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Instructor training for mechanical understanding - Page 2

post #31 of 49
arcadie:

Thanks for the clarification. Obviously, that's not how I interpreted the prior post [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #32 of 49
I like reading all of your posts and the discussion of professionalism with regard to teaching skiing and continuing education of the ski instructor.

And, I have a wrench that I'd like to throw into your works.

When an instructor works 1-on-1 with a learner, the environment can be tailored to the the learner's preferences. When you have a group lesson - you may be called upon to balance one learner's need for FUN with another's need for serious coaching. How do you do that?

PS. I put 2 new stickers on the back of my truck today and I will dream of snow tonight! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #33 of 49
Quote:
Originally posted by kieli:
When you have a group lesson - you may be called upon to balance one learner's need for FUN with another's need for serious coaching. How do you do that?

:
Great question! It isn't only differences in interests but often widely different skill needs that you have to contend with. One student wants to get in moguls, another flat refuses to go anywhere near them, another wants to perfect the pole plant her last instructor told her she should have but her snowplow is inhibiting her "flow". They're supposed to be a level 6 class and one of them actually has level 6 skills, the rest are really level 4's and one of them ought to have been assigned to a level 3 class and your supervisor has vanished.

This is one of the reasons I think someone pointed out here or in another thread recently that group lessons have diminishing value as the skill and experience level increase. The students are less likely to be on the same page, or anywhere near one another! Its a different story if you have the group for a week or if they are a seasonal (weekly) group. Then you have a chance to get to know them, sort them out, work on the needs of each while not shortchanging the rest. Its a very different thing if you've got them for an hour and a half. I think it takes tremendous resourcefullness and ingenuity to find what they all can have in common. One of my supervisors used to say that you could give them each a mini private lesson but thats pretty much a crock. By the time you've got 8 or 10 people on to the lift, up the hill, there's scarcely time to ski them all down, nevermind give each a lesson. You really have to lower your expectations and remember that learning to ski requires a long patient process. Most students will say that they only expect to pick up one useful insight they can work on anyway. In retrospect, since I am no longer teaching, I would say it is most important that every student know that they have been met and acknowledged with respect and humor. Its a lot easier to give this kind of advice now that I no longer have to deal with this kind of thing, though. One thought to keep in mind: the desire to enjoy skiing potentially unites all of your students. Good skiing remains virtually the same goal for each regardless of what their individual difficulties are. So there, you have two things they all have in common.
post #34 of 49
Quote:
I think someone pointed out here or in another thread recently that group lessons have diminishing value as the skill and experience level increase.
I think someone is wrong. Group lessons are neither a better nor worse value than private lessons. The group dynamic is different in a group than in a private, but this does not necessarily lower the value of the experience.

I would argue for group lessons at any level because a person can leverage another's mistakes and successes to ramp up their own learning.

The notion that 1-1 is superior to 1-group is predicated on the fallacy that lessons are where an expert tells non-experts what to do and what not to do, so the less distraction from other students, the better the learning experience. Hogwash!

Having taught upper level groups for the past several years I can unequivocally state that the students learn more from each other than they do from me. See, one or two students may "get it" first from me, but then the rest of the students "get it" from them. The learners add their perspective to what I aimed to teach and improve the message immeasurably.

Experts need to understand that their knowledge cannot be spewed, but must be released in small doses in order to be absorbed, and the students need to be in charge of the dosage or you'll lose them.
post #35 of 49
Quote:
Originally posted by nolo:
I think someone is wrong. Group lessons are neither a better nor worse value than private lessons. The group dynamic is different in a group than in a private, but this does not necessarily lower the value of the experience.

[/QB][/quote]

