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Pros & Cons of Private & Group Lessons

post #1 of 54
Thread Starter 
What does a private lesson have going for it that a group lesson does not? What does a group lesson have to offer that a private does not?

Ott says group lessons should be outlawed. What's your take on this controversy?
post #2 of 54
My take is: what controversy? There's no place for both?

The up side of a private is fairly apparent: one-on-one, more or less uninterrupted (by pesky OTHER students) attention from an instructor, allowing the indulgence of time and detail that a group might be hard-pressed to provide.
Benefits of a group include observing other students;sometimes you'll see someone else doing what you're doing. As it's difficult to see yourself - and your take on what you FEEL happening might differ significantly from what others SEE you doing- it can be beneficial to observe other skiers of your general skill level. I've had a couple nice chats with fellow students in a group, away from the instructor, as we compared notes.
I'd guess that some people's learning styles might even be better suited to a group format. The "support" of others is very helpful to some people, whereas the one-on-one might - even though it sounds silly - induce a hyper self-consciouness. Some skiers, myself included, aren't always comfortable with intense scrutiny. The group allows for occassional breaks in that (perceived) pressure "situation."
And, of course, another benefit of signing up for a group is that often enough, due to small class size, it becomes something of a semi-private, offering time for some dedicated one-on-one...but without the price tag the official private entails.
post #3 of 54
There is a place for both types of lessons. A group lesson develops group dynamics, ie, the social domain. The private has but one student and the student/teacher relationship depends on how they interact. The group format opens up different teaching styles available to the teacher,ie, various discovery styles. The private format limits the teacher to pretty much the command style, particularly given the short time frame of most privates. All in all, I favor the group lesson, as it gives the teacher more options as to teaching styles that are available.
post #4 of 54
Thread Starter 
You caught me Ryan, doing the Rikki Lake thing to get takers.

Rick H said something that caught my attention:

The private format limits the teacher to pretty much the command style, particularly given the short time frame of most privates.
Is that a common perception? Most of my privates are requests, so the lesson is one of many, but when I get an assigned private, usually it's an intermediate or advanced skier looking for a brush-up or to learn new skills, like carving, bumps, powder. If we're brushing up or carving, I offer a spin on my fatties, which have an adjustable plate binding, to do some "ground school" on what the ski does for the skier. That's almost purely experiential with a gazillion words on the chair.

(At the end of the lesson I have to strongarm them into giving me back my fatties.)

In no way do I feel "directive" as a teacher unless I am in a safety situation. I facilitate learning, which means I'm always trying to arrange things so they're eager to take it up a notch.
post #5 of 54
You caught me, Nolo, doing my Dr. Phil thing to increase my audience share.
post #6 of 54
Thread Starter 
post #7 of 54
Originally posted by Rick H:
The private format limits the teacher to pretty much the command style, particularly given the short time frame of most privates. .
When I have a new instructor one of the things I am looking for is someone who DOES NOT teach like this! In general these types are also those who will simply trot out a set list of 'fix' exercises - no attempt at all to adjust the lesson to ME & my needs...
Those I choose to ski with again are those more flexible instructors.
post #8 of 54
I can really only learn 1 thing in a lesson. Maybe 2 on a good day. So a group lesson works fine for me. Maybe a 1 hour private would be fine, too.
post #9 of 54

I can use any teaching style I know of whether I have one student, four students or ten. The number of students in the lesson don't seem to limit that aspect of teaching to me but I will agree that having less time can limit my choices.

It seems to me that the fewer the number of students I have the better the relationships we can build in the time available to us. Too many students and I become an "animal trainer" or a "performer"depending on the make-up of the class.

post #10 of 54
Yd, the one-hour lesson came about with time constraint of the students. The areas are open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. with the heavy traffic after 4 p.m. with school children and a lot of adults coming after work and supper at home.

The usual time spent on the slopes for these folks is three hours or less if it is cold or they take time out for food or drink.

