Incentives and benefits of getting involved in teaching researchers

Posted by g.law on 13 February 2020 - 9:28am
Blackboard with picture of lightbulb and text saying 'good idea'
Image Creative Commons CC0

By Aleksandra Nenadic, Training Lead, Software Sustainability Institute

The Software Sustainability Institute believes in the benefits of open development, sharing and collaborating with a community as well as best practices in openness, crediting, citing and developing research software. What are the benefits for instructors of getting involved in teaching computational research skills and these best practices? And why should institutions allow staff to use some of their time to teach their colleagues and get involved in communities such as The Carpentries?

Networking improves research

Getting involved in big, international teaching communities of practice, such as The Carpentries, brings real personal and institutional benefits. Institutionally, it helps create a skilled research force and increases capability and capacity. Personally, it opens the door to a diverse, vibrant and active community with vast experience and willingness to help and collaborate. It offers increased social connections, gives instructors the chance to learn skills such as teaching or coding, creates stronger cross-disciplinary networks and improves  the instructor’s own research. These are just some of the important reasons why instructors stay involved in such communities, according to “Value of Software Carpentry to Instructors Report” by Beth Duckles, and bring significant advantages to research institutions and funders.

Learning how to teach

Teaching is a learned skill - some people are naturally better at it, but it is definitely a skill that can be improved with practice. Allowing research staff to get involved in teaching The Carpentries programmes equips people with scientifically credible teaching methodologies and ways of thinking about communicating complicated technical concepts. The community provides friendly and constructive feedback about people’s teaching approaches that is often lacking in current academic settings.

Wider professional development 

Getting involved in teaching and running workshops offers valuable teaching and event organisation experience to postdocs and PhD students who are seeking professional development. It also helps to improve confidence in communicating about science, giving talks and speaking before different audiences, and teaching classes beyond Software and Data Carpentry. In addition to improving social and communication skills, people gain knowledge about a wide variety of tools and techniques, often lateral to research (such as designing surveys, building websites, managing projects and user communities, running impactful events and workshops, etc.), and become capable of contributing to a wide variety of research projects. It offers professional development on a scale that institutions could never provide to their staff, “for free”.

New training offerings

Once people get comfortable teaching standard Carpentry curricula, they often identify gaps in training offerings in their own domains and in the tools they use. This leads to the development of new, high-quality and community-verified training materials based on design and teaching principles that have proven successful in the past. Reusing existing lesson infrastructures and methodologies in turn saves time and money to research and academic institutions.  

Satisfaction 

Instructors report feeling satisfied when they help others to do better science and when they see them understand something they were previously struggling with. The satisfaction of having students’ eyes light up when they “get it”, going away optimistic and grateful, well-equipped to build on the skills they were taught and to use them in their research, is invaluable.

 

For more details on Carpentry workshops, please see: 


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