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Instructors: what's your self-perception

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
I was reading a note that Horst Abraham sent to the Lex Letters, in which he acknowledged Lex Kunau's congratulations for having recently been awarded one of PSIA's first "Educational Excellence" awards, along with Paul Valar and Max Lundberg.

He writes: "We still see ourselves (instructors) as masters of skiing, not masters of learning; hence our focus is still on teaching techniques rather than facilitating learning."

I know Horst sees this, if not as the poison in the well, as the chief obstacle to our professional advancement.

Hence my question to the instructors in the bunch: is the job description promoted by your employer one of a teacher of techniques or a facilitator of learning?

What is your personal job description?

My question to lesson buyers is: which kind of teacher are you looking for? One who can teach you techniques or one who can show you how to learn?
post #2 of 37
Techniques constantly change, therefore, I want
the coaching and tools that will allow me to
explore and grow. The best teachers I have had
in life have not necessarily been those who proclaimed to know absolute truth or even the
best way, but rather those who helped me to see things differently and decide for myself.
post #3 of 37
Nolo, if the typical ski instruction relationship were more like other instructional relationships, would questions like this be less important?
Compare the amount of actual content involved in ski instruction (there are only 3 things that you can do to skis) with the much more extensive content in musical instruction. And music students generally take frequent lessons for a relatively long period of time. It's not unusual at all to have the same teacher for a lifetime. Also, the students generally don't have bad habits produced by "self teaching", guitar players excepted ( [img]tongue.gif[/img] ).
Now if you had this same kind of situation, and were able to focus only on the simple content, rather than corrective surgery, would it really matter how you taught?

[ September 04, 2002, 10:26 AM: Message edited by: milesb ]
post #4 of 37
Thread Starter 

I would say that the self-taught, particularly those who receive their information from magazine articles, are particularly prey to techniques; also, if the majority of instructors are teachers of techniques, then their students are also prey to techniques.

To me it's about empowerment: do you give the student a fish or do you teach him/her how to fish?

Are we instructors to be like fishmongers or river guides? The one has finite prospects in that the barrel is only so full. The other's prospects are infinite, because skiing may be simple, but the human is complex. Learning happens between the two, and is not transferable from one carrier of knowledge to another. If that was so, we could truly learn from reading books. The facilitator can't download his knowledge into another, but he or she can arrange experiences that will do the teaching and then help the learner figure out what was learned.

I believe that learning is a process of self-discovery through the medium of the subject, in this case, skiing. The facilitator is engaged in the practice of universal principles that could be called a philosophy. Certainly Jim Weiss calls his ski teaching an extension of his philosophy. This is where the food source is for us professionally. This and acting as a shopping consultant to our guests, so they find the right stuff and get aligned properly. Layer these two features on top of the "PSIA general-issue Level III instructor" and you have the makings of a true professional.

Just my opinion.

[ September 04, 2002, 10:50 AM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #5 of 37
Fair enough, I didn't answer your question. I'd say I would favor technique, as knowing how to learn is something that everyone who paid attention in grade school should know. And if not, there are plenty of books at the library on the subject, so one does not have to spend $50+ per hour on a ski instructor for this. But apparently, your students feel OK doing this. So more power to you. I just don't get it. :
post #6 of 37
Thread Starter 
There's a time for technical teaching: do this, lift that, etc. But it's like you say, largely error correction. There's more to skiing than techniques or even "technique" (the universal ideal that we feel we see in World Cup and national team pro skiers) having to do with how a person adapts "a technique" that they own through guided experimentation, decision-making, and professional assistance in overcoming learning disabilities like resistance to change, fears and phobias, and confusing self-worth and performance.
post #7 of 37
I think Nolo really hit it on the head when he said there is a time for technical instruction. You have to get a student to a certain level before you can safely move them through guided exploration. Once they're on a comfortable platform, then they can explore with less fear and less chance of developing bad habits. Even during the exploration phase, technical instruction plays a role in error correction.

My favorite instruction? I prefer a drill-oriented approach, where everything has more or less a defined goal that I can duplicate when practicing. There's a lot of self discovery that can be accomplished within the confines of a drill, once the basics are achieved. I generally can get more accomplished by a focused approach during the lesson, and then I expand on that when I free-ski afterwards. I realize that everyone reacts differently to this style of teaching, but it works well for me.

Then again, depending on the coach, sometimes I just feel like skiing and having the odd tip thrown at me. That way the instructor can see me as I normally ski, not in a contrived position. However, I usually like that tip to be thrown in a drill series so that I have something for the future.

