Instructor Discussion Sessions

The Instructor Development Committee leads and organizes the instructor discussion sessions. This document describes how instructor discussion sessions are organized and conducted. Checklists for the hosts and discussion organizer are here.


  • Instructor discussion session: an online meeting where instructors share experiences from teaching and obtain information while preparing to teach.
  • Discussion Session Host: member of the Carpentries community who facilitates a discussion session.
  • Discussion Session Coordinator: a volunteer from the Instructor Development Committee whose responsiblities include updating the scheduling Etherpad and emailing invitations to instructors. For more information about this role, see the role description.


  1. The Carpentries are community based projects and the community needs opportunity to interact.
  2. The Carpentries believe in jugyokenkyu, or “lesson study”, and evidence-based education so instructors need opportunity to share experiences.
  3. The Carpentries are continuing to increase the number of instructors and develop new lessons. New instructors would like to hear from experienced teachers who have recently taught to help prepare for upcoming workshops.

Who Can Host?

Hosting discussion sessions is a great way to meet more people in the Carpentries community, to get to know the organisation better, to learn from the experiences of others and to share your own knowledge and experience with an even greater number of people.

Any instructor with experience of organising/teaching workshops and a good knowledge of the Carpentries as an organisation is welcome to host a discussion session. Sessions are coordinated by the Instructor Development Committee and hosts are encouraged to join the meetings of this committee. Committee meetings include an update on discussion sessions and an opportunity to discuss the format, to ask questions about hosting a session, and to get to know other hosts. To receive messages relating to discussion sessions and hosting, make sure that you’re subscribed to the discussion hosts mailing list.

A great way to get into hosting these sessions is to first attend as an observer or co-host. An experienced host will be happy to talk you through it, and may return the favour when you host for the first time, so that you don’t have to “fly solo” in your first session.

Signing up to Host or co-Host a Dicussion

  • Identify a discussion session you’d like to host OR co-host on the Instructor Discussion etherpad:
  • Type your name in the “Host” or “Co-host/notetaker” slot for the session you’ve chosen (email next to your name optional, however, if you provide your e-mail it may help facilitate communication before and after the discussion)
  • Add the time/date details of the discussion session you’re going to be a “Host” or “Co-host/notetaker” for on your calendar
  • Copying the etherpad link in your calendar event is a good idea, too!
  • Make sure that you’re subscribed to the (discussion-hosts mailing list](

Host Expectations

  • Primary role is to facilitate the instructor discussion sessions using the agenda at the bottom of the etherpad.
  • While it’s the co-hosts main responsibility to take notes, please take notes in the etherpad when the co-host/notetaker is speaking.
  • Maintaining focus on the main goal of the session, which is to share ideas, support each other, and keep instructors excited about teaching.
  • Ensuring instructors teaching in the near future have urgent questions or concerns addressed.
  • Collecting feedback from instructors who have recently taught.
  • Engaging newly trained instructors and evaluating their participation using a subset of questions described in the checkout procedure here:
  • Encouraging attendees to create issues or pull requests to correct problems.

Co-Host Expectations

  • Primary role is to assist with note-taking while the Host leads the discussion
  • Take accurate notes of discussion on the etherpad
  • At the beginning of the callI, introduce yourself as the co-host/notetaker
  • Co-hosts/notetakers do not have to be the very active in the conversation
  • If a co-host/notetaker does want to chime in, it is welcome!
  • NOTE: if the session is mostly instructor checkouts, it is highly recommended that you, as the co-host, contribute to the discussion with your experience helping out with workshops.

Checklists - Instructor Discussion Sessions

Discussion sessions are organized and conducted through this Etherpad.

Discussion Session Coordinator

Before the Discussion Session

The Instructor Development Committee is responsible for organizing the instructor discussion sessions so that

  • each month has at least eight discussion sessions,
  • instructors are notified at least one week in advance and
  • each session has at least one host (preferably two) to conduct the discussion.

The Discussion Session Coordinator is responsible for scheduling the events and inviting instructors who are about to teach and who have recently taught.

Meeting scheduling will be coordinated via Etherpad.

The dates of instructor discussion sessions are also listed in the Carpentries community calendar.

  1. Invitations are tracked through two spreadsheets - one for instructors doing a post-workshop debriefs, sent weekly, and one for instructors doing a pre-workshop discussion session, sent every other week.
  2. Use the email templates for the respective discussion invitation. Replace the variables in brackets with the appropriate information for that session.
  3. Log in to AMY. Go to the reporting section to the “List of instructors by time period” section. Filter for instructors in the relevant time period. Download this list as csv to easily read each instructor’s email address.
  4. Send the templated email to all participants as bcc, and copy the Instructor Development Committee Co-Chairs as well as
  5. Email with any instructors with missing or invalid emails.

Host and Co-Host

Leading the Discussion Session

Meetings will be hosted on a Zoom videoconference, linked via the instructor discussion Etherpad.

Each instructor discussion session must have at least one host (although two hosts are preferred). Any experienced instructor is welcome to host, but hosts are encouraged to join the Instructor Development Committee.

