Pioneering online lesson supplement for carpentries instructor training: Increasing Instructor Participation and Certification Numbers in Africa

The Carpentries is an organisation whose primary goal is to teach researchers introductory concepts for best practices in handling data and basics in coding [1,2]. Volunteer instructors who teach these courses are required to complete a two day curriculum of instructor training and to complete three tasks as part of the checkout process [3]. By February 2018 more than 100 people in Africa had participated in African instructor training workshops but more than half of these participants were not teaching in workshops, either because they did not complete the checkout process or they lacked the opportunity or confidence to teach at workshops.

An African Carpentries Task Force [4], established in 2017, focuses on mentoring initiatives to increase the turnover of instructor trainee to active instructor. Mentoring can enhance professional development and teaching in particular [5]. In the first half of 2018, the African Task Force implemented an online lesson supplement which offered six weekly 90 min sessions for trainees who had participated in instructor training but were not yet teaching at Carpentry workshops [6]. The online sessions covered a core part of the Data Carpentry curriculum and gave participants the opportunity to i) learn parts of the curriculum new to them and ii) experience how The Carpentries lessons are taught in order to build confidence.

The online sessions ran from 20 March 2018 to 24 April 2018 using video conference software and were limited to five participants. The instructor for each session was supported by one assistant instructor, one admin support and one technical support person. Feedback was gathered after each session as well as after the end of the series in a dedicated feedback session.

In this presentation we will further describe the action based research approach [7] that was followed through this unique online supplement to instructor training within the context of the Carpentries “community of practice”. We will reflect on the challenges we experienced over the course of the sessions, discuss the feedback we received from participants and the effect we observed on turnover from trainee to active instructor. Future plans for the next round of online lesson supplement during 2018 will also be shared.



2 Wilson, G (2016) Software Carpentry: lessons learned [version 2; referees: 3 approved]. F1000Research, 3:62 (doi: 10.12688/f1000research.3-62.v2).



5 Ehrich, LC, Hansford, B and Tennent, L (2004) Formal Mentoring Programs in Education and Other Professions: A Review of the Literature. Educational Administration Quarterly, 40:518-540.