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Classes with ability level splits - Page 2

post #31 of 56
Nolo, our shared student is a good example of the exception. I was thinking more along the lines of believing. I think many times, we are not merely pretending, but we believe we are at a certain level. I think this is more prevelent on the male side of the equation though. Later, RicB.
post #32 of 56
Nolo,

Some good stuff so far in this thread. My intent here is to add YAP (yet another perspective). But first some background about our teaching environment that is relevant to splits. Our terrain is highly segmented. Each lift serves only similar terrain at a distinct pitch and the change in pitch between lifts is significant (i.e. doubling the steepness from beginner to blue/green to intermediate). Like the heli group, having a bad split can be a difficult problem to overcome. Our lessons are mainly beginners for riders and beginner/intermediate for skiers. Although we occasionally do ski offs to split large groups of 3/4's or 4/5's, our biggest problem with splits usually happens with getting 2-4 people at the upper levels and having only one pro left at the line up to teach them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo
How does a split in attitude affect the "community of learners" in that group?
A single bad attitude can certainly spoil the experience for the rest of the group. Most pros with any experience can deal with this and minimize the damage. Children's groups are the toughest for this. Beginner groups are pretty easy because usually the rest of the group helps out. At the upper levels, moving the group is the easiest part of overcoming this problem. Attidude splits are probably more appropriate for full day or longer groups.

Quote:
Do these situations test an instructor's skill and contribute to professional growth (in other words, does acquiring experience teaching classes with splits improve an instructor's teaching skills)?
Yes and no. For some pros, giving them splits just burns them out faster. It's too much for them, they don't handle it well and the experience just sets them up for more failure in the future. Personally, I know that I'm a better pro for teaching splits because it does force you to really focus on good teaching. You have to dig deep into your bag of tricks and be very quick in your teaching. I think I get better faster by teaching splits.

Quote:
Is it advantageous to students to be placed in a group of skiers who are of differing levels of skiing ability? Is it more advantageous to some than others, depending on their skill level?
I'll go out on a limb here and say it is only advantageous to a small percentage of people. For friends and relatives where the social aspect of the sport is a big piece of why they are out there, splits are not a problem. For a very select few, watching others learn specific pieces of fundamental skills helps lock in that knowledge at a higher level of understanding for themselves. This is a variation of the old you don't really know a subject until you start teaching it theory. However, the more advanced individuals more often simply get bored. I've had good success tasking sandbaggers/tag alongs with "impossible" tricks (e.g. do it on one ski or do it backwards). Their expectations are low, so it's easy to exceed them.

Quote:
Should we form instructional groups around some other commonality than ability level?
Absolutely! But the key question is "when?" The answer is it depends on the situation.

As a part time supervisor, I go to great lengths to avoid splits because the odds are that the customer is not going to get full value out of the lesson. I'll only assign splits to pros that can handle them, or pros that can learn to handle them (if I have a potential split and backup that can help if the split does not work out).

Most of the time I'll just take the split myself. With a small enough group I can teach multiple lessons and reach everyone while minimizing the too boring/too scary tradeoff. At lower levels, I will sometimes use "hands on" teaching to help "slower" students keep pace with the group. By providing physical assistance, I can minimize fear, directly correct problems and help deliver the sensual feedback of the equipment "working". Sometimes this works and the slower student "catches up" to the group, sometimes it's just a stopgap to keep things moving.

Sometimes we tell the guests to come back to the next line up. When I've got normal group sizes with potentials for splits and spare pros, I'll send a spare pro along just in case. Often I will instruct pros to know who's teaching the next level up and down and remind them to keep an eye open and trade off students as necessary. When we have more than one group at a level, we split first by big people/little people (excepting parents that want to stay with their kids and understand the lesson is taught to the kids first), but after that it gets tricky. When volumes get high enough we revert to "grab 10 and go". Otherwise, we try to make some accomodations (e.g. larger groups of more athletic people/smaller groups of couch potatoes or splitting couch potatoes/ethnic people across groups to spread the load or fast/slow). This is really a supervisor art form mixing interviewing skills, delegating interviewing out, knowing your pros and forming and reforming groups as people (and pros) show up.

