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Lesson Development Study Groups

Lesson Development Study Groups are for community members who would like to begin working on a new lesson in The Carpentries Incubator. The study group will bring these community members together to develop their lessons as a cohort. Participants will benefit from the process by learning good practices in lesson design and sharing experience as they build their lessons.

The overall goal of the program is that every lesson will have a realistic and coherent outline, a repository set up to encourage collaboration, and at least one complete episode that has been taught once. This should equip developers with the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to continue developing the lesson after the round ends, and begin to create a more tangible community around curriculum development in The Carpentries.

Target Audience

The Study Groups are aimed at certified Carpentries Instructors who have an idea for a new lesson, that e.g. draws on an example or data from a discipline or uses a new tool, and want to begin developing that idea into a lesson. The lesson should not already exist, even as a partially-complete lesson, except perhaps as a “placeholder” lesson repository in The Carpentries Incubator. A good source of course ideas could be found under issues tagged with “lesson-idea” in the Incubator Proposals repository (provided that development work on them has not started yet). Plans are also being made for follow-up sessions/activities/events, covering topics more relevant at later stages of the development process, which would be open to other lesson developers.

These Study Groups are not appropriate for developers of lessons that have already been through the early stages of design, e.g. lessons that already include a significant amount of content, or that have already been taught. Additional sessions/activities/events are planned for developers with lessons at these later stages of development. The Study Groups are also not appropriate for developers of lessons being translated/converted from existing Carpentries/Carpentries Incubator material, e.g. translations of existing lessons into a new language, or creation of a Python equivalent of an existing lesson currently taught with R etc. These efforts are still very valuable but fall outside of the context of this program!

If you would like support with activities such as those listed above, please contact


By the end of the Study Group program, participants will be able to:

  • collaboratively develop and publish lessons using The Carpentries lesson infrastructure: lesson template, GitHub, GitHub Pages, etc.
  • identify and characterise the target audience for a lesson
  • define specific, assessable learning objectives
  • explain the pedagogical value of authentic tasks
  • create exercises for formative assessment in an appropriate format
  • summarise how considerations of cognitive load can influence the pacing, length and organisation of a lesson
  • maintain accessible and usable lesson repositories using best practices, readily available for collaboration
  • update and improve lesson material guided by feedback and reflection from teaching
  • review and provide constructive feedback on lessons


Setup Follow these steps before the first session.
Introduction How will a typical study group session be structured?
What roles will participants take on during the program?
Week 1 Welcome What can I expect from this program?
What is expected of me during the program?
How are Carpentries lessons structured?
Week 2 Identifying the Audience How do we identify the audience of a lesson?
What are the benefits of doing this early in the development process?
What are the challenges associated with defining a target audience?
Week 3 Lesson Infrastructure What are the tools required to develop lessons in The Carpentries?
What is the structure of a Carpentries lesson repository?
Week 4 Defining Objectives How do we define the objectives of a lesson?
What are the benefits of doing this before writing the content?
What are the challenges associated with writing learning objectives?
How do considerations of cognitive load influence the structure of a lesson?
Week 5 Data Sets and Authentic Tasks What kind of data set is appropriate to use in a lesson?
Where can I find potential example data sets for my lesson?
What exercise formats could I use in my lesson?
Week 6 Writing Explanatory Content What is a good approach to writing examples?
What components can I combine to create a lesson?
How much content should I aim to cover in a single episode?
Week 7 Preparing to Teach How should I prepare to teach my lesson for the first time?
What feedback should I collect when teaching a new lesson?
What challenges are associated with teaching alone?
Week 8 Break for Trial Runs Break
Week 9 Trial Run Debrief What did I learn about my lesson?
What will I do differently next time I teach?
What will I change in my lesson material before I next teach it?
What will I do differently when developing the rest of my lesson?
What do I need help with?
How did backwards design help me with this trial run?
Week 10 Collaborative Lesson Development What are the advantages of open, collaborative lesson development?
How can I encourage contributions to my lesson?
What tools and resources are available to support collaborative lesson development?