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Old School Teaching vs. New School Teaching - Page 2

post #31 of 47
Two great posts, Nolo! I'm (almost) speechless!

The only exception I would take to anything you said is probably only a matter of perception or semantics: you said "MAKE NO ASSUMPTIONS." but I would argue that we DO make assumptions all the time, and that the more accurate statement would be "VERIFY ALL ASSUMPTIONS--BEFORE ACTING ON THEM." We can't help but make some assumptions, and they are often very helpful. Often, the assumptions we make are accurate, but they should ALWAYS be tested and confirmed for each and every student, every time.

I don't think it's possible for humans (adults, anyway) to go through a day without making and acting on assumptions. What is crucial is learning to RECOGNIZE assumptions, vs. verfified facts, and also recognizing when those unverified assumptions are DANGEROUS.

Our PSIA-Rocky Mountain "Guest-Centered Teaching" model mandates that instructors address--and therefore first identify--the student's REAL (not merely assumed) needs. I translate that mandate into the directive to answer the following questions (here's a hint to anyone going to our exams!):

1) What does the student SAY he/she wants?
2) What do you THINK the student needs?
3) WHY do you think that? (On what are you basing your assumptions?)
4) HOW will you verify your assumptions/inferences? (Questions? Observations?)
5) If questions #1 and #2 (after verification) bring conflicting answers, what will you do? (And why, and how?)

Question #2 clearly allows for assumptions, inferences, reading of non-verbal cues, superior understanding of ski technique and especially cause/effect relations, and so on. Becoming conscious of these assumptions is the goal of question #3, and verifying them is obviously the subject of #4.

Any instructor who proceeds to deliver a lesson without continuously exploring these issues is delivering a "canned" progression, based on unverified assumptions and generalizations, rather than specific individual needs. Clearly not "student-centered"!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #32 of 47
New Style

"you need a pair of 146cm skis to make short carving turns"

Old Style

"lets work with what you have on your feet"

post #33 of 47
graaagh, man from oz reckons I'm Old Style! Cos that's what I do.
(and by the end of the lesson, they are fully cognisant of what's on their feet, and what's on their compatriots' feet, and why they all do different stuff).

Interesting stuff, I guess that I am actually checking for understanding and changing goals unconsciously, cos I'm constantly reading body language and facial expressions! For me, if my people are commenting and asking questions and participating, I am pretty sure everything's OK. It's guests who learn like I do, without talking much, that are the conundrum. I can get very anxious if a person is yawning a lot, or drifting off. I always ask them (away from the group), and usually it's because their baby was yowling all night, or (more often) they had a Good Night! Sometimes I'll ask a person "is this stuff getting to where you want to be?" and not just their answer, but the way they give it, is either the assurance you want, or gives the cues to ask more questions.

I do link every thing we do back to the original goals, and also other things...for me, this business of better skiing is like a bunch of threads, but as you gather them up and follow them back, they all lead to a converging point: Good Skiing in All Conditions. So I do this for my guests, show them how the exercise relates to their stated goals, and then widen it out to include all skiing.
My aim for me this season has been to do this with less actual verbiage: to cover it clearly, but as succinctly as possible. It does seem to have been working.
post #34 of 47
Sorry, postus interruptus.

[ September 30, 2002, 07:31 AM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #35 of 47
Thank you, Bob. I accept your correction, because you are right, we couldn't get through the day without making hundreds of assumptions. The problem is, many assumptions are rooted in projections of our internal state on the external world.

Ever had a dream where your friend or lover betrayed you, and even though you know it's irrational, you hold it against them when you wake up? That's what I mean.

Your internal weather has an incalculable bearing on the lesson. In fact, everyone's internal weather has an incalculable bearing on the lesson. It's quantum theory applied to interpersonal relationships. If you change your behavior, it will change the behavior of those around you.

That's why teachers who project enthusiasm for their subject have an advantage over more skilled teachers who are bored with their teaching assignment. Good teaching somes from within.

Parker Palmer, author of The Courage to Teach, wrote the book to explain a simple premise: "Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher."

