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Question for all you PSIA examiners/trainers

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Can you tell me why?

In the process of taking my Level one instructors training, I noticed something interesting. The new Alpine Technical manual for PSIA does not list the 9 levels of skier. The question however is still on the level 1 written exam. I searched through the whole technical manual (2002 edition) and no mention of PSIA level 1-9. The funny part about this is the" new" Level 1 study guide has the progressions broken out by level 1-4 skiers.

Any thoughts about this?
post #2 of 12
It's a problem, Dchan. Part of the problem is trying to keep any manual both current and complete. The reality is that each new manual should be viewed as an ADDITION to those that came before. Skiing, and ski teaching, really don't change just because a new manual comes off the press. The best teachers just add new tools to their repertoires, keeping what's good from the "past," and continuing the learning process. The past is, and always will be, important and relevant, even as we grow and improve on it!

I know that this represents a huge problem for new instructors. But my own feeling is that, because good ski instruction hardly comes from a manual anyway, mastering any manual should represent only the bare minimum baseline of knowledge needed to pass an exam.

In other words, here in the Rocky Mountain Division, you need a score of "6" out of a possible "10" to pass any section of the exam. In a perfect exam, someone who has diligently and thoroughly studied the current manuals, but has no additional knowledge, should PASS--barely--with a score of "6"! 7's, 8's, 9's, and 10's represent knowledge, experience, and talent beyond the required minimum, and OFTEN beyond the scope of the basic manual.

Not everyone agrees with my philosophy, though. Many think that, like a college course, if you master the "required material," you should be able to attain a perfect score. But I think certification exams are very different from college courses. Ski instruction is a job, a profession, where talents, skills, passion, life experiences, and expertise from a broad range of specialized fields all combine to enhance one's ability to be an effective instructor. People with advanced degrees or experience in psychology, education, physics, history, and so on, and people whose explorations extend beyond the current manuals, should have an opportunity in the exam to demonstrate and be rewarded for their expertise in these areas, beyond and above the "required minimum." But those who have mastered the minimum material--the current manual--SHOULD be able to pass.

A final note--remember that the new Alpine Manual is indeed BRAND NEW. Most written tests predate the manual. In the Rocky Mountain Division, we have intentionally avoided adding any questions to the written test that are specific to or exclusively from the new Alpine Manual. We will phase in the new manual next season. But I will still be reluctant to completely remove all references to the rich, if confusing, history of skiing and teaching! In my opinion, if it's a question that a student could conceivably ask an instructor, then it is fair game for a written test!

But my opinion is not universally popular in this respect!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #3 of 12
In support of what Bob talked about, i studied the required material and took my degree in elem. ed. got a teaching job, it was then I learned how to be a teacher. it is said that experience is the best teacher, however it is foolish to have it your only teacher. The combination of book learning and experience is unbeatable. After my first year of teaching, years ago, during an awards meeting I asked if there was any award for the teacher who learned the most! Everyone laughed, knowing I was refering to one's first year or two of teaching, and that this is where you really start to put it all together. Actually the learning never stops.
I will try for my level 1 exam soon. I'm scared to death I'll blow it. I have the old manual, and study it. I assess the students first to see where they are at. I'm always trying to find different ways on how to present or convey what I'm teaching so that each student can 'get it'. Some see, some hear, some do. Tons of praise when it's done right, a 'that's ok' statement when they fall or don't do it right, trying to minimize the error while pointing it out and suggesting corrective measures. Reviewing what we have learned at the end of the lesson. Speaking with the parents on what we did, and what they can work on with their child. I'm sure this is a good start, but I'm still afraid I'll ski the wrong thing, answer the question wrong, but I'll try.
My boss, PSIA 1, was running the rope tow while I had my class there. He said with a smile, "Looks like they're comin' along great!" That meant much to me. Teachers need feedback too!
post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks Bob,

I guess it was kind of strange because so many of the other instructors were all tied up about the written exam and I was just looking at it and thinking the same thing. I'm pretty sure I understand the concepts of the teaching model. I learned a lot reading the core concepts. The study guide was great for learning progressions but I never got my hands on the original alpine manual and only got the new technical manual 3 weeks ago so most of my understanding came from experience, reading all the books I could find and chatting here with all of you. Shadowing several classes both at the Sugarbowl and at other resorts was also a big help.

Everyone was trying to recite the responsiblity code and I don't think it came up anywhere in the written or teaching exams. I suspect our examiner just looked at the way we did our teaching, checking up hill when taking off, and in our use of safety equipment and lifts etc..