It kills me when I get a multiple person private with a split. I do the job requested, but most often it works out to two lessons taught at the same time with each person getting less than half because of the overhead involved in the split. If people ask for this, I won't talk them out of it. If they ask about it, I will recommend separate lessons as usually being a far greater overall value. Nonetheless, I have had some private lessons where either one student "feeds" off what the other is getting, or one student picks up tips to help coach the lesser skilled student, or one student efficiently uses the "down" time for practice. I had one board lesson last year where one guy "got" carving, but his buddy "didn't". I don't think the "didn't" guy could have "got" it in one hour one person private. Being able to watch his buddy get it was frustrating to him. Before the lesson, they told me that they were skiers who were thinking of quitting riding because it was not fun, but that they could see that it "ought to be". During the lesson, the "got it" guy said "Now I like this!" At the end of the lesson, the "didn't" guy at least understood what needed to be done and knew that it was possible. Without his buddy, I believe he would have given up. Sometimes splits do work better.

Similar to Yuki, I will use the extra run for the advanced students as a make up when they have suffered through a bad split.

Weems - thanks for the reminder. When I get teaming in my lessons it's more because I've let it happen and less because of me setting it up. I need to do more of the latter.
post #33 of 56
Thread Starter 
You remind me of the time I taught a semi-private to a married couple. I rode the chairlift with the wife first, and she explained that the lesson was reslly for her husband and she was just skiing along for companionship. The next time, I rode with the husband, who said, don't teach me, teach her--she's why I'm here, to encourage and support her.

What was I to do?

They had been skiing together for 20 years, so guess what--they skied quite similarly, so it was no big deal--it's just a funny story about a couple who I now consider special friends, and she has continued to take lessons from me the past 10 years...

By attitude, I don't mean a value judgment good or bad, but more of a sense of how much yikes a person finds comfortable in a learning situation--how that person defines boredom and excitement, you might say. In a group, when one person's boredom is another person's excitement, you definitely have an attitude split.
post #34 of 56
I find the splits easier to handle with children rather than adults, as there can be a higher fun quotient with kids.
post #35 of 56
I also find the split easier to deal with when I can take a group on a "warm up" run before having ski off. (when the supervisor lets me get away with it). I've seen too many splits when some of the students were misplaced due to not being warmed up.
post #36 of 56
I really appreciate this thread as last year was the first time I've ever takin' lessons and it was also the first time in 20 yrs that I felt I actually improved as a skier( I took the lessons to have someone to ski with for a few hours). I'm an upper intermediate/lower advanced skier and in both lessons there was one person in the group and it was me. I find the attitude of the instructors on this thread commendable as it seems to me that the overall goal is SUCCESS in a lesson rather than SURVIVAL. Hats off to all of you and I really did get some great help that improved my skiing. I'll see some of you this year in Tahoe and Montana
post #37 of 56
Let's not forget the "senior instructor induced split". This occurs when a senior instructor decides that they want to have a certain student in their group, and that they want it to be a group of 1. So they grab the student, inform the supervisor that they have split the groups taking 1 student for themself and leaving 3 for the less-senior instructor (this appears to be a charitable move, since they will only get paid for a 1 hour semi-private, while the junior guy gets paid for 2 a hour group). This then leaves the less-senior instructor with a terrible split, since the senior guy grabbed a student from the middle of the group.
post #38 of 56
argh, yes, that is a familiar scenario! Or some yucky old male instructor snaffles all the Ladies in certain types of skiwear, leaving you with a very raggle taggle group, and they ALL realise what's going on!!!

Or you have upper levels (males mostly) who take exception to their grading and you have to soothe ruffled egos...
post #39 of 56
My teaching experience is limited, but I can share a story of a group lesson I was in a few years back that had a pretty good split. My wife and I were at Taos, and we wanted to take a lesson. We had both taught a little part time, and hoped/assumed we’d be in the same upper level group. We did the ski off on a pretty flat slope at the base (Can someone tell me if that is a good criteria for distinguising more advanced skiers?), and ended up with two other guys.

