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How to improve training?

post #1 of 97
Thread Starter 
How long should it take to go from never having taught a lesson in your life to being a master teacher?

Anecdotal evidence indicates that it takes 10 years to become a master teacher. Statistics tell us that the average career in ski instruction is about 5 years. It takes 4.8 years to achieve Level III, on average, nationally.

Is there a way to fast-track instructors to mastery? What changes would be required in the average mountain school's training program? Would the changes involve the PSIA division as well (e.g., certification training and or requirements)?
post #2 of 97
Maybe the question should really be, What should it take to become a ski instructor, and not what it takes to become a Master teacher. To shorten the time to becoming a master teacher, you need to raise the entry level knowledge bar. Not the skiing level bar, but the knowledge bar, meaning the knowledge of biomechanics, physiology and the pertanent psycological issues.

Whether every instructor eventually becomes a Master Instructor is not really as important as whether every instructor has the foundational knowledge to be out on the snow learning how it's applied with functional base competancy. Sport specific coaching/teaching still requires a foundational knowledge in biomechanics and physiology.

I recently started studying for eventual certification as a personal fitness trainer. What imediately jumped out at me was how organized and inclusive it was compared to psia. Why is this? I think it's because the job is not taken seriously as it should be by our employers, our certifying body, and the industry. I think the reasons for this are obvious if you take a good look at all three. I have no doubt that our customers take it seriously when they plunck down their hard earned money.

In other words, to get there quicker, we need to put more into it up front. Later, Ric.
post #3 of 97

You have hit the nail on the head. So many of us have tried to learn to teach by "learning on the job." This is not very successful. Most of us need formal training, not so much on the hill, but in the classroom. We need to learn to TEACH! Skiing is almost secondary.

post #4 of 97

Master Teacher

First off, we need to define what a "master teacher" is. PSIA-E has a master teacher certification, but my sense is that nolo is suggesting that a level 3 certification is equivalent to being a master teacher.

Second, I have some suspicions about the averages. An average ski teaching career length is misleading. There are many instructors who try it for a year or two, then quit. My experienced guess is that this could be 25-40% of the population. Next, there is a big difference between full time and part time instructors in terms of experience. My experienced guess is that the average full time instructor teaches at least three times the hours of a part time person. Finally, the 4.8 year to get a level 3 cert is amazing to me. One is basically required to have 3 seasons of teaching experience before being eligible to take the exam.

Now to get to the questions at hand, almost.
Since "mastery" is not a level at which one stops developing ones skills, let's ask "Is there a way to fast track instructors along the experience curve"? We've seen many suggestions for doing so starting from the contents of the Instructor Training Courses (e.g. having sections that cover people skill stuff as well as technical stuff), and continuing on after hiring with feedback from ski school management, continuing education in the ski school (i.e. clinics), participating in professional organizations (e.g. PSIA), varied work assignments, use of tools like video, mentor programs. However, one needs to consider motivations. Many people teach for the free pass. They don't want to invest the time and effort into improving their teachign skills. Having accelerated experience things available does not ensure that all pros will avail themselves of the opportunities.

Thinking along these lines, changes to the initial training program would have minimal impact compared to programs targetted to the entire school after hire.
Nonetheless, the quality of initial training programs could have a monumental impact in improving the quality of the teaching experience for new hires such that they might not drop out so quickly. The easiest way to increase the average mastery level is to we can increase the "average" career.

PSIA is very focused on increasing "mastery" among instructors. PSIA is constantly looking to improve the certification process as a means to help improve pros be successful in their quest for improving their skills. PSIA does a good job in balancing the needs of the membership to be successful in their certification quests with the need to make the process difficult enough to establish a meaningful level of competence. I'm sure that PSIA would liek to publish more educational material and do more in the way of clinics, but my opinion is that they do a very good job with the budget they have. My assessment is that the biggest opportunity for improvement lies with increasing the membership particpation in the development of new product. Most PSIA members just pay their dues and attend clinics. Although it would be nice to see PSIA publish more educational material online, making it available for free makes it hard to recover the costs for creating material. If people are not going to be paid for authoring material, it will be hard to get more people involved. One very valuable tool where PSIA missed the boat is this forum. PSIA had a forum that was beginning to grow into something like this forum has grown into. Sadly, they did not understand how to care and feed an online community and made decisions that have lead to a very weak forum that exists today.