Of those three hours, they even begrudge taking one of them out for a lesson.

post #11 of 54
Slap me around and call me Shirley, but if a ski school is to maintain a student-centered outlook ('nuther thread), it would HAVE to offer both group and private formats. Some people want to "brush up" and save money... group lesson. Some people simply want to save money... group lesson. Some people don't work well in groups... private lesson. Some people want to ski fast and cut the lift line, regardless of cost... private lesson. Some people excel in groups... group lesson. Some people see the benefits of buying a lesson/ticket/rental package... group or private. Etc. Etc. There are a million different possibilities (well, at least 24!) and one of my responsibilities as director is to cater to as many of them as I can... Otherwise I'm being exclusive and elitist, am I not?

Do away with group lessons? I say thee NAY. My instructors are pampered enough as it is!

If an instructor is having trouble finding success with group lessons, there is simpler answer to that problem than "let's can the whole group lesson thing". It's called TRAINING, and it's definitely available.

No wait! I just thought of the solution! Let's have all our instructors take a reduction in an already paltry pay scale so that we can afford to sell the private product and teach every lesson 1-on-1!! (OK sorry. I'm being a jerk. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img] )

Please don't take that last paragraph seriously. Just a Joke!

Pray for snow,
Spag :
post #12 of 54
Lack of skiing and snow are beginning to warp Spag's personality.

post #13 of 54
In a private lesson I can work on the individual and their particular needs and devote ALL of my attention, be they fast or slow learners ..... visual versus verbal etc.

The tragedy of a group lesson ...... at least early in the game, is that two students will be lost by attrition. It's just part of the law of averages in mixed group sales.

I tend to direct my energies to the middle of the "bell curve" in order to get the maximum effect for the group at large. I will not let the "fittest and fastest" dominate a group, so they in effect are "cheated", just as you can argue that those who were at the opposite tail of the curve were cheated.

Of course, if any of those "two tails" hung in there with a smile, I usually donate an extra 15 minutes.

A group lesson is better than no lesson at all. You need to ensure that the student is in the right group and do a "handoff" either up or down the scale ...... to another instructor as soon as you are aware of a mismatch.
post #14 of 54
Originally posted by nolo:
What does a private lesson have going for it that a group lesson does not? What does a group lesson have to offer that a private does not?

Ott says group lessons should be outlawed. What's your take on this controversy?
If you would let me setup a perfect group lesson one might be surprised at the advantages of a group lesson over a private lesson. First the group would be small say three or four students. Next the students would at the same level say level 5. Next the students would have similar backgrounds and interests. Finally, I think I have thought of the major items, they would all be the same gender to offset any intimidation that might occur in a mixed group. Nope one more, they would be of similar age.

The advantage of a group lesson for the student is the inner action the group has within itself. The advantage of a group lesson for the instructor is the inner action of the group AND the ability to feed from more than one student. In addition if the instructor handles the group properly the group will be honest concerning such things as goals and the direction the group is taking to get there.

Can private lesson be more rewarding for the student? Yes they can for small children and those students that are intimidated by groups. The private lesson appears to offer a more personal touch and the opportunity to build a closer relationship with the instructor. Is the learning environment more ideal in a private lesson than a group? Not necessarily if the group is purposefully structured. Can we really create my “dream” group? Yes we can and should but unfortunately we do not take the time. It has been done very diligently years ago at one Eastern ski area. In fact the area went so far as to give the student a simple learning style exam before “placing” the student in their group.

So it appears in my fast world of school students, major childrens programs, and experimenters in skiing paying $2.00 for a lesson with a combo pass, which is good for the future market, the group and the private lesson will still exist. I can dream though can’t I? [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

Have a GREAT day!