When asked what we wanted to work on, my wife and I responded “steeps”, and the other two said “bumps”. It became apparent pretty quickly that the other two wanted to work on bumps because they were not comfortable in them. We started with some mellower bumps, and my wife and I got some good reminders while the instructor tried to get the other two up to speed pretty quickly. There certainly was the potential for the lesson to go downhill, or for the instructor to cater to the other two students.

We were completely impressed with the way things progressed. The instructor really dragged the other two guys up a notch, and by the end of the lesson we were in some steep, treed, bumps. We had a great afternoon, probably one of the best lessons I’ve ever had, and totally enjoyed it. I don’t know if the other two enjoyed pushing the envelope as much as they did. Perhaps it was a male ego thing - they both struggled to keep up with my wife.

So my take is that the skill level disparity certainly can be managed. I think in this case the attitude level split would have been along similar lines. It was impressive to watch the pro work, and this post just reminded me of that.

post #40 of 56
I agree with everyone who says it's about the instructor and their ability to manage the situation.

Often teaching skiing is less about skiing and more about teaching. Few instructors have a background in teaching. What does that tell you?
post #41 of 56
I hope this thread can handle another Students Perspective.

It sucks to feel you're holding other people back. Even if they're gracious it sucks. If they're not gracious it's downright horrid and I think putting a paying customer in that situation is a bad thing. No matter what you do for that student, it's hard for him or her to get beyond the ego fragility and a downward spiral of frustration is much more likely than if you had that student in a private lesson or a group where he or she belongs. I've been that student. I've been that student and felt ripped off...I've felt humiliated. The humiliation is worse than being the recipient of a bad product.

It sucks to be held back. It sucks to have to pretend you don't know the instructor is making the best of a bad situation by offering up drills we all can benefit from because that's the closest thing to something that can look like a productive class that's possible. Sometimes a student wants to solidify a skill-set at a given level and sometimes a student wants some help gaining confidence in certain terrain. A dead giveaway that you're in an overly compromised situation is that the instructor, perhaps wisely, avoids asking students what they want to get out of a lesson. They have the class do a warm-up run, see what they've got on their hands and figure out how to minimize the friction the disparities are likely to cause. I've been in classes where I had to eat my vegetables and do drill that were good for me (and yes, they were) but that was not the lesson I wanted. Since my goals were never solicited, not through careless ness but as a strategy. This sucked. I felt ripped off. I wondered how badly the skiers that were holding other skiers up felt...even though non were ungracious.

Yeah, I get it about having to fit x-number of students into x-number of classes and putting a brave face on bad splits. I don't know what to suggest though I think Ant is onto something with the notions about speed-splits and then working with individuals within those splits.

I just wanted to say something about how bad splits feel for the student. The *first* thing that happens is that I become frustrated with the instructor that's responsible for the split...or had it foisted on them and isn't managing it better. The instructor can quickly become *not my pal.*
post #42 of 56
jstraw

you should feel ripped off because it's clear the instructor you had wasn't equipped to handle the group lesson you were a part of.

it doesn't have to be a bad situation. there have been many times that I have skied with a group of people at all different levels who wound up in one class. it's possible to manage. it does require the instructor to customize individual lesson plans that can flow in a group environment.

as for the "ski off" to split the groups -- I have to ask why you dislike that experience if it's designed to help you be in a group of more similarly skilled folks.

IMO there is not a lot of room for ego or bravado in ski lessons.
post #43 of 56
I don't dislike a ski-off. I dislike a "warm-up" run after the split that's really just triage for an instructor to figure out how to minimize the pain. Last time I took small-group lessons up by the sun deck at Ajax, we began by self-sorting to skier level then this was refined by a little Q&A then after the first run, the instructors told their supervisor if they were goud with that split or if anyone needed to be shifted around. That was fine as far as it went.
post #44 of 56
[/quote]
Often teaching skiing is less about skiing and more about teaching. Few instructors have a background in teaching. What does that tell you

Snodacious,

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. I teach skiing and have been doing so for quite some time. I think that gives me the background as a teacher to teach skiing. I teach fly fishing in the summer and have done that for almost three decades also. I also think I am qualified to teach that too. Just because I don't have some fancy piece of paper from some collage that says I am qualified to teach someone something means nothing to me. I believe that experience is a much better qualifier than a diploma. Just because the Lyon got a diploma from the wizard doesn't mean the Lyon has a brain. But if that is important to you, I am fully certified as a ski instructor with PSIA. What does that tell you????-----------Wigs
post #45 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by jstraw
I hope this thread can handle another Students Perspective.