Nolo
You misread my post. Group lessons are apt to have diminishing value as skill and experience increase because of the likelihood students will find themselves in a group lesson with others of diverse needs and performance levels and with instructors who are ill prepared to deal with this, not because of some inherent shortcoming of the group experience. Arguably the potency of the group dynamic is enhanced with experience and shared enthusiasm among advanced skiers. Good instructors can, and do, take the situation I described and make it work but it is hard. The odds of the student getting an instructor who can do this well are not great. I know what you mean though. We were often urged in our training to teach to students. I often heard the question asked: "what do we do when confronted with (diverse interests, skill levels etc)"....? The answer invariably was: "give each student in your group a mini private lesson". Experienced instructors just groaned or remained stonefaced, knowing it is impolitic to disagree with authority. Finding something that is shared among the group that will synergize the experience among the group would be my advice instead and thats what I intended to say. I would argue though that the student who is seeking intensive coaching is looking for a different kind of experience and would be well advised to book a private lesson or try to hook up with a group that has a predetermined focus. I have found myself being that kind of person at times though and have noticed that careful observation of others in a group situation can often furnish me with what I was seeking even when the personalized coaching was not available. Even better the detachment afforded leaves me free to pick and choose what is meaningful, something more difficult to do when the "personal coach" misses the mark, which often happens.
post #36 of 49
Quote:
Group lessons are apt to have diminishing value as skill and experience increase because of the likelihood students will find themselves in a group lesson with others of diverse needs and performance levels and with instructors who are ill prepared to deal with this, not because of some inherent shortcoming of the group experience.
Arcadie, I agree, if the instructor is incompetent and the group is mismatched, I don't think a student will get much value from the lesson, whether it's a private or a group.

I have a question: If the student is a novice, will an instructor's incompetence be as noticeable as it might be to an intermediate or advanced skier?
post #37 of 49
Nolo, that depends how you define "incompetent". Beginners won't know if the technical skills that they are being taught or the drills they are doing are correct. However, bad teaching and communications skills are apparant immediately. Fortunately for beginners (and SSM),good teachers and communicators can be taught the technical skills appropriate for beginners. I think the problems start at the low intermediate level when the skill levels and motivations in a group lesson begin to diverge. At this point teaching becomes much more complicated and factors like movement analysis, error detection and correction, and the instructor's own technical competence become much more relevant. The problem gets progressively worse as the students progress. The inadequacy of some instrctors really begins to matter. Unfortunately, most students are not educated consumers and when they fail to make progress, they just stop taking lessons. One of the trainers at my ski school does a very intersting exercise with new instructors. He orders his group to take off their skis. With no explanation, he tells them to lay down (in the middle of a busy trail), roll on their backs, kick their feet, etc. After a few minutes of this, he laughs and asks students what they are doing and why. His group of preseumably intelligent human beings and good skiers can only answer "because you told us to." He's made his point--it's the power of "the jacket". He wants his students to understand the trust students place in someone simply because they are wearing the instructors uniform. I found it a powerful lesson about my resposibility to be the best instructor I can. However, it is also a cloak that can mask bad teaching, bad technique, arrogance, etc. I've taken a lot of lessons myself to become an advanced skier and a good instructor is a rare treasure. I've been lucky enough to find one or two along the way [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #38 of 49
Getting back to the original thread and the clinics that Caroline wants to put on, let's not forget learning styles. The fact that someone learns better by doing or watching or listening shouldn't be forgotten.

So, before you prepare all these lesson/clinic plans think about how they want to learn, not just what they want to learn and then prepare your lesson/clinic plans accordingly.

Thinkers, feelers, doers, watchers; they all are valid styles. Teach to them.

Bob

ps, sorry I've been away so long. I've been launching a new business and it's been keeping me quite busy. Hopefully, I can participate more now.
post #39 of 49
Quote:
Originally posted by nolo:
[
Arcadie, I agree, if the instructor is incompetent and the group is mismatched, I don't think a student will get much value from the lesson, whether it's a private or a group.

Nolo
I don't think we're necessarily talking about incompetence here, just degrees of competence. It takes a pretty clever instructor to take a mismatched group and leave them improved and satisfied. Mismatched groups are more apt to be the norm than the exception, unfortunately. That's my point. It is a factor that isn't necessarily w/in the instructor's control. There are ways of dealing w/ this and I think some schools make greater efforts than others. Nonetheless it is a challenge instructors frequently have to face and I think it must be a frequently neglected area of training. I like your enthusiasm for the group lesson expereience. I think the key to dealing with this issue and providing the public with a better product must lie w/ exploring the potentials of the group experience rather than regarding the situation as an inferior variety of one on one experience.

[ October 29, 2003, 10:23 AM: Message edited by: arcadie ]
post #40 of 49
Quote:
It takes a pretty clever instructor to take a mismatched group and leave them improved and satisfied. Mismatched groups are more apt to be the norm than the exception, unfortunately.
Having been a clinician at general PSIA membership events, I agree that disparities can be great between people from L1 cert through L3 cert, which would certainly encompass the high end of any ski school's traffic. And yet these clinics can be unbelievably successful depending how one asks for group participation.