"If teaching cannot be reduced to technique, I no longer need suffer the pain of having my particular gift as a teacher crammed into the Procrustean bed of someone else's method and the standards prescribed by it. That pain is felt throughout education today as we glorify the method du jour, leaving people who teach differently feeling devalued, forcing them to measure up to norms not their own."
post #36 of 47

Have you just explained the happy blunderer or the entertainer?
post #37 of 47

I would need more information to answer your question.

But I will venture that even the dullest personality can be animated by authentic love of their subject and the desire to impart this love to their student. I have found this in myself: my personality is that of a pedantic bookworm, yet in front of a group of students I am transformed into the Energizer Bunny by my desire to share my enthusiasm for my subject.
post #38 of 47
Originally posted by Notorious Spag:
For instance: Instructor X (Speed Racer's nemesis) was teaching some fantastic lessons in 1984 when everyone was skiing on Course SL's, VO Slalom's, and Quantums. His student's were happy, his lessons were sought after... he made huge tips. 14 years later, shaped skis happen and he decides that he is too Prima Donna to update his lesson, making his contribution LESS effective!! Sounds out of this world, right? Wrong. I see it more than I like even at the "big" areas. The standard answer is "Fire his ass!", I know, but it doesn't happen that way sometimes.

Yes, I agree with that one! Although there's no need for firing in most ski schools... the instructor would lose so many students that he/she wouldn't teach much anyway...

I like the fact that things are getting more student centered: For a while, when it seemed like the concept was first introduced, a lot of instructors were interpreting student-centered as:
"How do I get the student to do what I want while convincing them it was their idea?" rather than actually attempting what the student wanted, which is a much harder (& more entertaining) task.

Keeps instructor boredom at bay.
post #39 of 47

I was thinking about the other side of the coin, of the instructor who's class always has a great time but tht doesn't necessarily learn anything. The enthusisiasm is there, but it doesn't go much deeper thatn that.
post #40 of 47
Maybe having a great time is what they came for. Some people who take lessons don't care if they learn anything. They're there for other reasons.

Every ski school has 'em--the instructors who succeed without any visible means of support. Just remember: the customer decides.
post #41 of 47
Yes BUT....

...those students who "just want to have fun" I have to believe still trust that WHATEVER their instructors teach them is, at the very least, accurate and faithful to accepted "good skiing" concepts.

Students know if they're having fun. They know if their instructor is nice, or entertaining, or bored. What they do NOT know is whether the technical content of the lesson is valid and up to standard. That they must trust to the integrity of their instructor.

Imagine a beginner lesson in which the instructor introduces "turns" by teaching his students twist their skis parallel into a "hockey stop," using powerful rotation of their upper bodies. Most of us would recognize that these movements, and these tactics, are the antithesis of good modern turning techniques. They are bad habits, and the instructor has lead his students up a dead-end alley!

But these students may well have a blast! They're accomplishing what he's teaching them, and that's exciting in itself. They're gaining some control. And they are "parallel." In fact, our instructor points that out, pointing to the rest of the groups making linked wedge turns, however graceful, however accurate. "Look how much better YOU guys are doing (with me)!" Now they're not only thrilled at their "progress" and having a great time, but he's convinced them that they should never take a lesson from anyone else except him.

I ask--even if all they wanted was "fun," was this lesson a success? I would argue that it was not, that the instructor has done the students an extreme disservice. By every standard the STUDENTS are equipped to measure, it was a success. But in the one aspect where they had to trust him, he let them down. That they aren't aware of it does not change the fact that he cheated them out of a good lesson, soured their enthusiasm for more lessons from instructors who could actually help them, and undercut the efforts of the rest of his team of colleagues.

Fun is important. But it is NOT sufficient to call a lesson good, even for those who "only want to have fun"!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #42 of 47
Okay, okay. You just described a guy who ran a ski school in this part of the world a few years back and had convinced his staff, I guess by virtue of his Austrian accent and his Teutonic name, that his technical advice was superior to any offered by PSIA. He had me up to do a Level I clinic. I confess that I was horrified by what he was teaching these poor credulous people, who, incidentally, had TONS of enthusiasm.

He was argumentative, irrational, egotistical, and domineering. And his people worshipped the ground he walked on.

But after that clinic a few people went on to get higher certification and in later years I saw him and a number of his staff at education events, so I guess the intervention was successful.

I think most customers are pretty discerning. Skiers tend to be highly educated and the majority of them are professionals themselves. They know when they're getting shined on.