It sucks to feel you're holding other people back. Even if they're gracious it sucks. If they're not gracious it's downright horrid and I think putting a paying customer in that situation is a bad thing. No matter what you do for that student, it's hard for him or her to get beyond the ego fragility and a downward spiral of frustration is much more likely than if you had that student in a private lesson or a group where he or she belongs. I've been that student. I've been that student and felt ripped off...I've felt humiliated. The humiliation is worse than being the recipient of a bad product.

It sucks to be held back. It sucks to have to pretend you don't know the instructor is making the best of a bad situation by offering up drills we all can benefit from because that's the closest thing to something that can look like a productive class that's possible. Sometimes a student wants to solidify a skill-set at a given level and sometimes a student wants some help gaining confidence in certain terrain. A dead giveaway that you're in an overly compromised situation is that the instructor, perhaps wisely, avoids asking students what they want to get out of a lesson. They have the class do a warm-up run, see what they've got on their hands and figure out how to minimize the friction the disparities are likely to cause. I've been in classes where I had to eat my vegetables and do drill that were good for me (and yes, they were) but that was not the lesson I wanted. Since my goals were never solicited, not through careless ness but as a strategy. This sucked. I felt ripped off. I wondered how badly the skiers that were holding other skiers up felt...even though non were ungracious.

Yeah, I get it about having to fit x-number of students into x-number of classes and putting a brave face on bad splits. I don't know what to suggest though I think Ant is onto something with the notions about speed-splits and then working with individuals within those splits.

I just wanted to say something about how bad splits feel for the student. The *first* thing that happens is that I become frustrated with the instructor that's responsible for the split...or had it foisted on them and isn't managing it better. The instructor can quickly become *not my pal.*
JSTRAW,

Since you have taken lessons, tells me that you are interested in improving your skiing obviously. And it seems that you are satisfied with the way the Ski Schools of Aspen conduct there splits, or at least the way one of them went. We try and find out what the student is looking for by asking questions before the lesson starts to help with the split. That way we can address the students needs on more of a personal basis when the lesson gets underway as long as it doesn't cut into the other students time too much such as I,I,I, Me, Me, Me. That is why we have private lessons. If I have a student in my class or I identify a student that might fall into this category, I suggest private lessons.

I feel that the more experienced Pros are very good at assessing the needs of three to four prospective skiers in their class, and if there is a possible move, they get it done very early on so that the class fits to a T. After all, it is a class and the students might very well have individual needs. but IMHO, the skiing ability has to match to within a half level to have the class run smoothly speed wise.----------Wigs
post #46 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wigs
JSTRAW,

Since you have taken lessons, tells me that you are interested in improving your skiing obviously. And it seems that you are satisfied with the way the Ski Schools of Aspen conduct there splits, or at least the way one of them went.
I'd hoped I'd been clearer. Whether I've been the slowpoke holding up a class or the guy doing busywork drills with little regard for my lesson objectives, I've been unhappy. These examples don't represent every lesson I've ever had. I've had some great lessons.
post #47 of 56
Often teaching skiing is less about skiing and more about teaching. Few instructors have a background in teaching. What does that tell you

Snodacious,

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. I teach skiing and have been doing so for quite some time. I think that gives me the background as a teacher to teach skiing. I teach fly fishing in the summer and have done that for almost three decades also. I also think I am qualified to teach that too. Just because I don't have some fancy piece of paper from some collage that says I am qualified to teach someone something means nothing to me. I believe that experience is a much better qualifier than a diploma. Just because the Lyon got a diploma from the wizard doesn't mean the Lyon has a brain. But if that is important to you, I am fully certified as a ski instructor with PSIA. What does that tell you????-----------Wigs[/quote]

I was reading something very interesting the other day. It is thought the MAJOR problem with teachers in schools today, hence education ins general, is education degrees. Why? They are degrees with NO specific discipline. Those having teaching degrees from the college of education will understand what is meant by the observation. The questions is, will we admit it, allowing us to move forward to improve teachers and thus education?