  • Sign on as close to the start time as you can.
  • Confirm that your fellow host is present (if there is one) and who will be leading/taking notes
  • (Optional) If a group is very large and you have a co-host, you can split the group in two, using the Breakout Rooms feature in Zoom.
  • Copy the agenda from the bottom of the etherpad to the space under your time slot
  • Lead the discussion
    • We recommend following the main points of the agenda, but feel free to let discussion go where people want. Not all the questions need to be answered by everyone.
    • Don’t feel like you have to answer all the questions as the host - draw on the other discussion participants to answer each other’s questions.
    • If someone is attending as part of their training checkout, prompt them to ask a question.
    • Try to leave enough time at the end for the final agenda item.

The agenda should be similar to the following:

  • Welcome and host introduction
  • Attendees introduction
    • Name, affiliation/position, purpose for attending
  • Report from previous workshops
    • Share some significant accomplishments and obstacles.
    • Any changes or additions to lesson material?
  • Preparing for upcoming workshops
    • Specific questions about teaching and/or lessons?
  • Preparing for instructor training checkout
    • Questions about checkout procedure, lessons, or workshop organization?
    • Have you asked a question here yet?
  • Closing
    • What are you most excited about for teaching Software or Data Carpentry?
  • Reminder to discussion session participants:
    • For big problems or concerns, start an issue on GitHub in the appropriate lesson or add to Google Doc of commonly mentioned concerns
    • For small typos, submit pull request to appropriate lesson

(A copy of this agenda is kept at the bottom of the instructor discussion Etherpad.)

Based on discussion among the Instructor Development Committee, temporary questions may be added to the agenda for a month of sessions, in order to collect data on specific issues.

  • Take notes
If there are more than 5 workshops represented by attendees, the discussion session should be split into two groups, to make sure everyone has enough time to share. When dividing attendees into two groups, try to balance the number of people who are de-briefing, who are there for pre-workshop help, and who are instructor trainees. If there are exactly 5 workshops represented, it is at the discretion of the host whether to split the group.

After the Discussion Session

  • Archive the Etherpad by clicking on the star in the top right corner.
  • Fill out the host questionnaire
    • Note: Please copy the list of attendees (including all attendees but removing no-shows) and paste it into question 7 of the questionnaire.
    • This questionnaire will automatically send an email to the Instructor Development Committee Co-Chairs and to
  • Clear the information from your session (date/time, attendees, notes) from the etherpad.
  • (Optional) write a blog post about interesting points that came up in discussion; see this template as a starting point.

Email Templates

Pre-workshop Discussion

Subject: Software and Data Carpentry Pre-Workshop Discussions

Dear instructors,

If you are receiving this message, you are scheduled to teach a Software or Data Carpentry workshop over the next several weeks.

The Carpentries Mentoring Committee hosts discussion sessions every week to share ideas and experiences among instructors. If you have any questions or concerns about your upcoming workshop, or are interested in chatting with other instructors about your or their own experiences teaching Software/Data Carpentry, we encourage you to attend!

Upcoming discussions will occur on [Date 1], [Date 2] and [Date 3]. Each date has two time slots to accommodate time zones. You can sign up for the most convenient time on this etherpad:

We hope to see you in the next few weeks!

Cheers, [Your name] Carpentries Mentoring Committee

Post-workshop Debriefing

Subject: Software and Data Carpentry Workshop Debriefing

Dear instructors,

If you are receiving this message, you have recently instructed at a Software or Data Carpentry workshop.

The Carpentries Mentoring Committee hosts instructor discussions every week in order to hear how workshops have gone, and we invite you to attend a discussion in the next few weeks to share about your recent workshop. Even if you have attended a debriefing discussion before, we would appreciate feedback on any workshops you have done since then - we value hearing about your experiences.

Upcoming discussions will occur on [Date 1], [Date 2] and [Date 3]. Each date has two time slots to accommodate time zones. You can sign up for the most convenient time on this etherpad:

In addition to participating in the general discussion, we also welcome past instructors to co-host future discussions. Co-hosting a discussion session is a great way to share your expertise with both new and experienced instructors and is a lot of fun! To co-host a future discussion, just sign up on the same etherpad above.

We hope to see you soon!

Cheers, [Your name] Carpentries Mentoring Committee

Call for Instructors (to Instructor Development Committee)

Subject: Call for Hosts - Carpentries Instructor Discussion Sessions


The Discussion Host Coordinator has posted new discussion session dates on the Instructor Discussion Session Etherpad:

The following discussion sessions are in need of discussion hosts!

  • [Date 1, UTC time, time zones - example below]
  • Tuesday, May 1, UTC 21:00 UTC (Wed 7am AEDT, 5pm NYC, 2pm LA) - Aus/S. America/N. America

Please feel free to browse other discussion sessions to see if there is a date/time that works for you to sign on as a host! If you have questions about hosting, please visit the Instructor Development Committee onboarding document’s section about host expectations:

We hope to see you soon!

Cheers, [Your name] Carpentries Instructor Development Committee