When we were doing one teaching segment, I was playing student and stopped to look up the hill and waited for people to go by. The instructor that was doing the teaching segment made it a point to "praise me" for checking up the hill and waiting.
post #5 of 12
dchan- Bob b beat me again! The NEW manual is NEW and the test is OLD. No way to write a new test bank of questions when the ink is still wet on the NEW manual. (I have not even had a chance to fully read it) The written test is but one part of the exam and not even a huge part. You need to study were the exam questions came from the old manual and use the new one to give you new thoughts and ideas but most of all you need your students to teach you what works. There is no substitute for the real world vs the book!

Bob as for you saying yours is not the most popular choice, I would be on your side, there is always some validity it the past and just sometimes it comes back around. We still have Skiing Right by Horst Abram on our required reading list.
post #6 of 12

Horst Abraham would be pleased to know that.

I think a person could answer 80% of the questions right on the written test if they had common sense and had taught the required # of hours at that level.


We try not to do regurgitation testing. The Code should be practiced and demonstrated throughout the process. Risk awareness is more than the Code, at any rate. It's part of decision-making, which is what ski teaching and skiing are about. Risk awareness, decision-making, practicing the Code--all are global teaching behaviors. It would be nonproductive to try to parse any of them out of the whole.

One thing that might improve certification training would be to see it as a creative process rather than a rote recital--what I have called auditioning for the pin. You, the trainee, are building something that is unique--your personal training program. What are your resources, who are your mentors, what kinds of influences are you exposing yourself to? In other words, what responsibility are YOU taking for your development?

When PSIA first established certification standards, they were intended to be a minimum requirement. The teaching requirement for Level III is 25 hours of advanced teaching. That's hardly adequate to qualify to teach all-comers, but there you have it. It's a minimum.

Level I: it's a start. It's certainly the most important level in AASI/PSIA. That's where we teach our values, especially the value that WE take responsibility.

See, it's bigger than memorizing the Responsibility Code.
post #7 of 12
Just to follow up on dchan's original question, I don't believe the OLD Level I study guide listed all nine levels either. I think you'd have to look at the old Level II and Level III guides to get all nine levels.
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks all.

I understand all the comments and the way I prepared for the exam was much more along the lines of "get the experience", "fill my bag with tricks", And read everything I could find and make it part of my teaching/learning experience. I just found it "odd" that some of the old tenants that popped up in the test were not in the new book. Nolo and a few others know that I have a "unique" look into the testing system.


It's the alpine manual I was talking about. The study guide does not have anything higher than level 4 but the Alpine manual had the whole description. The new "Alpine Technical Manual" does not. It has "skier zones" which actually makes more sense. It also has neat stepping stone maps that show a lot of skills to learn or phases that certain profiles of skiers go through and highlights which phases they most likely will need to become proficient. It's pretty interesting and I found it quite interesting.

Also Bob Barnes gets a mention in the bibliography as a reference :
post #9 of 12
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>the way I prepared for the exam was much more along the lines of "get the experience", "fill my bag with tricks", And read everything I could find ....<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Dchan--that's great! And that is exactly why I hold the views I stated above. With all the "extra" effort you have put in, you deserve the opportunity to score higher on the exam than someone who only read the basic manuals, however thoroughly and diligently he/she may have learned their contents.

Congratulations once again!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #10 of 12

I hope you understand that when I said YOU, I was speaking rhetorically.

And I probably bit too hard on YRC. Ouch!

post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
I did not view your comments as a shot at me nor did I take any offense at your comments. My question to the examiners was more a query on how the examiners how they would answer this question if it came up during an exam or clinic. Again, my way of learning more and understanding the process. It's also my way of finding out how to integrate these thoughts into my own experience and teaching. It's also very helpful as I ski with my fellow instructors and they ask the same kinds of questions. A way to share this passion of skiing with those around me.

Dave, our examiner from Boreal gave us a good understanding on the way he would handle these kinds of querys. The YRG, and the specific question I just originally asked.
post #12 of 12
Because you'll never run into all the combinations, and because even if you did you'll never figure out how to deal with them, I found the best way to prepare for exams was to sit with other instructors and ask them to tell you about their teaching, what works, what doesn't.

You can also ask your supervisor to let you shadow a more experienced instructor.

For the Level I exam you could probably do a lot of observing. Just go hang out at the beginner's teaching area and watch and listen. I still do this.

One of the things we have at Waterville Valley is a "Master Teacher" designation. The ski school designates instructors Master Teachers and anyone can come up and ask for advice, coaching, etc.

At my Level II exam I learned what R&D really stood for: Ripoff & Duplicate!

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