When it comes to ski teaching, we are specific, but I observe we are not very focused on educating our instructors on how to be good teachers. That is a broad brush as I am sure there are schools that make some effort but in general only the cream is really good because they are self motivated. Snow flys and it is time to go to work! If you think I am wrong, one only needs to look at the focus of our clinics and certifications. As and aside this is the same in all instructor organisations I have witnessed.
post #48 of 56
Often teaching skiing is less about skiing and more about teaching. Few instructors have a background in teaching. What does that tell you

Snodacious,

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. I teach skiing and have been doing so for quite some time. I think that gives me the background as a teacher to teach skiing. I teach fly fishing in the summer and have done that for almost three decades also. I also think I am qualified to teach that too. Just because I don't have some fancy piece of paper from some collage that says I am qualified to teach someone something means nothing to me. I believe that experience is a much better qualifier than a diploma. Just because the Lyon got a diploma from the wizard doesn't mean the Lyon has a brain. But if that is important to you, I am fully certified as a ski instructor with PSIA. What does that tell you????-----------Wigs[/quote]

Thanks for beating up on the new kid.

WOW! Way to jump to conclusions!

Whoever said that a "background in teaching" means a diploma or a degree?? Several years of teaching *is* a "background in teaching", isn't it????

I didn't mean to push any buttons here. The point I was trying to make is there are lots of instructors with just one or two or three years of ski teaching experience -- but no other teaching experience -- and, often they are not equipped to handle challenging teaching situations.

I'm gonna take my skis and go home now.
post #49 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by snodacious
Often teaching skiing is less about skiing and more about teaching. Few instructors have a background in teaching. What does that tell you

Snodacious,

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. I teach skiing and have been doing so for quite some time. I think that gives me the background as a teacher to teach skiing. I teach fly fishing in the summer and have done that for almost three decades also. I also think I am qualified to teach that too. Just because I don't have some fancy piece of paper from some collage that says I am qualified to teach someone something means nothing to me. I believe that experience is a much better qualifier than a diploma. Just because the Lyon got a diploma from the wizard doesn't mean the Lyon has a brain. But if that is important to you, I am fully certified as a ski instructor with PSIA. What does that tell you????-----------Wigs
Thanks for beating up on the new kid.

WOW! Way to jump to conclusions!

Whoever said that a "background in teaching" means a diploma or a degree?? Several years of teaching *is* a "background in teaching", isn't it????

I didn't mean to push any buttons here. The point I was trying to make is there are lots of instructors with just one or two or three years of ski teaching experience -- but no other teaching experience -- and, often they are not equipped to handle challenging teaching situations.

I'm gonna take my skis and go home now. [/quote]

Snodacious,

I didn't mean to hurt you feelings and you don't have to go to the back of the room and put on the pointy hat. But wording a post that says basically most Ski Pros haven't a clue and are dummies in a forum full of Ski Pros is like walking into the Lyons den and saying, "COME ON! YOU WANT SOME OF THIS!!!"

IMHO the talent in this forum, not only the teachers themselves, but also the understanding of skiing technique from the other members that do not teach skiing is unbelievable. There are members of this forum that haven't taught a day in their lives that I would ski with and listen to if they had something to say about the subject. If they saw something I was doing in my skiing and thought that by trying this or that might help, you can bet I would give it a try. Who knows, they just might have seen something no one else picked up on. Unfortunately, I have come across Ski Pros in the school I work for that think that if it isn't coming from a clinic leader or coach, it isn't worth listening too. That's their problem and it's too bad because there's lot's of good eyes out there and they don't necessarily lead clinic groups.----Wigs
post #50 of 56

There's more to a split than level

I believe Ant said it right

Quote:
I strongly believe that speed + terrain comfort will make a more cohesive group
I find it is the terrain and the gumption (now there's a word you don't see too much anymore ) that are a better indication of compatibility (homogeneity??). The willingness to ski a certain run, to ski at a certain pace, etc, will do a lot to make a group compatible.

