten something wrong? (sorry, just trying to wrap my head around the discussion)

@karenword

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karenword commented Dec 6, 2018

@dvanic I think your # 1 refers to teaching demonstration sessions, which would remain unchanged and required. We would also retain our requirement for a lesson contribution as part of instructor checkout. Currently the third requirement is attendance at an Instructor Discussion session, but here we are considering permitting attendance at a themed community call as an alternative (not an addition), to take some of the pressure off of the Discussions (because they aren't scaling well). I think the idea is that these themed meetings can be larger and that the effort involved in operating them can be distributed among other community groups, with benefits to them of having a new avenue for communication and recruitment.

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karenword commented Dec 6, 2018

In a conversation yesterday we brainstormed ideas for making sessions like these -- which we could consider a revived form of Community Calls? -- bigger, without losing the participatory component. Using the breakouts feature on Zoom combined with etherpad responses from groups would allow us to invite community connection & discussion (the primary goal of this activity for checkout) as well as distribute important information in a more standard presentation format to a fairly large audience.

@ChristinaLK

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ChristinaLK commented Dec 6, 2018

I like the idea of community calls -- a central place for people to connect w/ breakouts for the participatory component. I think these lapsed because there was no one to sustain them pre community-manger role.

Big +1 from me.

@karinlag

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karinlag commented Dec 9, 2018

I'm with @ChristinaLK here, community calls with small discussion sessions in breakout rooms is an amazing idea.

@tobyhodges

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tobyhodges commented Dec 10, 2018

I guess something like community calls was what I was thinking of when I proposed the above. The reason they ended before was because of lack of interest? It would be good to collect ideas about how to ensure good attendance in the future but I suppose that's a conversation best left until The Carpentries once more has a Community Lead.

@ChristinaLK

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ChristinaLK commented Dec 10, 2018

Not to drag the whole checkout thing back into this, but if everyone had to attend a community call as part of "checkout" you'd definitely have attendance!

I think it's possible to get attendance, esp. with someone (community lead) leading the charge. The calls before petered out pre-community lead because it does take time and focused effort to build them up and we didn't have the bandwidth.

@karinlag

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karinlag commented Dec 10, 2018

In my experience, meetings where the attending people are expected to have an opinion on something (and are told about that beforehand) actually might draw some people. Just receiving information is something that can be accomplished by a one-way email. Having something where you need input/feedback/suggested solutions or something along those lines might jog loose more attendees.

@wrightaprilm

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wrightaprilm commented Dec 10, 2018

Agree, @karinlag. I am going to fully admit that the last community call I attended was in 2014, and a large part of that was just not knowing what would be on the call, or perceiving it was just news. If the new community lead is seriously interested in these, and would be willing to put in time to get commitments (i.e. "I need input from the community on this - come discuss at the community call!") from various stakeholders so the meeting could be promoted, this could be very successful.

Everyone doing longer-term work for the Carpentries has little tasks that would be helpful to get community feedback on, but organizing is non-trivial.

@tracykteal

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tracykteal commented Dec 10, 2018

Also +1 on community calls that are interactive and have a particular topic for feedback and active engagement. It is the case that the community calls were discontinued because of a lack of attendance/interest. From feedback here, it sounds like rebooting them as a way to introduce new people to the community through checkout & have discussions on various aspects of the community would have them be something people would be excited to attend, and that's what we would want!

We could structure them in a similar way for each meeting, and rotate topics. For instance a meeting structure of:

  • Brief welcome and intro to The Carpentries and CoC (2-5 minutes)
  • Zoom break out rooms for small group introductions to each other, for instance name, where you're from, what you work on in 3 words or less and one thing you're proud of that you made. (5 minutes). This would let us meet new people and connect with each other, even in a larger setting. Also it shows how we start a workshop.
  • Presentation from the presenting group (15 minutes)
  • Question(s) from the presenting group for discussion for Zoom small group breakouts (5 - 10 minutes)
  • Everyone back together, presenting group can discuss the responses and/or answer questions that came up on the etherpad (~15 minutes)
  • Recap and how to get involved more in that topic, and reminding new instructors on how to get checked off for the community call/discussion requirement (5 min)

We also will want to make sure there are good times for people in all time zones so should probably have 3 Community Call times. Since the group presenting would rotate every month, and different people from a committee could present, this hopefully shouldn't be too much of a burden.

Maybe for Jan - March, we could try this out, and people could check out either by attending a Community Call or a discussion session? The number of discussion sessions would be more limited than they are now, with the idea that most new instructors would attend the Community Calls, but leaving a few options for people who can't make those times.

@karinlag

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karinlag commented Dec 10, 2018

@tracykteal , I really like your outline.

@tobyhodges I think maybe the Code of Conduct committee could be one of the ones participating in the rotation?

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