I can be extremely left-brained sometimes...
post #8 of 37
Nolo said I would say that the self-taught, particularly those who receive their information from magazine articles, are particularly prey to techniques; also, if the majority of instructors are teachers of techniques, then their students are also prey to techniques.

I am self-taught and it is very true that I did pay attention to "technique" quite often in the past. But after 11 years of skiing without a single lesson, I can confidently say that I am much more in tune with what I do on snow and how my body responds to certain moves than most skiers. I had to rely on my own evaluation of how I am doing, which can be dangerous, of course, but this also forced me to think, feel, listen (to my body) and make corrections. Today I am no longer "anal" about my skiing, but I do generally register the response of the equipment and my body position regardless of what I do.

Most skiers are not like that. Most skiers never really feel the response of the ski or the tension in the boot or the angles in the body. They will blindly follow their instructors and rely on verbal feedback without ever questioning anything they do or how the body/equipment responds. Of course, most skiers do not care about the details; they are there to simply enjoy the day (my wife is like that, bye the way).

So what do I think about guided discovery vs. technical teaching? Both must be part of the instructor's tools of the trade and both will benefit students. But as Alaska Mike said, guided discovery is not for beginners (and maybe not for some intermediates either). I think that today I would do well in guided discovery.

[ September 04, 2002, 02:25 PM: Message edited by: TomB ]
post #9 of 37
Instructors, or better yet, ski teachers, are responsible for setting an environment for learning. Performance will occur after learning. Most instructors that I have watched, proceed using large steps to accomplish their goals. Many of the intricacies are not learned by the student. The accomplished teacher guides the learner in very small steps, so that the learner is able to capture what the teacher is facilitating. So often, unaccomplished instructors forget the most important aspect of learng, quality feedback. Rather than use corrective feedback, I will just ask a question as to what the learner discovered. This form of feedback requires the student to understand what he/she just did. If the learner doesn't understand what happened, we will repeat the movement until understanding occurs. And this needs to occur with every with every movement taught.
post #10 of 37
Rick H-
At what point do you transfer from teaching large concepts to the finer points? Given the average "never-ever" will take only one lesson, where do you draw the line between what the person needs to know to be in control and what the person needs to ski well?

For most newbies, sliding on snow is a big thing. Left-ski-left is a big concept for them too, although it encompasses a whole lot of smaller concepts. To explain them all to the new skier would overload most people since they're already focusing on 10 gazillion new sensations. In my limited experience, the KISS principle is the best approach here.

So, I'm a little confused -but intrigued- by your differentiation between a large step and small step. Examples?
post #11 of 37

Here is an example. Remember, this happened with first-timers, about two and a half hours into their first lesson. Also, this is PMTS Direct Parallel.

Stu, the instructor, had a small class. He went through most of the PMTS basic progression; step turns and phantom move. However, he left out shuffling and the phantom drag. Phantom drag teaches the student to pull the free foot back so that heels are together, the start of "free foot management." The shuffle teaches the student active weight transfer.

Stu was now at the point of teaching direction change. He was having the students lighten and tip their skis in the direction of the turn, which is ok, BUT, they never were taught to release their skis from the old turn. When teaching PMTS, we start teaching from the completion of the turn and work towards the initiation

Stu left out a major small step, the forward sideslip. That task is started by flattening the downhill ski, the accelerator, and tipping the uphill ski to its little toe edge, the brake. After the students understand and acquire a feel for the movement, introduce forward and aft weight changes, ie, the falling leaf.

At this point, Stu should have gone back to the phantom move and demonstrated releasing the edges from the phantom move and into a forward sideslip, then transferring his weight to the new outside ski and starting a new phantom move in the new direction.

Without getting technical, the phantom move will tip the skier's CM into the new turn and engage the new outside, or stance ski, completing the turn.

The difference between the accomplished teacher and the no-so-accomplished teacher, is the ability to introduce every small particle of the movement so that the student understands and is able to replicate the movement. This is what we call addressing the cognitive (understanding) domain of learning. The are two other domains which we must address during the course of a lesson; affective (motivation and needs) and pycho-motor (movement), which I addressed in the example. Omitting any of these domains, the lesson will be less than successful.

I hope that I have been clear on these important aspects of teaching. I explain briefly to the students what I am doing during the course of the lesson. I ask what the student wants from the lesson, I ask if the student understands what I am introducing and I demo the movement so that the student can perform the movement. After the students performs the movement, I ask if the student understood what was happening when performing that movement.