Ric raises a difficult issue when he talks about raising the entry level bar. What Rick is asking for requires some pretty serious culture change that will not happen easily. The current nature of the ski instruction market is that there is not a large demand for "high quality" instruction. There is a large demand for "sufficient quality" instruction. There is also a large supply of "sufficient quality" instructors who are willing to work at extremely low wages (as long as free skiing is involved). The bottom line is that the vast majority of lessons taught are low level lessons and that it does not take require a huge amount of skill to achieve "some" success in teaching low level lessons. It is sad that increasing the amount of teaching skills applied to teaching low level lessons could have a very significant impact on the ski industry. NSAA and PSIA have recognised this and are trying to implement programs to achieve this. But radical change in this area is fighting against some potent market forces. With the overall financial health of the industry what is today, there's not a lot of incentive for resorts to invest a large amount of money in this area when they can not see a potential for immediate increase in profits. If there was a large unmet demand for lessons from the "top instructors", maybe things would be different. I get the sense that having a year backlog of lesson requests for handful of instructors is not enough. If all those pros had 20 requests for every hour available, you'd see change start to happen.

Ric - I've seen some of the fitness training classes at my health club. For better or worse, PSIA is not directly involved in entry level training. Nonetheless, the materials and clinics that PSIA supports are as well orgnized and inclusive as the organization sponsored fitness trainer training that I've seen held at my club.

The bottom line on entry level standards is that although raising the bar helps, it is far more important to emphasize continuing development.
post #5 of 97
Well therusty, I'm not taking any training at a local gym, but I have paid and recieved a 500+ page entry level manual, along with a 135 page study manual with multi page quizes for each chapter, and a 250 page guide to musculoskeletal anatomy and human movement. I can't speak to what you have see nin your local gym. I was encouraged down this path by some of my out of town students, two of whom are trainers and coaches. Who's teaching who,,,eh?

Now I'm not saying psia needs to write something like this for their own, but what would be wrong with incorporating some of this available material into their written tests in such a way that candidates would have to aquire some real depth to their general knowledge base? There is a wrole range of knowledge we use in teaching skiing that is not skiing specific. We (psia) don't need to reinvent the wheel. Why not simply form partnerships outside of psia and incorporate this available knowledge into psia training?

I know about the culture and politics of the industry, at least my little corner of it. It hits you right in the face when you first start teaching skiing. But then isn't that why we need to keep discussing these issues and proposing solutions.

I give psia pretty good on the snow marks. It's off the snow where I feel that really need improving. Just my take. Later, Ric.
post #6 of 97
NOLO, You mention Master Teacher recognition as a goal.....and about 10 yrs of hard work to achieve... This is indeed an achievement, that could be better handled if the Division was more amenable to the needs of the candidate... The various classes are not geographically located for ease and cost of travel....and then jump around without continuity if one chooses to combine two or three classes for a cost saving. The process takes 10 yrs or so because of the expense and time frame. The achievement is fantastic..
post #7 of 97
Isn't it true that there are a wide variety of certifications available in the fitness industry?

In answer to nolo's query I would respond.....a good long while.

More specifically ten to fifteen years of full time experience.
post #8 of 97
What about gaining teaching skills elsewhere? Seems like that would be very valuable on the hill. For example, I'm thinking of applying for a job as an instructor at one of those computer training centers. My thought is that it would help me hone my teaching skills, and I'm assuming they provide some teacher training.

Working full time as a ski instructor is just not financially feasable for me. But I do want to excel at it, so I'm looking for alternative routes.
post #9 of 97
nolo, Sue,

Experience teaching is to a large extent generic. It doesn't matter what you become a master teacher (whatever that means?) teaching, the skills you develop will transfer to teaching other subjects. Even if you developed a high level of teaching in a strictly academic classroom teaching enviornment and then go into teaching a physical activity in a non-classroom enviornment you will still be a great teacher.