By the way I have the ideal group. I train ski patrol also! Trol turns are on the way out at our area!
post #15 of 54
rant coming

Last year in one of my group lessons I had a drop out. At the time I felt somewhat releived because the individual was a bit of a distraction to me and probably the rest of the group, about ten teenagers. When I got to the bar that night I got really pissed at myself, it had been over five years since I had had a dropout. It is out job to teach the lesson no matter what it is, with a little compassion, and support from the supervisors (to assist with splits) there should be none! Yes, none! I beleive that they are caused by apathy as opposed to empathy.

end rant
post #16 of 54
Thread Starter 
Do private lesson buyers expect more from the instructor/instruction than group lesson buyers might?

Is it easier to sell the second lesson to someone you meet in a private lesson or a group lesson?

Does your ski school give preference as far as times/convenience to private lesson takers or groups?

Does your ski school schedule instructors in order to maximize ski school profits or value to the customer?
post #17 of 54
Originally posted by Tom Burch:

Last year in one of my group lessons I had a drop out.
Is a "drop out" someone that leaves the class and returns to the lodge or skiing on their own?
I tried to do that at Squaw when I found myself in a day class way beyond my skills. The trainer kept me going...barely...but I was one wupped puppy dragging my beat-up body home that night. Maybe dropping out is not entirely a bad thing.
post #18 of 54
Up until now, I have always had group lessons. More recently, it has been smaller groups. The main reason for me is cost, but also value.
In some of the better lessons I've had, we take it in turn to follow the instructor, they point out something to each of us, and we work on it. So I follow, get a tip on something to work on, and then go to the back of the group. I now have a couple of runs to work on that, then get more feedback from the instructor. I sometimes worry that if I had a private lesson on one of my "bad" days, I might not get much out of it, and at the same time, my perception would be to get as much out of the day as possible, so always striving with every run to pick up something else. In a sense, I see that as a pressure on me (again, probably perceived), but it is enough to discourage me a lot of the time from taking one.

post #19 of 54
You do classroom work in class and homework on your own.

If you have never skied moguls before and take a class, group or private, it is unrealistic to expect that you will be able to ski mogul runs pefectly or even competently while in class.

You need to do your homework. And a lot of it.

post #20 of 54
If you are a beginner, a private lesson may be a much better way to go. Then again, lots of beginners like to stay with their groups and the lesson can be a big party. But if you are with a group of strangers it can be embarrassing and uncomfortable for some. All you students out there, listen up! Here's how you get a "private lesson" for the cost of a group lesson. Most ski areas want to accomodate individual needs even in group lessons, so instead of asking for a specific instructor, ask for an instructor or lesson that applies to your specific needs. For example, if you are a beginner, take a lesson on ski blades. Show up at the lesson counter with your ski blades and request a group lesson. While some areas may try to stick you in with longer ski groups, most will give you your own 'group' with an instructor on ski blades. This works best if you have one or two others along with you. While a group of three may not be considered as a 'private', you'll still get plenty of individual attention in such a small group. If you haven't skied before, start off on the shorties, you will love 'em! If you are a more advanced skier, go to the group lesson counter and request a group lesson skiing moguls. If you don't want that , request a group lesson learning to make carved turns. Make a request that you only want to ski black diamonds, ask for an instructor that works well with teenagers, ask for a female instructor, just be specific about what you want. Advanced groups are split up into smaller groups and if it is known already what you want, chances are good that your group will be very small and maybe just you and the instructor. It happens a lot. By the way , if you do manage to get a private for the cost of a group lesson ( and you are pleased with the instruction ) tip your instructor! Instructors get paid a low hourly wage and tips really help pay the bills in those long winter months. Thank you.
FYI- those of you who do want a private...Don't just go up to the counter and ask for a private. Instead, look around the ski school area and talk to a few of the instructors standing around. Tell them what you are wanting in your lesson and ask who they recommend. ( and chances are it will be them : ) If you click with this person, go in to the ticket office and request that person. That way, the instructor gets a commission ! Most areas do not pay commissions for assigned privates, so the instructor just gets the low hourly wage. In either case , please tip if the lesson was good. As a paying guest, you deserve to get a great lesson whether it's a group or a private so make sure you always request an experienced PSIA certified instructor !
post #21 of 54
When I first started out I tried group lessons and while they were socially kind of fun the instruction was often very limited for obvious reasons and once due to instructor apathy. My private lessons on the other hand have always been memorable due to level of instruction and challenge. With private lessons my instructors are much more "into it" and I get alot more out of it. The main problem with private lessons is getting someone who you click with since you do want to have fun too. I've been burned when my scheduled instructor doesn't show and an alternate takes his or her place. While the instruction was pretty good the interaction wasn't that great, making me realize why that person was an alternate and not one of the more requested instructors. Interestingly enough my best private lesson did come from casually talking to an instructor who was setting up a group lesson at the time. We agreed to meet later and he was excellent! ski doc
post #22 of 54
As a learner, it doesn't matter to me at all, whether I'm in a private or a group, or even a 10 minute pointer. I'm going to get something out of any of it. I want to improve fiercely enough that it doesn't matter what length, size or style. If the lesson's no good, I'll still get something out of it and move on. However, it took a long time to become this way.

