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Poll: Which do You Prefer for Teaching Beginners?

Poll Results: Structured or Loose Approach to Teaching Beginners

  • 46% (12)
  • 38% (10)
  • 15% (4)
    Mind your own business JONG!
26 Total Votes  
post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Gary Dranow View Post
...The lower the level and the larger the group that is being taught structure comes in very handy for efficiency.
Let's start the thread with the above quote from from Gary in another thread. When you are teaching beginners, do you prefer a very structured approach, or a very loose approach.
post #2 of 40

Teach Beginners

I usually teach small classes 1-4 people because of demand at ski area - Silver Mt. - so I use a loose structure and I try to stay flexible and go where the emphasis is needed.

Instructors theat teach larger classes would probably want to be more structured I imagine.
post #3 of 40
Our average classes for beginners are around 7 people. In the short time I have been teaching I have seen classes begin with people numbering in the middle twenties. We break them in controllable numbers and throw instructors at them until the demand is met. If we don't have enough instructors we improvise.
In a medium large class(10) of never evers you need a time to complete structured activities to get them through all the progression up to getting them sliding down the hill on their own.
After you get them sliding down a training hill the structure follows a looser format but the instruction goes in whatever direction is necessary to get the more skilled ones learning yet having to set the progress to the least skilled. If one can't make the turn or show me they can stop then nobody gets on the lift.
We have to think of the individuals' needs as well as the class as a whole.
Structure goes out the window when you need to encourage them to meet their own goals.
Often I will have many different levels in the same group as the more athletic gain confidence through success and the less athletic struggle with concepts some excel doing with little coaching. In this case ,and it seems all classes are this way,you coach them in similar levels by grouping them mentally with others at near the same skill level.
Everybody takes part the same lesson yet everybody gets personal needs attended to.
Isn't that what group teaching is all about . Tailoring the lesson to the singular needs of the individuals but in the parameters of a group lesson ?

So structure. Yes and no.
post #4 of 40
Tightly structured lessons are for the benefit of the teacher not the student. I try to adapt my lessons to the needs of the students and allow them to dictate the pace and direction of the lesson. I've found that this keeps the focus on their learning. I'm not striving for efficiency I'm striveing for learning.
post #5 of 40
Twenty students turns into a lecture not an interactive relationship with the instructor. It happens but how much time do youhave for each student. Hard to sell more lessons to people on that basis.
post #6 of 40
I haven't had twenty in a class in a long long time. Maximum number in any class is supposed to be eight, on a really busy day it might go to ten for a beginner lesson.
post #7 of 40
I believe that for beginners it has to be fun, and that they also need to learn. Loose is fun and structured is learning important details about stance, balance, pressure and procedure.-------Wigs
post #8 of 40
Hi Steve,
Well said. We need both so it really isn't an either / or choice.
post #9 of 40
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post
Hi Steve,
Well said. We need both so it really isn't an either / or choice.
Thanks, Write me a PM and fill me in on hows things----Wigs
post #10 of 40
Another vote in the either/or category. I try to incorporate enough structure into beginner lessons so that safety and learning are accomplished. I try to incorporate enough looseness so that the lesson is fun. The percentage of each depends on the conditions du jour and who is in the lesson. The larger the class, the tougher the snow, the less athletic and less motivated the students are, the more structure I add.

My record group was 45. I split them up into 5 groups, stood in the middle and yelled every direction 3 times in 3 different directions, did demos and went from group to group to give feedback. I told everyone that once they thought they "had it", to go ride the lift up and if they had any questions to ask when they got back to the bottom. It was a horrible way to teach, but the only other options were to turn them loose without lessons or send them home. Everyone was offered "do over" lessons later in the day (after more staff would be there and groups would be "normal") and to my knowledge no one complained and no one got hurt. But to the question at hand, I used a combination of structure (splitting into groups and assigning tasks) and looseness (self organize and go at your own pace).
post #11 of 40
I'm another either or person. It all falls into the SAFETY-FUN-LEARNING Model.

SAFETY - You have to have enough structure and self-discipline to be able to hit all the points in a beginner lesson to make sure that the students are safe.

FUN - You have to build fun into the experience so that that students learn and have a lot of fun. Again this is a structure thing. You need to structure your lesson so that fun is a natural part of the whole experience. However, you need to be flexible to allow the fun to happen.

LEARNING - You have to be flexible to fit the variances between individual learning styles and needs. If you do this correctly the student will have fun and enjoy the learning experience.

BTW - Flawed Poll. You really need a both category.
post #12 of 40
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by T-Square View Post
... BTW - Flawed Poll. You really need a both category.

