FAQs: Volunteering for a Carpentries Workshop

Below are some answers to common questions regarding volunteering at a Carpentries workshop! If you have any additional questions, please reach out to faciliator@datascience.wisc.edu.

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How can I get involved in the Carpentries instructional community?

As a Carpentries member, you can sign up to observehelp, or instruct a wide variety of computational workshops each year. You can select which role you prefer using the workshop volunteer form we send in our emails. See below to learn more about each volunteer role!

Observers: Workshop observers include anyone who is interested in learning more about the workshop before signing up as a helper or instructor. Observers can optionally help answer questions during the workshop if/when they are able to, but this is not required.  We will have workshop helpers available to make sure all questions get answered.  This is an opportunity to advance your computational skills for free before helping or instructing at a later date!

Helpers: Help troubleshoot bugs and answer questions from learners during the workshop. We typically try to have at least 1 helper for every 5 learners at the workshop. This ratio helps us make sure that no learner gets left behind during the workshop! See our Helping section below for more details on helping.

Instructors: Instructors are responsible for leading the workshop via hands-on coding and exercises that are provided from the workshop materials. See our Instructing section below for more details on becoming an instructor.

Helping

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I’d like to sit in on or sort of help with a section I’m unfamiliar with or less familiar with, is that okay?

Yes! Let the workshop organizers know you’ll be learning during the workshop by selecting the “Observer” role in the workshop volunteer form. Observers can optionally help answer questions during the workshop if/when they are able to, but this is not required.  We will have workshop helpers available to make sure all questions get answered.

I don’t have the time to commit to helping with the whole workshop, is that okay?

Absolutely!  You can usually choose which half days you want to volunteer for in the form asking for volunteers.  If you can only do part of the half day or only want to help 2 of the days you are available, you can note that in the question about additional scheduling info at the end of the volunteer form. Alternatively, after you are assigned to help, you can email the workshop host with this info and they will make sure we have enough coverage.

Instructing

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What does the instructing process look like?

To teach, you will review the provided lesson materials and teach from them — summarizing the text, typing and running the code, and giving learners time to work on the exercises included within them. Instructors are supported by the workshop helpers who help answer learners’ questions and troubleshoot any bugs they encounter.

Do I need to be an expert in a topic that I want to teach? Are there any requirements to teach?

Experience-Level GuidelinesYou don’t need to be an expert to teach! Instructors who have recently learned a tool can sometimes better understand the learner’s perspective. That said, we do recommend that you have some experience with the topic you wish to teach.  You can gain experience by either (1) signing up as an observer or helper to see how a lesson is taught before teaching at a later date or (2) carving out some time in your schedule to review the lesson materials before the workshop takes place. 

Requirement: We do require that you have assisted with at least one Carpentries workshop in the past (as an observer or helper) before instructing. This will allow you to observe our teaching practices before trying them yourself. 

Optional Instructor Training: Community members who wish to learn research-based instructional strategies are also encouraged to sign up for the optional instructor training program! This program is not required, but it is very useful for those who want to quickly advance their teaching skills. Learn more and sign-up here: https://forms.gle/cuBtALHBSmtsDRVh8 

Availability

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I’m more available in the afternoons/evenings and the workshops are typically scheduled in the mornings (when they are half-day sessions).

We will try to plan for more afternoon workshops this year.  It is a bit challenging as Coding Meetup is Tu/Thu afternoons so facilitators as hosts won’t be able to join for the full workshop on these occasions.  We may also try to have an evening or weekend workshop this year to see how it goes.  We’ve avoided these in the past as it has been unclear if community members would want to volunteer during these times.

My schedule is unclear in advance.

The workshop needs to be planned at least 6 weeks in advance to be sure there is enough time to recruit volunteers and open registration.  However, if you are available to help on short notice this is always welcome!  You can email the workshop host and they would be happy to have additional helpers.  Since the Data Science Hub facilitators often act as gap fillers and teach at many workshops, we are usually happy to have someone volunteer to teach a section we were planning to teach.  Please email the facilitator assigned if that is the case for you.

I can only help/teach remotely. OR I’m uncomfortable teaching/helping in-person with the pandemic and no mask mandate.

That is very understandable.  Based on the instructional and learning community’s needs and interests we’ve heard, we plan to continue to have a variety of in-person/virtual workshops for the foreseeable future.  We will also be flexible to the current pandemic state, last year we moved several workshops virtual due to instructor/helper requests.  It is likely half of the workshops will be virtual in 2023. The host will mention the mode in the volunteering email, so you can decide what works for you.  If you are super interested in teaching at a workshop you see in the 2023 tentative workshop plan and would like it to be virtual, reach out to the Data Science Facilitators in advance of the volunteer email as the host may have more flexibility at that time.