I just don't look at it as a product someone is selling me. I look at it as opportunity for growth. "Thank you, temporary master."

I'm so naive!

(Hi everyone. I've been on the beach and now I'm back--jonesin' for the snow.)
post #23 of 54
Originally posted by nolo:
Do private lesson buyers expect more from the instructor/instruction than group lesson buyers might?

Actually I have never asked a student but from my perspective I would take a private lesson to gain more in-depth learning on a specific task such as bumps, moguls etc. So the answer would be YES I take a private for the more personal touch. However I have privates and simi-privates that simply want to keep a family or a group together so in that case the answer is NO. Maybe it is a toss up? With many of the children I teach it is a parent thing. They want their children together and they want them to have special attention.

Is it easier to sell the second lesson to someone you meet in a private lesson or a group lesson?

No if you can show the student growth and what their next lesson will accomplish and of course they want to grow in their skiing you will have better odds selling the next lesson in a group. You have better odds mathmatecially. actually i seem to also get additional lessons from the friends of the group so the odds are even better!

Does your ski school give preference as far as times/convenience to private lesson takers or groups?

We teach a lesson when the student arrives so we are on fifteen minute return cycles based who is on deck next and how busy we have been. I understand this year it will change to lessons on the hour. I sure hope they hired a new group because I can't see how we can teach for and hour and make the next call. We use to start lessons every 90 minutes which alowed us to have the 30 minutes slack time to go to the potty or travel the mountain if you happen to be in the right place for your student at the wrong time. I usually ran my privates up to the bell.

Does your ski school schedule instructors in order to maximize ski school profits or value to the customer?

The pecking order is newbies and non-certifieds are assigned beginner lessons. Level III's have the first privates and the balance is spread to the rest. However based on the type of lesson up most supervisors attempt to assign by the time the instructor signs in at the school desk. At the end of the year if we did this for a living you would be better off not having a certification beyond level I and generally the non-certifieds make the most money on the year if they show and work. Remeber some beginner lessons, and it is not unusual will have 12-20 students and we are paid a percentage of the lesson fee.
Have a GREAT day! :

post #24 of 54
Thread Starter 
Do you also drink Evian, Weems?

Nice to see you back here!

What do you think about the student's motivation to choose a private or a group lesson? I often hear the platitude (?) that we should strive to give a private lesson to each person in a group lesson. I have heard that from the CSIA training video on teaching that I saw at IMSIA in 2001 and I have heard it from RickH reporting on PMTS teacher training.

But what if the student wants a group lesson? The delivery of which would satisfy her motivation for being there? Huh?