I didn't include "Both" for a reason: by definition, if you deviate from a structured lesson plan, it is no longer structured.

post #13 of 40
If it is that structured, it's going to be pretty poor at meeting the needs of the students and adapting to conditions du jour.
post #14 of 40
I think any beginner group lesson starts out structured. It has to, because you have nothing to go on... no baseline. Once you get an idea of your student's ability, if you are a capable instructor and few enough students to be able to work with it (with 20-40 students it will remain structured), it will tend to lean toward being more flexible.

The rookie instructors will follow a structured lesson plan until they become proficient enough to start deviating from it.
post #15 of 40
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by JohnH View Post

The rookie instructors will follow a structured lesson plan until they become proficient enough to start deviating from it.
Thank you

Part of my rationale of starting this thread is that we have several rookie and soon to be sophmore instructors here, and I thought this might be of help to them.

So, is there a standard point that you would deviate from "your standard structured lesson plan?"

For me, I make a pretty quick determination when I'm doing the meet and greet, from the identification of Motivation, Understanding and Movement. (Standard GCT). From there, I'm constantly assessing the needs and understanding of the students throughout the lesson.
post #16 of 40
Your risk manager and the SSD develop and implement a range of suggested activities based on area policy. Same goes for the PSIA progression model. Go outside of these and you are personally liable for the consequences. So from that perspective some structure needs to be in place.
That being said we also need to tailor a lesson plan to fit the situation. We do that by picking and choosing activities that fit within the parameters defined by your SSD. In most cases the more experienced you are the more lattitude they will give you. Which is why newbies are encouraged to follow a set plan.
So yes the structure is there running in the background. just like the os in your computer. Spontaneous choices happen within an accepted range and they make up the "unstructured", or "variable" part of the lesson plan. It is these choices that a good instructor can make appear to be unstructured fun. Active experimentation and guided discovery being two examples that come to mind immediately.
So as I stated earlier the poll is flawed because it implies a standard set structure, or chaos, and nothing in between. It is in this between area where all of the variable and seemingly spontaneous (unstructured) activities happen.
post #17 of 40

Beginners need structure

First time skiers benefit from a well structured enviornment, lesson plan and class handeling. Regardless of having large numbers or just one on one they need to have the same skills introduced to them. They need time to process information, practice the skills and integrate everything into their personal learning stratige. There just isn't a lot of latitude to vary the lesson. The greatest variations are usually with 3-6 year olds. Here we are dealing with affective issues which when quickly diagnosed the lesson falls into the usual routine. I know several colleagues who try to innovate at the beginner level and I encourage them to stick with the progression and not short cut (short circuit) the learning process. Not that I am a drill sargent but during the innitial part of the lesson people want to be part of the group and not be singled out. Directions are general and demos are for all. As skills are aquired and balance develops free practice becomes the stratigie. At this point individual attention brings rapid progress. The group rapidly becomes comfortable with the situation and lift use enters the equation. Once again a well structured lesson plan yeilds demonstratable success. Discribe the whole process, how it usually goes and what can go wrong. Reassure them that they have the skill to try new things, stick with it and they will have a memorable experience. When entering new terrain go slowly and review skills. Build confidence and their results will be forthcoming. Shortly they will not be beginners. As skills blend many beginners quickly reduce the size of their wedge, begin skidding or even carving spontaneously. Let them explore terrain within their skill level and don't push them into terrain that will cause them to be defensive. If they need more challange use tasks that will build skills and keep terrain situations on the gentle side. When your results are consistant I doubt that you will want to stray far from your lesson plan.
post #18 of 40
Originally Posted by dogonjon View Post
First time skiers benefit from a well structured enviornment, lesson plan and class handeling.
I was waiting for this one to hit. There was a story going around a while back about student feedback favoring the lessons from the less experiened pros at one resort because the experienecd pros were too discipined with their class handling. Something to consider.
post #19 of 40
JohnH makes a good point. Establish a baseline with some command or task style teaching. As the lesson evolves the teaching style changes to fit the students learning style.
However, How you incorporate a students reactions and make everything seem spontaneous take a large body of experience to pull off. Which is why I doubt a newbie will do that effectively.
post #20 of 40
I use a structured lesson plan (PSIA Model) to introduce all the basic skills and to fall back on in... case things some undone. Otherwise, when we get these huge classes, oh boy, what a mess! Besides, this approach works for me.

My question, with respect; why would an instructor NOT want some structure in their lesson?
post #21 of 40
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by White_shine View Post

My question, with respect; why would an instructor NOT want some structure in their lesson?

Since I opened this can of worms: because I have yet to have a group of students that everyone appeared to be a clone of everyone else.
post #22 of 40
Imagine a flow chart. The eventual goal being at the bottom of the page and the route being defined by a series of yes or no questions that define your path to the bottom of the page. Variations exist but always within the structure of the chart. Eventually all of these choices will lead to the bottom of the page. Structured? Absolutely! Variable? Very.
post #23 of 40
Thread Starter 
actually, JASP, I agree with you.