Also, there is the idea that teaching is a talent like playing music. Some people just have a high natural ability to teach, others can develop a high ability to teach through hard work and study and some will be mediocre teachers at best no matter how hard they try

So to answer nolo's question. Someone with a high natural talent for teaching and a lot of teaching experience can become a master teacher in ski instruction in a season or less full or part time. An average person might take the ten to fifteen seasons full time that Rusty suggests. And, some people will never become master teachers no matter how long they try.

post #10 of 97
Having learned some very astute trueisms from children, I wonder if teaching mastery as an adult can only be achieved by passing thru the black-hole-like attraction of overly-complex analysis of the irrelivant to re-achiece a simple awareness of what is most relavant and important to share?
post #11 of 97
Thread Starter 
I agree, Arc--one has to go through complexity to arrive at simplicity. Those who do not run that gauntlet can only arrive at simplistic understanding. (This is vintage stuff from the inimitable Horst Abraham.)

I also agree with RicB, that we would get a much better end result if we did a much better job with the first year instructors. However, I take rather violent exception to Rick H.'s suggestion that the new people should spend a lot of time in a classroom learning how to teach. That would be a waste of a good classroom because until the new people have a context in which to place that great information, it will not be anchored to experience and will essentially be meaningless to them.

What I'd like to see is significant field training early in the game. Shadow classes of experienced instructors. Encourage experienced instructors to volunteer to mentor the new people and train them how.

Any thoughts on that or other ideas?
post #12 of 97
So Nolo, what information are we learning context too? Or rather which comes first, the information or the context? again, what are we forming a context too? It seems to me that a foundation of functional information to to take into our teaching enviroment is what is lacking inour business. If not in a class room, where do we get this foundation of knowledge? do we simply have it doled out to us as our superiors see fit, do we stumple around on our own trying hit or miss to find understanding, or do we develope a curriculum of readily available information? Certainly classrooms, or at least self study curriculums are a big part of most pursuits of higher learning and vocation. Are you saying that the ski teaching/coaching profession is exempt form this? Somehow I don't think that's what you meant.

Seems to me that we do need to have more "information" coming into this profession so that we have more to form more meaningful context with, from the beggining. As I said before, much of the knowledge we use in teaching/coaching skiing is not ski specific. Are we going to learn all of this information out on the snow? I don't think so. How do you suggest we aquire this information?

I know it's a lot of questions Nolo,but I was taken by your "violent exception" statement. You know I've always gotten the feeling that this profession was/is reluctant to look outside of itself for foundational knowledge. Could this simply be because it would place more burden on the trainers and employers? Later, Ric.
post #13 of 97
While I agree with nearly all that has been said above, I think the foundation of the problem lies in the oft maligned pay structure and the resulting inablility to consistently recruit and maintain highly skilled and compassionate individuals. As even the talented get older and take on additional responsiblities (like raising a family) it becomes too big of a sacrifice and they are forced to seek more lucrative employment .
post #14 of 97

I am not sure what you mean by "violant exception" to my comment. You could have left out the "violant" and still made your point.

I did not state how the "classroom" should be structured. I spent a day last Fall with Dr Bob Hintermeister, learning some finer points of Student Directed Ski Instruction. We were on snow the whole time. But it was as though we were in a classroom. The content of this class was how to teach effectively in a skiing environment. We had scenarios where we had to teach the other members of the group.

My points here are, there are many teaching environments. On snow is one that can have distractions. In a classroom, there are less distractions. It is up to the teacher to decide where the best location is for his/her instructional format. The other point is that ski instructors, for the most part, need some formal education on how to teach.

post #15 of 97

Is the title actually used?

Ric B,

Some good points. I started looking on the PSIA and PSIA-E web sites to find documentation for things that I recall from my own PSIA experiences. I have a copy of Jures Wagner Biomechanics of skiing. I recall seeing study questions about things like lactic acid in the exam prep guides and seeing an appropriate amount of questions on the written exams I've taken. I've been in lots of clinics where discussions about specific biomechanic issues and exercise issues (e.g. stretching) have been quite detailed. However, the PSIA web site had no references I could quickly find that PSIA officially cares about the kind of training that is under discusson here. Nonetheless I did find quite a bit on the PSIA-E web site that indicates we do care. Here are some excerpts:

Alpine Exam & Study Guide 35
Professional Knowledge for Level III certified teachers reflects a strong accurate understanding
of skiing terminology and concepts beyond the scope of ski teaching manuals. Related industry
sources, ski coaching, and familiarity with various peripheral resources promote well-rounded
teaching with the capacity to create exceptional experiences for most students, in most conditions
on any terrain at most mountains.