What does excellence look like from that customer's perspective?
post #25 of 54
OK, I may be repeating others on here, but I haven't read through all the replies, but I would say that sometimes in group lessons, by listening and watching the advice given to others in your group it can help you in areas that the instructor hadn't touched with you. (although, I guess the reverse could be true as well, that you hear something that is detrimental to your current progress)
I mean, I may outwardly seem to be carrying out one aspect quite proficeintly, but by listening to the instructor talk to another member of the group, I realise that my outward appearance is only working on certain terrain, and that I need to take on board the other information to use in other instances.

Sorry if that seems a bit of a ramble, I hope it makes sense.

post #26 of 54
Thread Starter 
No, Fox, you make tons of sense. In a group lesson you can learn from the others. (And yes, others have made the same point on this thread, but we weren't getting it.)

Then how does making the group lesson into a bunch of mini-private lessons further the objective of peer-to-peer instead of master-disciple learning?
post #27 of 54
To all that I have upset, I'm sorry.

In hind sight I recognize that in some situations drop outs are inevitable. That doesn't make them any easier to stomach. Obviously, im my situation I have been able to avoid them. I consider myself lucky to be in such a situation. But even in the most extreme of situations more compassion and less "not another school group" will help the situation. Keep in mind that the school group is giving you the work, without them the paycheck would be alot smaller.
post #28 of 54

There have been many occasions during group lessons where I wanted to help one of my fellow students by providing some tip or information that I thought was relevant to what they were having problems with.

I have very rarely said anything, though, because I felt uncomfortable and didn't know how the instructor would take it.

Is peer-to-peer help common in other people's group lessons?

How do instructors feel about it?

post #29 of 54
Nolo and others,

I've heard the idea of making a group lesson into a bunch of mini privates also and can't say that I am very taken with the idea. One of the pluses in a group lesson is that you get to use the group dynamic (whatever that is) to your advantage and the advantage of the group. Peer inspired learning is one thing that happens. Group interaction can be used to make the time spent more enjoyable. Co-operation and compitition can be used to enhance the learning of the group and the individuals in it.

Further, the relationship(s) that I develop with a group, and how the relationship(s) is developed will be different from that which evolves in a one person private. To try to develop the one on one type relationship with four, six or more people in the space of two or three hours could very well end up as a disaster.

That is not to say that each person in the group shouldn't recieve individual feedback and attention but that should be done in the context of the group because you never know just what is going to click for the indivdual students (though as a instructor you should have a pretty good idea) and I have seen many time when my comments to one student have lead to a breakthrough with another student. It seems to me that all comments to the participants should be made in front to the group and that if there is something you want to say that you don't want to say in front of the group that you had better think long and hard on whether it should be said.

Finally, I would really worry about what the outcome might be if this philosophy was expressed to newer instructors as a way to teach groups. Rather than developing the group as a learning unit I can envision the group being broken into a bunch of indivdual incomplete "privates".

Maybe I am missing the point of what the others are trying to get at when they say teach groups as a bunch of mini-privates and if I am can they restate what they mean in different words.

post #30 of 54
All this generalization is well and good but what to you say to a newbe instructor who gets overwhelmed?

From our bar you can overlook about a dozen beginner classes and I often do over a pint of Bass Ale. [img]smile.gif[/img]

Here is that first year instructor with a fairly snmall class of eight, all doing fairly well except for one roly-poly teen girl who falls down on every turn. No matter what the instrucor tells her, when the skis turn into the fall line she sits down.

The instructor has now spent half of the hourlong class picking her up, the rest of the students have lapped them, up and down the chair, at first they stopped by the instructor and the teen but then they just skied.

The instructor finally got the teen down the slope and she took off her skis and walked to the lodge. At that time the instructor tried to gather the rest of the class but they had scattered so much that he couldn't, so he went on to lodge himself.

How do you handle that? Do you leave the teen lying, make her take off her skis and walk, or what? How about the rest of the class? How do you develop group dynamics in an hour like that?

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