Whew!!! That was kinda wordy, but I hope that you understand.
post #12 of 37
Rick H-
Thanks for the explanation. I had forgotten you were with the cult, and had a defined progression to follow. How long does it take to teach the average "never ever" the progression as outlined above?
PMTS is such a "jump start" system that I can see where skipping a step or two can have serious consequences.
post #13 of 37

Nearest I could come to a job description is this:" We can be successful as a team only if we share a common goal. That goal is to deliver memorable vacation experiences that exceed our guest's expectations." This of course reflects the fact that we are a destination resort still it is interesting that it makes no comment about teaching ski technique. Of further intrest to you might be the fact that several years ago we got rid of the multi-point teaching model that PSIA has used for many years and went to what we call the RAID model.

The RAID model consists of : Relationship, any good lesson must be based on the relationship that is created between the instructor and the student. If a good relationship is created then everything that people talk about in Guest/student centered teaching is taken care of. Activities, the things we do while we are skiing with our students. Information, we share and exchange information with our students throughout the lesson building the relationship and guiding our selection of activities. Decisions, throughout the lesson we (the instructor and the student) make decisions about what to do and where to do it, how much information to present at what speed, etc. Again, no overt mention of ski technique though of course the activities and information segments of the model make lots of room for that.

I would tend to say that the RAID model fosters helping the student learn rather than teaching them technique which the multi-point model was geared toward.

My own job description is written at the bottom of every post I make.

As to your question to lesson takers. I want both. An instructor (trainer) who can create a strong learning enviornment and can present technique in understandable, workable sized units.

post #14 of 37

The process, from the boot drills to making rough parallel turns, takes from 3.5 to 4 hours. That gives us time to take the class to the top of the hill and ski for an hour. The trail that I use has steep (for a Green run) little pitch that lets me emphisize sideslipping and how to get out of trouble.

Bear in mind, not all classes are ready to go to the top in four hours. In that case, we stay on the beginner lift and work on developing skills. But, we ski the heck out of those two little runs.
post #15 of 37
Thread Starter 
Thank you, ydnar, for the information on RAID. Ole gave me the ski school manual last year and I was very impressed.

Too bad that stuff's proprietary. Someone could do instructors a great service by publishing a "Best of" collection of the great ski school training pieces.
post #16 of 37
I think you guys are taking yourselves way too seriously.

[ September 06, 2002, 09:37 AM: Message edited by: AC ]
post #17 of 37
Thread Starter 
We love what we do. Our workplace is a playground. If that's failure, give me more.

Gotta agree on the doggy poop, though! This should be chiseled on public buildings, it is so profound and civic-minded.
post #18 of 37
One area that has not been addressed here is the "learning environment" which is a critical factor. Some "outdoor classrooms" are far superior to others, need I say more? :
post #19 of 37
I want a person who will guide me because I need to do "it" to learn. It is very hard to "see" yourself ski. Film helps but it's hard to be objective about your own skiing.
post #20 of 37
Yeah, that's almost doing both in one.
post #21 of 37
Thread Starter 

You make an excellent point, the amenities have much to do with the experience. Still, I've found that the amenities matter less to the Great Ones than to the rest of us.


What do you think of "coach as a mirror"? One description of the job being to observe the student and reflect that observation back to the student without distortion? Could also encompass good listening and comprehension on the part of the teacher, who aids by asking good questions, posing good problems, etc.
post #22 of 37
Nolo – As I read and re-read Horst’s letter and your post I am not sure how to respond. I started a response a week ago and have edited it many times only to decide the response not worthy as of this AM. My first thought as I sit down to attempt another response, obviously I believe your question is very important, is to believe that my response will have little impact anyway. I am just a part time instructor from a small Midwest ski area that has little influence on the scheme of things. Maybe that is where the response should start. Many replies are spinning in my head, which tells me there is no one answer to this question.

As instructors, full or part time, we have little influence or input on what products and or educational materials are developed for us to use. Only the “Greats” as Horst describes them in his Lex letter have any the ability to influence change. Therefore the question begs a question. Why hasn’t there been a change in the focus of ski teaching if so many of these Great people deem it necessary? Well there has been but our real world had little input. New books and no prior explanations; here it is buy a couple of books and change your thinking. Why? How many instructors will buy the new books and understand the change’s? Will most instructors know there I guess you might say drastic changes recently made in American ski teaching? Our organization/industry is built up of a few groups of “Greats” and then there is the instructors like myself. These “Greats” in these various camps speak at us instead of to us. We get materials, training, clinics, and even certifications based on what these “Greats” think we need and not based on what the rest of us "Not So Greats" may see would be helpful and what the real world may be telling us "Not So Greats" what they want. Based on many posts here and on other sites we could also include SSD’s/ski schools/ski areas in this group. Maybe too many believe their headlines? So what do we do?