Some of the PSIA-E Master Teacher optional courses:

Anatomy - The study of the normal structure of the human body. Special attention is given to
the skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems.
Motor Learning – Designed to familiarize participants with the structure and function of neural
tissue. To introduce principles of neurophysiology that are vital to an understanding of the nervous
system’s capabilities, how it coordinates the activities of the body’s organ systems, and how
these activities are adjusted to meet the changing situations and environmental conditions of the
alpine world.
Exercise Physiology - An overview of the effects of muscular activity upon the human body and
its response and adaptation to stress.
Biomechanics - Designed to increase the ski teacher’s understanding of human movement and to
provide the foundation for critical analysis of physical activity and skiing specific movements.
Skiing with All Your Smart Parts - Participants discuss the use of multiple intelligences in
their lessons and explore ways to adapt the model to their own teaching!
Outdoor First Care - A basic first responder first aid course appropriate for snowsports teachers.
Learn basic fist aid practices for dealing with accidents and injuries in the outdoor classroom

PSIA-E also offers a sport science accreditation as part of the Master Teacher certification:
NOTE: A participant in this accreditation program may NOT use the following optional
courses: Biomechanics, Exercise Physiology, Sport Psychology. Each subject is covered in the
required accreditation courses.
Biomechanics – increases the ski teachers understanding of the mechanical principles affecting
movement of the body and how both muscles and external forces on the skeletal structure affect
Exercise Physiology - increases the ski teachers understanding of the physiological systems that
are essential to the optimal function of the muscles during skiing activity.
Sport Psychology - affects change in the instructor’s perception of how skiing skills develop.
Course content will provide instructors with the tools for creating a positive teaching environment
using psychological concepts that apply to athletic performance.

Maybe the other divisions aren't covering this material in the depth that PSIA-E does?
post #16 of 97
Thread Starter 

Rant o' the Day

I've also been known to use the phrase "violent agreement" which means the opposite of violent exception, but both leave no doubt about my feelings on the matter.

I strongly advocate not putting new teachers into a classroom environment early in their careers because it's a form of force-feeding that tends to result in regurgitation. In cognitive terms, the classroom is where a very weak form of learning takes place that academics call "taxon learning." It's secondary in all meanings of the word: we study secondary sources and get the word from the authorities, and the learning task is to remember and repeat what other people think and say about things and not to develop one's own conclusions. It's second hand, abstract, and doesn't really get a person any closer to knowledge.

For instance, teacher holds up a picture of a tree and ask the class what it is. The class says, It's a tree! Teacher says, very good, class!

Does knowing the word for a tree signify any knowledge about trees? And if the teacher raises the bar and shows the class a photo of a tree and wants the class to name and classify this type of tree, and the class can do it, do they yet have any knowledge of trees? They can name things about trees that are secondary to the tree itself according to a conventional code. It's still not knowledge of the tree itself.

Taxon refers to the memorization of abstract data, or rote learning. Its context for use is a test of recall. This is lower level learning and is not very sticky, in the sense of sticking with you over time.

When you think back to all the things you learned in high school, what do you remember most vividly? Quadratic equations or the girl or guy you first made out with? Our species is hard-wired to remember the first makeout session and to forget the quadratic formula.

Your first makeout session is in your locale memory, which is where "what happens" is placed in a unique context complete with smells, tastes, emotions, etc., which is what makes it so retrievable later on. What you learn in a clinic setting on the snow is enriched by the context, the people in the group, the conditions of the day, etc. Context brings the meaning of a concept to life, and makes it memorable. Then, in the future, when you come across a similar problem, challenge, whatever, you will be able to access your memory of past lessons learned.

