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How to Lead a SciProg Workshop

Everyone is welcome to lead a SciProg workshop to share valuable skills with their peers. The topic is up to you! If you’re looking for ideas, here are a few:

  • A software tool that you use every day and think is invaluable to your workflow.

  • A software tool that you want to gain confidence in by teaching it.

For the sake of simplicity, we use the term “software tool” to broadly refer to anything that helps with scientific programming. It can be a programming language, a package or module, a computer program (e.g. a text editor or IDE), a programming concept (e.g. functional programming), programming best practices, etc.

Workshop Format and Expectations

  • Workshops typically last 60 minutes, but can be extended to 90 minutes.

  • Hands-on coding demos are better than slides for teaching software tools.

  • Whenever possible, format your lesson notes so you can share them after the workshop for future reference.

  • Structure your lesson to include a few challenge questions covering what you're teaching.

    • Challenge questions provide opportunities for learners to apply their newly acquired skills.

    • This gives you a chance to help anyone who’s struggling, because you will have a break from teaching the lesson.

    • Challenge questions shouldn’t last longer than 3-5 minutes.

Before the Workshop

  1. Create a GitHub issue to let us know you’re interested in leading a workshop. Our workshop issue template describes everything we need from you.

  2. Prepare your lesson notes according to the Workshop Format and Expectations section above. For example, if you will be teaching about an R package, have a document with all the commands you will run and comments explaining each set of commands.

  3. Go through your notes from scratch at least once before the actual workshop to avoid unexpected issues during the workshop.

    • Pro-tip: start a new Python/R/whatever session before going through your notes to make sure it’ll work the same way on the day of your workshop.
  4. Bring sticky notes (or ask the SciProg organizers to bring some).

    • This idea is taken from Software Carpentry workshops (source). They usually use two colours, but we can get by with only one colour.

    • During the lesson, learners will put up a sticky note on their laptop if they need help. The workshop leader or someone else can then help them.

    • When you start a challenge question, learners put up their sticky note. They take it down once they complete the challenge. This helps gauge how many people still need time for the challenge.

During the Workshop

  1. Arrive 10 minutes in advance at the Library Research Commons, room 7010.

    • The Research Commons is normally reserved for graduate students. You need a code to enter the room. If you’re a graduate student, you can obtain the code here. If you aren’t, let the organizers know.

    • Arrive early to prop open the front door to the Research Commons for non–graduate students and to set up your computer.

  2. Introduce yourself: mention your name, your position and department and a short 1-2 sentence description of what you work on.

  3. Describe the motivation to learn the software tool you’re going to teach. Don’t assume people know this. Sometimes, people show up just because they’ve heard that they should know about the tool, but don’t know exactly why.

    • How do you use the software tool in your own work?

    • What can you do with the software tool?

    • Which tasks are easier thanks to the software tool?

  4. Describe the sticky note system you will use during the workshop.

  5. Workshop time. Good luck!

  6. At the end, invite the learners to provide positive and constructive feedback so you can grow as an instructor.

    • If you use sticky notes, you can ask them to write the feedback on the sticky notes.

After the Workshop

  1. Post a link to the lessons notes (if any) on the workshop’s GitHub issue. If you don’t have somewhere to host your notes, send them to us and we will put them on SciProg’s GitHub under the “lessons” directory.