That brings me back around to my advice to Carolyn to take stock of the talent in the locker room and try to get the seasoned instructors involved in training the novice instructors, maybe by including them in a special train-the-trainers session--because you know that informal mentoring relationships between instructors is where the bulk of an instructor's training occurs.
post #41 of 49
nolo,

What you described is the very situation that EABrown and I had last year.

I was working on my level III cert and she was trying to complete the level I and II in one year. It was a huge help for both of us to ski together and for me to pass along the rudimentary knowledge that I had gleaned in three short years of full time teaching.

We did wedge christie's together as well as open parallel turns. While I did pivot slips she did linked hockey slides. We spent countless hours taking the GCT matrix and "role playing" with various m.a. scenarios.

She alluded to this in a post, however, my advice to her was to go to the exams and have fun. My level III exam was a two day vacation for my. Two days in Steamboat with no spouse and kid? I was determined to have a blast....pass or fail. The other candidates acted like they were at a funeral.

I do understand clinics need to be meaningful, however, I think the good ones are light hearted.
post #42 of 49
Quote:
Beginners won't know if the technical skills that they are being taught or the drills they are doing are correct. However, bad teaching and communications skills are apparant immediately.
... as is "fun."

Great post, NE Skier. This point, and the "power of the jacket," are the two main reasons why instructors have an ethical obligation to become technically knowledgeable and competent. More and more it has become the trend for ski resort and ski school management--and many instructors--to suggest that the ONLY thing that matters in a ski lesson is that the students have "fun." Communication skills, personality, "teaching skills," empathy--these are critical attributes of great instructors. But they are not sufficient!

As you've suggested, beginning skiers, especially, trust their instructors to teach them good skiing. Few have any choice--how would they know if their instructor was a fraud? They know if they're having fun. They know if they're "connecting" with their instructor, and they know if they're learning what the instructor teaches. But they have no way to judge whether what the instructor teaches is good ski technique, or merely shortcuts to mediocrity. For that, they must put their faith in their instructor.

And for that reason, instructors have an ethical obligation above all else to understand and be able to teach good skiing. How you teach is important, but not more important than WHAT you teach. Frankly, if someone is teaching bad technique, I'd prefer that they NOT teach it well! The students may have fun today, and they may even think their instructor is the greatest, and that he or she really cares for them. But the bad habits that incompetent instructor has introduced them to will haunt them for the rest of their skiing careers. And they'll have no way of knowing until it is too late.

Nothing raises my ire more than a professional instructor who teaches shortcuts to mediocrity, under the guise of doing something good for students. "Direct to parallel" lessons, more often than not, fall into this category. I recall a particular instructor at a resort I used to work at. He would take his group of never-ever beginners and teach them to make hockey stops, suggesting that they were "parallel turns." Twisting their skis into braking skids with gross upper body movements, they developed about every bad habit in the book. And they had a blast! While most of the groups around them were practicing real skiing skills, learning the offensive and subtle movement patterns of great turns, his group was doing laps off the beginner-hill lift. He was sure to point out to them how much more quickly they progressed, under his tutelage, than all the other groups, how they were "turning parallel" like experts, while all the others were merely "snowplowing." They thought he was god on skis, and he had a high return rate.

And he was, pardon the expression, screwing them. A smooth-talking charlatan selling snake oil, he made off with obscene amounts of their money and their precious vacation time before they realized they'd been had. But realize it they would! With a big, friendly smile, he opened the door for them directly to the trap of the intermediate plateau. They trusted him to teach good skiing, and by the time they would find themselves mired in the rut of terminal intermediacy, he would be long gone. The "power of the jacket" and a little charisma allowed him to line his pockets while being the pied piper of frustration--the worst kind of fraud.

It is true that the instructors teaching sound movement patterns and tactics, but boring their students, or failing to connect at all, aren't doing any favors either. It matters little that you've learned good skills if you also learn to hate the learning process. Sound lessons that turn people off from skiing and learning are no better than the fraudulent lesson described above. Maybe worse, because at the least the fraud's students had fun for moment!