To paraphrase Einstein, intelligence is not a matter of how much information a person has stuffed into his head (a.k.a. classroom education) but how they put it to use--the intelligent person allows nonessential information to be stored separately to free up the brain for thinking and doing. Learning how knowledge is put into action is fieldwork. Such experiential learning results in knowledge that is self-constructed and therefore requires more processing work from the student/learner than taxon learning, which is essentially fed in word-bites to a passive audience.

I would define intelligence as the ability to see patterns and size things up perceptively, accurately, and quickly. I think the process resulting in mastery is one of acquiring intelligence in his or her field, and I am convinced that a program that emphasized locale learning over taxon learning in the early grades (because taxon learning does have a place in the higher grades) would speed the acquisition of intelligence as a ski instructor.
post #17 of 97
Therusty, it certainly seems that psia-e is ahead of my division. My div. psia-nrm, is a small div with limited resources, which is why I think much of this should guided from national. The whole divisional thing seems bassackwards, redundant, and very inefficient. I know, it's always been that way but,,,,

I find it interestng that most of this is in relation to level 3, and not knowledge required to get in the door. Wouldn't it seem like some of this should be introduced at level 1? That was the differnece that hit me when I was started studying for my trainer certification, one requires it to get in the door, the other only requires some to get out the door at full cert. Maybe this is one of the reasons that we have a credibilty problem, not only with the public but with the industry also. And maybe ties into John's point about low pay.

Again to joan's question on how to get there quicker, put more into it on the front end. Thanks for the conversation therusty. Later, Ric.
post #18 of 97
For those that don't know, (I believe) the PSIA-E division (one of nine) has roughly half of the total PSIA membership. Although my personal preference would be to do away with the division structure, there are some fundamental political differences between the divisions that make it highly unlikely this will happen in the near future. One of the differences is that the vast majority of members in the East are part timers, while the other divisions have a significantly larger percentage of full time members. The end result is that the current national vs division structure does seem bass ackward until you start participating in division "stuff" and realize that national does not help for most of the stuff you want to work on. The strange thing is that there does not seem to be the perception that divisions duplicate a lot of effort needlessly. The perception is that exam standards need to be different in different divisions. So every division has their own standard on how much anatomy/fitness needs to be understood.

One of the benefits of the division structure is that it is fairly easy to get an idea in front of decision makers. If your division is like mine, not many members actively participate in the organization. One of the things that seems to be similar across the divisions and at national is that funding gets approved via projects/proposals. It may be a hassle for someone with an idea, but if you can put some meat to the idea and come up with specific deliverables and costs, one can write up a proposal and get it funded. That means that your dues money often gets spent on ideas that people have put effort into writing up as opposed to what is necessarily needed the most simply because there are a limited number of proposals and it's very difficult to get consensus on what is needed "the most". When it comes to exam standards, if you serve on the committtee - it's easy to influence the standards. If you're not on the committee, you are allowed to organize your friends to "flood" your division with exam standard suggestions.

People get scared off when one hears that funding is limited or people in power have different opinions. My experience is that PSIA is open to suggestions, will act on them when there are enough suggestions to indicate widespread interest or will act on special interest suggestions when they are cheap enough and have a decent plan. If you do the work, any idea can be cheap enough.

Ric - BTW - my experience is that the things that I've mentioned don't just get mentioned for Level 3. It's just that they are done at lower intensities at lower levels. That was my experience and I think it has served me well enough. If one assumes that increased emphasis on anatomy/fitness/biomechanics has to come at the cost of decreased emphasis on other areas (e.g. movement analysis, teaching skills, equipment, psychology, service), I'd be most interested in seeing how this would significantly improve the lesson product.

If one chooses instead to "raise the bar" to say this knowledge acquisition needs to be done upfront before teaching the first lesson, that opens up the question about the economics of the market.

