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QCIF helps mint 14 new Carpentries Instructors

15 December 2023

QCIF and a handful of other organisations trained 14 new expert digital and data skills instructors for Australian researchers in October this year.

Training the instructors in The Carpentries method — a global community for teaching coding and data science skills to researchers — were QCIF Skills Development Manager Dr Mark Crowe, Dr Sara King (AARNet) and Ann Backhaus (Pawsey), in partnership with the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) and CSIRO.

Of the trainees, nine were from CSIRO, with one each from the University of Sydney, University of Melbourne, Curtin University, and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

QCIF Biostatistician Josh Knowles also participated. 

These new Carpentries Instructors join a pool of other instructors in Australia who have learned evidence-based teaching practices, lesson development and essential data skills to support them as peer educators and mentors. QCIF has trained about 50 instructors to date.

The October Carpentries Instructor workshops were the first time QCIF was involved in a blended learning model in which the instruction started with two half-days of online training before all coming together in person for the final full day at CSIRO’s Dutton Park site.

The training was held the day before the eResearch Australasia conference began on 16 October, so people travelling from outside of Brisbane could combine the two in one trip.

“Normally these instructor training workshops are entirely online or more rarely entirely in person, and I don’t know of any [Carpentries Instructor workshops] that have used this mixed model,” said Mark.

“This mixed format was an exciting new experience for the trainers, and an enjoyable opportunity to meet all attendees in person. It also offered valuable practice to the trainees, who are likely to be instructing in both online and face-to-face workshops,” said Mark.

Josh said the workshops allowed him to identify and focus on his strengths and weaknesses in instructing. “I was able to take note of habits as subtle as using the word ‘basically’, all the way up to taking into consideration the programming environment I was performing live coding in,” said Josh. 

“I’m excited to apply these new skills and concepts at my next ‘Linear Regression in R’ QCIF workshop in early December. I also felt welcomed by the sense of community in the Carpentries, which I’m happy to now be a part of.”

Liz Stokes, Coordinator of the ARDC Carpentries Partnership, said the instructor training aims to uplift digital research skills for Australian researchers.   

“The program alternates between theory and hands-on opportunities, offering enough instruction without participants having to do a full-blown teaching degree,” said Liz.

“One of the strengths of the program is the checkout process following training, where people demonstrate their teaching skills in a community assessment process.

“The program has provided scalable skills delivery to the researchers who need it, strengthened regional relationships across Australia and New Zealand, and has developed a flourishing community of researchers who can apply new skills to increase productivity.”

Lara Tzafaris, Senior Impact Advisor in CSIRO’s Strategy team attended the Carpentries training with the goal of gaining greater insights for project design, by building existing facilitation skills with the add-on of the Carpentries training experience.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the in-person knowledge sharing with experienced data peers from across the organisation,” Lara said.

CSIRO IMT Data Management Specialist Tracey May attended the training and appreciated the focus on creating a psychologically safe learning environment.

“The training focused on inclusive practices in teaching and design, by offering accessible, hands-on training in essential data skills and building a sense of community and belonging,” Tracey said.

“It prepares participants to be digitally capable and effective instructors in data analysis.”

Carpentries trainer Dr Sara King, Training and Engagement Lead at AARNet, said participants had the opportunity to practice together and learn from valuable feedback from their peers.

“Participants can feel confident that they now have the skills they need to teach effectively,” Sara said.

“The best thing about the Carpentries Instructor training is the giving and receiving of structured feedback and the ability to focus on different aspects of the practicalities of being an instructor in a classroom.”

Learn more about the ARDC Carpentries Partnership.

This article was republished with permission from CSIRO.

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