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.
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.
|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.
|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.
|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.