I think the market is attempting to answer that question. I forget the specifics but while visiting Vail one time I ran across a group of new instructors in a clinic, who had yet to teach their first lesson. They'd been doing clinics for almost 2 months. Compared to my home resort, that's a significantly higher bar for entry. It would be interesting to see a study that tried to measure the results of such raised bars. From their it would not be much of a stretch to see the results of increased emphasis in specific areas.
post #19 of 97

My rant

As a former NRMr and BB schooler I recall the Montana State had a Ski Instructor Training Coarse for College credit. At the time I took it(20 yrs ago) Herb A. (rest his soul) was running the show. After getting cut during the BB ski School “Try Out” I decided I needed help in achieving this goal of being a Ski Teacher. The training was ~70% indoors and 30% on snow, but the thing that I remember most was the indoor (yes class room) sessions. Being totally new to the ski teaching thing I learned more about “teaching” ie: The Teaching cycle, Leaning styles, problem solving and most importantly communication….. than I did on snow because on snow was Skiing! One of the main reasons the Indoor worked was because it was pre-season, before the mountain opened, and so anything skiing related was worth attending. My point is: taking a clinic on ski teaching usually turns into a ski lesson but if we really want to focus on teaching and what is great teaching, what makes a great teacher maybe we need to do it where our other passion doesn’t interfere.
post #20 of 97
Originally Posted by nolo

Is there a way to fast-track instructors to mastery? What changes would be required in the average mountain school's training program? Would the changes involve the PSIA division as well (e.g., certification training and or requirements)?
What do you suppose is the average mt.'s annual training budget, compared to their income from ski school?

I would humbly suggest that what would be required would be first and foremost a commitment, including financial, on the part of the ski area.

Competent training in the art and technique of teaching was what I felt the lack of most strongly while teaching. Learning these skills on the job was very costly for my students and a source of recurrent personal dissatisfaction regarding my self-perceived shortcomings. These never seemed to be an issue with my employers though. At the same time there seemed to be quite a few people around with years of teaching experience who exuded confidence and personality who were woefully deficient in technical knowledge, understanding and personal skiing skills. Watching their misguided attempts to teach and personally dealing with their student's issues was frequently laughable and/or tragic depending upon your point of view. Often these people were the trainers. It seemed to me that a great deal of time was wasted while one learned to sort out who was reliably knowledgeable and and correct (as a trainer and instructor) and who was not, although this was, in itself, something of an education.
For what its worth, in addition to the lack of uniformly high standards in training staff, we were often guilty in our approach to training of some of the faults we often ascribe to bad teaching. There often seemed to be an assumption that it was sufficient to simply "drill" appropriate material to the instructor staff, forgetting for a moment that these were actually people with personal needs, beleifs and preferences. Mere exposure to material, no matter how correctly presented does not equate to changing the person. I think trainers often regarded their efforts as some kind of sisyphian effort. Lots of training time and their instructors still persisted in the the same mistaken beleifs and methods.

Surely training instructors to be master teachers is analogous to teaching skiing itself.
post #21 of 97
Thread Starter 
Hi Rick Lyons and welcome to EpicSki!

I remember that course at MSU. My husband went through a similar course at UM under the direction of Mavis Lorenz. Both Herb and Mavis did a tremendous job preparing people to be ski instructors.

In all honestly, I think it was to Herb's credit that you got a lot out of the classwork.
post #22 of 97
Well Nolo, you have far more experience in the classroom than I, and I agree with your points, what I don't agree with is that it off snow learning "has" to be this way. Really if you think about it, on snow learning is quite often like this as well. Regurgitation, or mimicing! Especially at entry level.

Nolo said "Learning how knowledge is put into action is fieldwork." So again, where do we learn this "knowledge" we take into the field? Whether it's in a classroom or in guided self study material, the learning doesn't need to be simply taxon, or regurgitation. Why condem the classroom because it's commonly not being used right. Use it right and it's effective, just as self study can be done right. Personaly, I think off snow study done well, would improve on snow learning and teaching all across the board. Don't we want some foundational science and method to our empiricism?

Therusty, I think there needs to be more of a balance and depth in what is taught, and required. That's all. Later, Ric
post #23 of 97


Ric said: Most of us need formal training, not so much on the hill, but in the classroom. We need to learn to TEACH! Skiing is almost secondary.....I spent a day last Fall with Dr Bob Hintermeister, learning some finer points of Student Directed Ski Instruction.

Oh MY!

