Instructor Notes Guidlines

Guidelines for Instructor Notes

Instructor notes are designed to help instructors quickly get up to speed on best practices for teaching specific lessons. By drawing on the collective wisdom of all instructors, we can lower the entry barrier for new instructors, increase their comfort level with the material, and sustainably grow our instructor pool.

Below are some suggestions for productively contributing to instructor notes for lessons you’ve taught. Feel free to deviate from these guidelines as appropriate.


  • Introduce motivation. Communicate why we are teaching these skills and perspectives. Why are they important?

  • List learning objectives. Make these concrete and competency-based. What should your learners be able to do by the end of the lesson? Agreeing on learning objectives is important for keeping the workshop experience broadly consistent across instructors. Learning objectives can also include desired changes in perspective or attitudes (e.g. appreciate the importance of reproducibility).

  • Describe the data. If the lesson uses a specific dataset, briefly describe the data structure and provide link to source.

  • Provide a narrative. Which modules are important to cover and why? What are the main points being communicated by each module? Which can be skipped or glossed over, and under what circumstances?

  • Provide alternatives. Give an example of an alternative way of approaching the material to help instructors see how to tweak the materials to fit their audience.

  • Discuss common issues and solutions. If something didn’t go smoothly during your workshop, discuss it here. Include what you did (or could have tried) to solve the issue.

  • Provide technical tips and tricks. Instructors will have differing levels of experience with different tools. Giving some useful tips helps newer instructors develop their abilities and become more confident.

  • Give time estimates. Let your fellow instructors know how long it took to run the lesson. This will vary depending on your audience and which modules you cover, but with estimates from different instructors, new instructors can get a sense of time-scale.

  • Provide some structure. Avoid temptation to make instructor notes a laundry list of advice. Keep it organized and use informative headers to subset information.

  • List other resources. If you know of useful tutorials or other references, direct instructors to them. Include a brief description.

  • Keep exercise solutions separate. Storing these separately helps keep instructor notes from being overwhelmingly long, and also keeps the focus on instructional methods.


  • Overload on details. Keep resources to a useful length. Remember that we’re all busy people. If you find yourself zoning out while trying to read through the instructor notes, they’re probably too long.

  • Be negative. We all run into problems while teaching. Rather than focusing on negative experiences, give ideas about what could have been done to avoid or fix the issue.