The pedagogical principles of the Python bootcamp

Phil Brooker and I recently completed our second NCRM funded Python for Social Scientists bootcamp. For obvious reasons we switched from a four day intensive face-to-face bootcamp to a five week cross-platform (Slack, WordPress, YouTube and e-mail) model for the second bootcamp. We reflected on this in a session for the Faculty of Education’s Ideas Lab on Thursday and a colleague suggested it might be a valuable exercise to distill some of the pedagogical principles underlying the project. Here’s a first attempt at this from me, though obviously it takes inspiration from Phil’s theory and practice in the process:

  • Working together in a group helps share the burden of learning new skills, particularly when people are busy.
  • Failure is a resource rather than a problem, creating opportunities to learn from mistakes.
  • Even if pedagogy is necessary didactic in the early stages, this has to fade away if people are going to leave the bootcamp as self-directed learners.
  • Learning how to learn from the enormous array of online resources is a crucial skill, with the challenge being how to filter and apply relevant material rather than find it.
  • Without applications which are intellectually and professionally relevant, learning new skills is likely to be an abstract and unproductive exercise.

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