In many respects this thread is what's wrong with ski teaching! All of this Master teacher and certification and technical talk is BS. There are literally hundreds of level 3 certified instructors that couldn't give a good lesson if their lives depended on it. There are many many many examiners whose only talent seems to be to the ability to completely bore 10 fellow skiers. Clearly mastery of knowledge has little to do with giving a lesson that is going to make a customer happy. You can be the most knowledgeable instructor and be incapable of giving a good lesson.

Reading this thread I have to wonder how many of you have actually had a great ski lesson. Have you ever had a great half day or full day private? An amazing ski week in Canada or France? I'm not talking about some PSIA clinic either but a lesson when you were learning to ski that touched you and inspired you. Fortunately, I have and all of the lessons had something in common. They were fun. The instructor had a personality and was able to connect with me and others in the class. They didn't just impart knowledge but a love of the sport and their mountain and a real sense of camaraderie. If you have had some great ski teachers yourself it helps because you can use that experience and transfer it to your students.

I can remember being out at Snowbird during an Academy many years ago. During a free afternoon, I was hanging at the tram when Mr. Gerdin came by and asked me if I wanted to go out and ski with him and a couple of other guys. All we did was ski and ski and ski and laugh and hoot and holler and trade stories and talk about life and skiing. Great snow and a sunny day. At the end of the day I found out that the other two guys were training with Victor because they were going for the D-team. That was the training. One of those guys made the team. His name is Bob Barnes.

PSIA has it's faults but it also has a big plus and that is the D Team. They combine phenomenal skills and knowledge with the ability to teach. The most important aspect of teaching 99% of the clients who come for a lesson is showing them a good time and having fun on the mountain. So the question becomes not how the D team's skill level and knowledge can be passed down but rather how can their teaching ability and people skills be passed down. I don't think they can. However, I am certain that no amount of classroom work or certification can teach this.

ydnar said: Some people just have a high natural ability to teach, others can develop a high ability to teach through hard work and study and some will be mediocre teachers at best no matter how hard they try.

This absolutely correct.
post #24 of 97
Thread Starter 
Clearly mastery of knowledge has little to do with giving a lesson that is going to make a customer happy. You can be the most knowledgeable instructor and be incapable of giving a good lesson.
Hi Sidecut,

Your first sentence: Excuse me? Weren't we talking about teaching mastery? Isn't knowledge an essential element of what a teacher brings to the game? Come to think of it, what are the essential elements of a teacher's game?

Your second sentence: Truer words were never written.

You may think that this thread is BS, but the same question is the subject of ongoing debate in PSIA divisions and member schools, because training ski instructors is what they do and they'd like to be more successful at it. Can't blame 'em.

That said, welcome to EpicSki, where we BS about skiing 1001 different ways every day of the week.
post #25 of 97
Wrong Ric there Sidecut. I do, however agree with Rick H's basic point.

sidecut said "Oh MY!

In many respects this thread is what's wrong with ski teaching! All of this Master teacher and certification and technical talk is BS. There are literally hundreds of level 3 certified instructors that couldn't give a good lesson if their lives depended on it. There are many many many examiners whose only talent seems to be to the ability to completely bore 10 fellow skiers. Clearly mastery of knowledge has little to do with giving a lesson that is going to make a customer happy. You can be the most knowledgeable instructor and be incapable of giving a good lesson."

Ric says, "Some of want to know more, some of us already know everything!" Later, Ric.
post #26 of 97
Mastery of technical knowledge does not equate to ability to give a good lesson. I think most of us would agree. Surely some form of expertise beyond teaching skill ought to be essential to effective instruction though. Knowledge, it seems to me, transcends mere information stored in memory. I'm not quite sure how to express this. I don't mean to diminish the significance of teaching ability because that really is core to what instruction is about and I would agree that it is much neglected in training. It does appear to me though that there is a tendency to trivialize knowledge by separating it somehow from the significant process of personal discovery and absorption that transforms iknowledge from information. That process by which we come to personally "own" what we know is of critical importance to our ability to teach in part because a similar process is what we wish to occur in our students. I'm probably not putting this very well but empathy, for example, is not just an act of imagination or a gratuitous gift of sympathy. To be genuine and effective it implies a mirrored understanding of a sort and an insight gained only through a similar experience.

