Musings on the RStudio instructor training process

R Teaching

A few thoughts and reflections on my recent experience completing the RStudio instructor training course.

Harry Fisher https://hfshr.xyz
01-17-2021

What’s this all about?

Recently, I became a certified RStudio instructor and thought I’d share a few of my thoughts on the process.

First, a little background…

During my PhD, I discovered R almost by accident while I was battling the twin-headed demon of Microsoft excel and SPSS, trying with all my might to reshape my data and run some kind (any kind…!) of analysis.

At some point I came across reshape2::melt which described exactly what I wanted to do with my data at that point in time, melt it into oblivion… However, with a bit more googling I actually figured out how to get my data from wide to long format. The sense of accomplishment was palpable. I was hooked.

By the end of my PhD I had written my thesis completely in R markdown, worked closely with the author of bnlearn who helped shaped the analysis I undertook, and managed to get my first job as a data scientist in the financial crime and compliance sector, an alien world for someone with a sports science PhD, but learning R had given me a viable set of skills that someone would actually pay me to use… Who’d of thought!

While my journey into R was a little haphazard and certainly took me far longer to figure things out than it should have, I really wanted to try and share my experiences and help someone else who may be in a similar position to me when I first started.

Becoming certified

I saw the certification process offered by RStudio as a great opportunity to firstly test my understanding of R but also learn how to best educate others in an effective way. While I had some experience teaching in my PhD, I was never “taught” how to teach. I have definitely been guilty for firing up a powerpoint and talking for 50 minutes, clicking though slides and feeling pretty overwhelmed by all the blank faces staring back at me…

I had also tried to convert some of my fellow students to R users by showing them how easy it was to just read in data, clean data, fit a model and produce a report. “All you have to do is type these functions and press knit!” I would exclaim, often met with bamboozled looks from my audience…

Unsurprisingly, there are far better ways to teach…!

The process

The best place to find out about the certification process is the RStudio site, which has lots of information about the course: https://education.rstudio.com/trainers/.

In short form, the process looks something like this:

  1. Attend 2 day course of modern teaching practices led by Greg Wilson (content is shared here)
  2. Complete teaching exam (prepare an example lesson and answer some questions on teaching course content)
  3. Complete Tidyverse / Shiny exam (technical exams based on all things tidyverse and/or shiny)

The following diagram nicely summarise the process following completion of the 2 day course:

If interested, I’d highly recommend you check out these blog posts by Silvia Canelón and Brendan Cullen who have written about the process extensively, and from which I drew most of my inspiration for my lesson materials.

The slides I used for my teaching exam are below. You can also check out this repo which contains everything I used for the teaching exam.

Summary

Overall, I found the teaching course to be particularly valuable. Greg is a great instructor and the content covers a wide range of different techniques that can be used to improve your teaching. Many of these techniques are applicable to presenting in general, so even if you’re not planning on teaching per say, there is still a lot of value in learning how to present and engage an audience - something that is even harder in this microsoft teams / zoom world we live in right now.

If you have any questions about the becoming certified, feel free to drop me a message and I’d be more than happy try and answer!

Thanks for reading!

Here is my badge of honour 😃

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Citation

For attribution, please cite this work as

Fisher (2021, Jan. 17). Data, Code & Coffee: Musings on the RStudio instructor training process. Retrieved from https://hfshr.xyz/posts/2021-01-17-rstudio-certification/

BibTeX citation

@misc{fisher2021musings,
  author = {Fisher, Harry},
  title = {Data, Code & Coffee: Musings on the RStudio instructor training process},
  url = {https://hfshr.xyz/posts/2021-01-17-rstudio-certification/},
  year = {2021}
}