So now I see in the letter there might be a “Teaching Academy” (The Quest for the Best) as an alternative to the PSIA Skiing Academy. Sounds good in theory but this may be an instance where competition is counterproductive. Maybe there is a way to blend both? I would hope so.

To answer your question exactly we need both. Teaching and skiing but they must "blend" together.

Does any of this effect the quality of the instruction given to our students today? Emphatically NO! It is very important for all who read the question and comments to understand and believe you are receiving very good ski instruction. We are discussing ways we might improve our delivery of a quality lesson to you and a little difference of opinion all groups have. You are seeing the agonizing process we go through as an organization and individuals so you do receive very good ski instruction, have a great day/week, and want to come back and enjoy our sport. It is not as simple to be here as it looks.

Have a Great day!

post #23 of 37
Thread Starter 
The academy part of Quest for the Best is secondary to the main event, which is targeted to consumers. The academy is to observe and learn from the experiences of real people who will be coached for four days by the premier ski teaching programs and tell us how it is for them as they go along. We will be listening to the consumers very closely. They are the stars of Quest for the Best, and what we're questing after is intelligence about what delights them; we are curious to know how much growth is achievable in four days given the best advantages in alignment, equipment, and coaching, defining growth as both technical and attitudinal (really, how does their vision of the sport and them in it change as a result of our high quality intervention)? We will be looking at quantifiable as well as qualitative changes using both expert observation and analysis and self-reporting.

Quest for the Best is a learning laboratory in a theatre. It's a unique thing that most emphatically is NOT in competition with the PSIA Academy. Comparing the two is apples and oranges. The use of the word academy is generic.

See, John, I don't want to gather intelligence from the choir, the greatness of its individual stars notwithstanding. I want to talk with the end users of our product. I was looking at Nike's annual report the other day. Their operating principle is: The Customer Decides. I love it!
post #24 of 37
This is a great idea but why not take it a step farther and extract information from the students of the “Not So Great”. Why do you want to know in a laboratory condition what you have already have assumed; the “Greats” are also great teachers? Circulate a questionnaire to instructors, not staff personnel or division officers or to SSD’s to have them hand out to their choice, and ask those instructors to have their students complete the questionnaire, put it in a self addressed stamped envelope and mail it to each member of an educational task force. It would then be the responsibility of each member to develop his or her own thoughts separate of the task force on the questionnaires received for a think tank meeting at the academy. Then you could if you wish have your laboratory teaching making comparisons.

You have a “Not So Great” membership, which could possibly be a “Not So Bad” group if they were allowed to participate in the development of education and training. Shucks you might even strengthen the ranks. It is obvious I hope that I am having a little fun playing with the titles. Personally I doubt some of these people have met a bus in years and I would never assume all great theorists also are necessarily great teachers. The only “Great” teacher I could vouch for is Junior. I have only read and studied the rest of the group.

Have a “Great” day! :

post #25 of 37
Thread Starter 
Why don't YOU do it, John? I already have a full plate.

P.S. To study poor performers to learn about excellence is like studying the mentally ill to learn about mental health.

[ September 08, 2002, 01:35 PM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #26 of 37
nolo sez: we are curious to know how much growth is achievable in four days given the best advantages in alignment, equipment, and coaching,

Couldn't they just go to a Harb camp for this?
post #27 of 37
Thread Starter 
Harald Harb's team (led by Harald) will be there, so some of the students will get to experience his 4 day camp. We then compare their progress with students who had coaching from another one of the featured programs.

Sound interesting?
post #28 of 37
post #29 of 37
nolo, that last post is SOOOOOO enticing! Could you please get back to us with some of the results from that, uh, comparison?
post #30 of 37
Originally posted by snowdancer:
One area that has not been addressed here is the "learning environment" which is a critical factor. Some "outdoor classrooms" are far superior to others, need I say more? :
One of my absolute best lessons was taken on an icy, over crowded New England hill at a resort that decided to allow recreational snowmobiling on the same hill as the skiers. The instructor had practically no voice from shouting over the noise, but still gave an awesome lesson!

On the other hand, both Disski and myself can tell you of a few godawful lessons taken at Whistler.....
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