Its late and I'm probably not making a lot of sense. I may just be trying to make the point, in a roundabout way that a truly effective teacher is also a highly skilled and experienced learner.
post #27 of 97
Oisin - I think I have a story that sort of describes what you mean...

I was once asked to help a friend of friend of friend with maths project.... this stuff counted a LARGE percentage of final marks & the concerned was VERY frustrated with it... I am useless at Pure Maths - but agreed to have a look & see if I could help her out.....

On looking at the problem with the concerned it was clear she had a few areas she didn't really have a good grip on ... but all had a similar theme... her basic mathematics was sound...

I asked her to explain to me WHAT the graphs she had represented & the calculations she was doing represented.... I then asked her to explain what the problem parts meant in the same manner .... As she struggled we took one example & started doodling around talking about what the numbers MEANT... suddenly her eyes lit up .... hey presto ..... she now UNDERSTOOD the mathematics she had learnt at a different level....

On returning to school her teacher accused her of having someone else do the project - the change was SO MARKED over that one weekend .... I had to talk to the teacher to explain I had in fact barely put pen to paper in the hour or so I spent there....

That is the differnce you mean - I can KNOW the data/method etc ,.... but at some point i learn to UNDERSTAND how to USE the knowledge in a far more intuitive & less rote manner
post #28 of 97
Thread Starter 
That process by which we come to personally "own" what we know is of critical importance to our ability to teach in part because a similar process is what we wish to occur in our students. I'm probably not putting this very well but empathy, for example, is not just an act of imagination or a gratuitous gift of sympathy. To be genuine and effective it implies a mirrored understanding of a sort and an insight gained only through a similar experience.
Oisin, I think you've hit an important nail on the head. Mastery is when coaching and learning is a mirrored process, not only insofar as the coach has empathy for the student's struggles with skiing, but also because the coach is designing a lesson for this particular student, on this particular day, in these particular conditions. One of my coaches had a saying, "Things are more the same than different." He also taught me to, "Offer, observe, remember, and compare: offer the student a cue, observe how he responds, remember how he skied before the cue, and compare the response to what you had expected. If the response is what you wanted, repeat; if not, adapt or completely change the cue until you get the desired response."

That's learning too.
post #29 of 97

Looking to the practical side of things is there anyway to identify just who we should direct our training to? It seems that what you are asking is if we can fast track someone to reaching the goal of being a master teacher. Seems that if we are going to try to do that then we have to know very early in the process who is going to stick around long enough for them and the industry to benefit from the training. We all know stories about the avid skier who wants to become an instructor for life who then becomes disillusioned by the whole process and drops out after a few seasons. On the other side is the thirty year vet who was just going to teach for a year or two before getting a real job. Do we design a program that moves everyone along the same path untill we can determine what nitch they will fill in the industry or do we offer several paths that they can self choose to get them where they want to be? Do we as trainers try to identify the ones who would most benefit from 'master' training and move them in that direction? Do we tell those who will never attain the goal of master teacher to not bother with the training and be content with being 'journyman teachers'?

Prehapse an even harder question is to define what we mean by master teacher. From my point of view the more we try to objectify the definition the more we end up losing the essence of what a master teacher is. I've always maintained that efforts to objectify the teaching part of the cert process haven't led to better teachers. Evaluating someone's teaching ability is a very subjective thing and the more one tries to objectify the process the more difficult and less accurate the process becomes.

Finally,for now, do we want to just add another level of certification beyond level three or do we want to bite the bullet and recognize that a master teacher's ability to teach is independent of their ski ability. A master teacher can hold any or no cert level.

More questions and maybe a few answers later.

post #30 of 97
My own suggestion:
Assemble a group of very good ski teachers. Identify ski instructors and would be ski instructors who are passionate about skiing and about learning. Provide the latter with ample opportunites to receive excellent instruction from the former. You will discover soon enough who can become great teachers and the experience will provide the best training you could hope to provide.

Now tackle the various issues and impediments to actually implementing the plan (the real difficulty).
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