The worst is the family of four, the wife a Level 3, the two kids 6s and the dad a 7-8. Yet, they insist on skiing together.

Bob
post #51 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by WVSkier
The worst is the family of four, the wife a Level 3, the two kids 6s and the dad a 7-8. Yet, they insist on skiing together.

Bob
I think I had their cousins: Mom of 40 (ish) level 3 to 4, Sis age 16 level 3, Bro age 10 level 4, Little sister, 3 level 1
post #52 of 56
Interesting thread. I expect a split when I am assigned a group lesson. I have learned the following by it.

1. When given a group from the children's learning center (age 4 to 7) that the supervisor says are novist chair lift kids, I do a run on the magic carpet first and they have to demonstrate a stop by turning both ways, linked turns and must be able to get up (maybe with some assistance) from a fall. If they can't do it in 2 MC runs, they are not novist chair lift material yet.
2. When taking the remaining kids up the novist chair, never get more than one turn ahead of them (ever).
3. When I miss the ski-off for adults or children (ages 8 to 12) and assinged a lesson, I go to the novist chair first to assess the group.
4. I a student can't climb up from the meeting area to the novist chair lift, they usually don't belong in that group.
5. When splitting a group on the hill w/ another instructor, it usually makes sence to split by speed and aggressiveness rather than skill level ("those who like to ski fast and ski steeper stuff, over here> and those who want to learn more control and work on technique, over here<).
6. If you pick the right things in the lesson to present, it is amasing how fast the slowest person in the group gets up to speed (with a big smile on their face and praise from the rest of the group toward them).
7. If you get the class into a learning mode, the split is no longer meaningfull to the group (and happy to stay on easier terrain b/c they are learning there).
8. If a student is skiing parallel, don't assume thay have been skiing for a while.
9. Always ask the group before taking them to a little more difficult terrain, if one is unshure, be on the safe side.
10. Teens lie about their ability.
RW
post #53 of 56
I've had those families!!!!!
Especially when most of them are varying degrees of aspiring intermediate, but they drag a beginner 4 year old with them. "So, where will we be going" they ask. NOWHERE!!!!! I'm not skiing mountain blues hunched over with a 4 year old clinging onto my pole... my back wouldn't stand it.

When they turn up, it's time to re-negotiate the lesson. beginner first, then leave him/her with the grandparents or whoever while the others go up the hill.

Sigh. I don't like having to do that though, as they've come to the lesson with expectations, and no matter how well you teach, you weren't able to meet those initial expectations. Most intermediates have no clue that you cannot teach beginners up on the mountain.
post #54 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo
How critical is being of similar ability level to the success of the lesson is perhaps a better way to put it this whole topic of inquiry.

It would seem from the posts here that we could say,

speed and terrain similarities in a group's dynamics are more important than technique similarities?..... In general people don't care how poorly or aptly others ski in the group as long as they don't have to wait around or be hurried to keep pace with the group.... and as long as everyone is in a supportive team atmosphere.

Would it also be of general agreement that adults are more socially critical than kids when it comes to social similarities (ie:construction workers vs. silicon valley types) in group dynamics? Though it is a bit more difficult to make splits based on personalities, in a week long group situation, it can play an important role in the dynamics and spirit of the group.

I would like to be in the group that is jovial, faster paced, fun loving, supportive, enjoys a cold beer at lunch or dinner, and knows some funny jokes, enjoys naked hot tub parties. There you have it! ....Hey, it is kinda like some dating service?...
post #55 of 56
Thread Starter 
No problem, we just put you in Fox's group.
post #56 of 56
Ooooooh! Cheerio!..
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