But some people are not in a lesson for the lesson, but to get access to line cutting privileges or a guided tour or just some companionship. That's okay too. I have a student who is taking her development very slowly. She has her reasons, and I am on board with them. I suppose to an outsider looking in, she hasn't made a lot of progress. She is skiing to heal something very profound, and it's going to take some time. Her victories might not even be noticeable to an outside observer.
post #43 of 47
At the time of the lesson the student in this situation may very well feel like they learned something appropriate. In much the same way that a first grader can not tell the difference between a top of the class eighth grader from a bottom of the class eighth grader, a beginning or intermediate skier won't initially know that they have been fed garbage until sometime later. At that point they will become soured on ski instruction and recent history tells us that this is the "first impression" that is very hard to overcome. In a less severe, but compounding, situation the ski school offering such a class begins to get a bad reputation as the original student discusses his "successful" lesson with his friends who set him straight and then tell their friends about the subpar lesson, who tell their friends ....

Nolo, in the situation you described it sounds like only a few of the most dedicated you described took the initiative to seek the truth, and these were all individuals who sought to be instructors. What happens to the unmotivated skiers who attend a lesson to satisfy someone else? Isn't it a requirement of the instructors job not only to give these people a good time and the knowledge they need, but also to light the spark of passion?

To tie this back to new school vs. old, a truly student centered teacher must necessarily have the skills and knowledge to teach them. During the 25 years I skied before becoming an instructor I took two lessons from pros. Back at the time I was going through level II I found myself teaching some of what I learned in the second lesson nearly 15 years earlier. For the skeptics the point in question was turning the inside ski first. All I remember about the other is the instructor and that it was cold. Conclusion: The first entertained and I remember him, the second taught and I don't remember anything about him. TEaching is still teaching, It requires building a relationship and empathy a student.
post #44 of 47
Bob, you have just described something I saw daily this season. This kind of thing was encouraged.
My account of "an amazing lesson" was not an isolated incident, just one I happened to observe at close quarters.
post #45 of 47
I just have to laugh. I think we can answer milesb's question now. If you were to find the statistical middle of the profession of ski instruction in 1961, when PSIA was incorporated, it would probably be within 5 percentage points of where the statistical middle is today. There are personable frauds and there are masters who have a kind of alchemy with people. Short-timers, self-dealers, and a core of dedicated professionals.

There's a new school all right, and it's happening right here on EpicSki. Has anyone else ever heard of students organizing their own ski school? Not since the early days, I'd wager.

That's probably not what you meant by new school vs. old, milesb, but it's a new and exciting development. It could be mold-breaking.
post #46 of 47
...and there you have it. Great summary, Nolo! The new mold is forming now, right here. Not only has there never been a better opportunity for students to design their own ski lesson experience, but there's also never been a better way for instructors to communicate and learn from each other, distilling the best from the best! As always, there's no "best way," only better tools. And as always, "the wrench is only as good as the nut at the end of its handle."

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #47 of 47
I don't have much time here, and I really only read the first few posts, so forgive me if I'm re-hashing old stuff that's already been said, or bringing this back to the subject of student centered, but, here goes...

My true belief is that instuction is the result of the instructor. People have been talking about student centered instruction being some sort of new concept. I think that's a load of fertilizer. When I started teaching in 1983, I found it to be enjoayable that I made a connection with my students and they learned what they wanted to learn. I didn't have to wait for some new "way" of teaching, to start asking my students (save the lavel 1s) what they wanted to learn, and to try to determine how they learn best, and work to teach them in a way that they would be able to learn what they wanted to learn. No, I don't think the way I teach has changed over the last 19 years, except that I have become a better communicator and observer, which (I hope) makes me a better teacher. Therefore, over the years, my lessons have probably become more effective, but I doubt that a 1st or 2nd year instructor in 2002 is having a noticable different result than a 1st or 2nd year instructor in the mid '80s. Yes, equipment has changed, and we teach turning differently on modern equipment.

Also, it should be noted that student motivation has probably not changed much over the years. As a matter of fact, I think, that if anything, it's worse than it was in the past because people are more willing to give up if they don't become instant experts or the experience is not 100% perfect. Skiing just doesn't fit in well with the instant gratification culture that we are currently living in.
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