But, a point I wanted to make with this thread: whose flow chart? I know, the party line is that the flow chart is provided by the SSD/Training dept........which nobody except the rookies actually use. The "official" progressions are oftentimes designed by people who haven't actually taught a beginner progression since GLM.
post #24 of 40
Content is constant. You can move the stepping stones around a bit but you still have to arrange them to create a navigable path. The largest variable is deciding which jokes if any will work for the group or individual.
post #25 of 40
I am not sure why following tried and proven methods sounds so bad. Especially in the beginner corral. IMO inventing a better mousetrap is only welcome if it actually works better than the old one. I've seen a lot of better mousetraps (ideas) come and go. Some worked well but others really became a nightmare.
post #26 of 40
Thread Starter 
And, I've seen a lot of using the same old mousetrap that results in all the beginners that started with those particular instructors still making only braking wedges.
post #27 of 40
Put me in the "Structured but variable" camp. Degree of structure is somewhat proportional to size of the class. If I get a 23-person group of never-seen-snow-before-last-night Floridians during spring break, with 5 other classes that size in the yard, it's going to be nearly impossible to do any kind of customized lesson plan. Thankfully that's pretty rare.

If I've got a normal-sized group (5-10) then I'm going to vary things based on their athleticism, goals, and other factors that I see and hear during the first few minutes of the lesson, and for that matter from the "meet-and-greet" before we start.

There are almost always a few things I'll do, but how much and how long depends on the group, conditions, etc. Unless it's total chaos, I like to do some boot drills and some overview of what we can do with our movements. But 20 minutes into it we might still be doing scooter drills, or there may be people already doing DTP stuff if I've got a bunch of hockey players and inline skaters. I like to give them a chance to "Go" before I give the "stop" to avoid the braking wedge as the first muscle memory, but if the yard is jammed so we can't do a safe gliding run-out, I'm going to introduce a wedge while we're still on the flat. Some groups are up on the chairlift before 11, others aren't even on the poma beginner run till after lunch.
post #28 of 40
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
I didn't include "Both" for a reason: by definition, if you deviate from a structured lesson plan, it is no longer structured.

By that definition, I would hope no one is teaching a "structured" lesson plan.
post #29 of 40
I have taught in many different systems in my three decades. DTP, Wedge to a stop, step progressions, scooter progressions, Tip and Ride progressions, etc...
Braking wedges are only a small part of any system / area SOP. So it would be wrong to state that ALL of the students in those programs never progress beyond a braking wedge. A lot of the examiners and D teamers started by doing a braking wedge as a beginner. Same can be said about race programs. Where you start is less important than where you take the class / student. One last thought to ponder: TLC students often insist on using a braking wedge so knowing both is important.
post #30 of 40
As typically happens in these types of threads, I think we're starting to get lost in the symantics of the terminology. We're now getting into what each person thinks the definition of is (oops)...... I mean Structured is.

Does "structured" mean following a prescribed lesson plan, or does it mean determining what you are going to do next, on the fly?

The more experienced instructors will be able to start with a predetermined task/exercise, then, based on the results and feedback, determine where to go next. We might ask a low intermediate to make a slightly skidded/christie turn, then determine whether each student needs to work on edging, or balance or rotary skills, etc. We might determine that each student needs something different emphasized, but have a single exercise that all can perform to work on it. Or we might determine that each student should do something different, and run "parallel" lessons with some students doing different exercises than other students.

Is this considered structured or unstructured? In my personal definition, even though I have specific exercises I want the students to do, I'd consider it unstructured, only because it wasn't pre-planned. But I may continue with an existing lesson format (i.e. command/task or guided discovery), just swapping out the exercise or intended outcome based on the feedback and results. This happens a lot when one student picks up on one way of my delivering the info, but another student doesn't, and needs another way of achieving the desired outcome. I don't necessarily want to hit the first student with another method because they already "got it", so I may have them do something else while I get the other student to be able to get the desired result. You know... the best laid plans of mice and men....

Either way, there's always some sort of structure, and some parts of the lesson that are unstructured. Is this conversation is structured??? you click on "reply", you type a message, you hit "submit", you wait for someone else to reply (feedback). That's structure, right? But it's also unstructured because what you say next will change based on the feedback from the other posters. That's unstrcutured, right?

So my take on the ICSFM's original post/poll, was whether I follow a strict, structured lesson plan (the activities I ask the students to do), or whether I might change the plan based on the results/feedback from the students as the lesson progresses (unstructured)
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