It is not an either/or thing. Great lessons are both! They are fun, fascinating, rewarding--AND technically sound (and, of course, safe). Ski instructors have long recognized the trilogy "safety, fun, and learning" as the goal of good ski lessons. Most instructors seem to think that this represents a prioritized list--safety first, then fun, then learning. I do not. Every great lesson embraces all three of these qualities fully. It's not a question of proportions either--the ideal lesson is not "one-third safety, one-third fun, one-third learning." In great lessons, the three multiply each other! The measure of a great lesson is Safety TIMES Fun TIMES Learning. If any is zero, the lesson is a zero--a complete failure. Two out of three IS bad! Only a lesson that maximizes all three can be called a complete success.

Best regards,
Bob

****************************************

Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives --
Followed the Piper for their lives.
...
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.
...
When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.

(from "The Pied Piper of Hamelin")
post #43 of 49
Bob's remarks remind me that when I was teaching I had several students for private lessons who had had level one and two group lessons from one of these "charlatan" ski teachers. After being told by them they had sucessfully completed several lessons and needed only a few pointers I naively assumed they were probably advanced level 2 or level 3 skiers. I was startled to discover that, aside from a little balancing skill, they had aquired virtually no skiing skills. This character, who had a doctorate in education by the way, thought he was accelerating his students progress by teaching them his own variant of "direct parallel" skiing. This involved "edging" but no leg rotation whatsoever since he was convinced that this wasn't really part of modern skiing. You couldn't convince this guy that he might have more to learn since he had such impressive credentials. Management loved the guy. He had a nice personality, was retired and willing to work full time for what little they wanted to pay him and , presumably helped them out by filling one more jacket. I used to teach a lot of level ones myself and my students invariably ended in this guy's level two class to be "slaughtered". I finally decided to quit teaching there when I realized that, from the point of view of this school, there was no difference between myself and this person.

Incidently I have found that a little patient teaching of the skills approach to learning skiing results in remarkably rapid progress. It initially seems to go a bit slowly. You have to discipline yourself to avoid shortcuts that might produce quick results but introduce technical faults. Guided self discovery works extremely well with first timers. You mainly have be able to control the environment they are learning w/in and guide them, keeping in mind the correct application of skills and the intended out come (which is ultimately high end skiing, to my way of thinking). I think this requires a fairly competent technical knowledge, though, which kind of goes against the popular thinking as to whats required for teaching beginners. It can be a lot of fun (for them as well as the teacher). The comment I received most often from my students was how "easy" I made it for them. Its nice to get those kind of compliments although I doubt if any of those students thought they had received anything remarkable, nor should they. "Charlatan man" undoubtedly had a larger following since he tended to place himself at the center of his teaching. I doubt many of his students became skiers though.
post #44 of 49
Thanks for the follow-up, Sieur des Monts. These charlatans can be found at most ski schools, unfortunately. As you point out, they are almost encouraged in this day where "guest service" is often thought to be an end in itself, rather than an attribute of succcessful ski resorts and instructors.

Personally, I still believe that the best thing about skiing is...skiing! It's a sport, a pastime, a passion, and a lifestyle that is worth pursuing for its own sake. Many resorts these days, and perhaps the industry itself, seem intent on relegating "skiing" to the minor status of just another activity, a distraction in their "vacation experience" like shuffleboard on an ocean cruise. In so-doing, and in encouraging instructors to be entertainers and "guest-service specialists" at the expense of mastery of the sport, they may create a self-fulfilling prophecy!

"Who cares if they don't learn to make a great turn, as long as they're having fun?" This all-too-common sentiment misses the very significant point that great turns are a lot more fun than lousy ones! They're worth working for, maybe even suffering a little for, because once you experience one, you will be hooked on the sport forever!

Of course, as so many of these decisions are made these days not by skiers but by MBA's, financial analysts, and marketing people who have never experienced great skiing themselves, it is a vicious cycle that may be destined to repeat itself. They emphasize what they value themselves. Fewer and fewer ski areas and ski schools are run by passionate skiers. It's no wonder the sport is given backseat treatment!

Welcome to EpicSki, Sieur des Monts!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #45 of 49
I have a suspicion I know Bob's instructor! Well, he gave me a nice hat, and did great imitations of Texans...I can see how he works his naughty way with credulous students.

I remember a few years back, teaching at a large resort in the US, I got a bunch of 2nd dayers. We were working on basic wedge turning, getting that dialed before venturing off the bunny hill. One lady had the most horrible way of turning, she'd wrench her trunk around to initiate the turn. I questioned her, and she said her first-time lesson instructor the previous day had taught them all this. Well, one of the other students, who'd been in a differnt 1st timer lesson, broke in and explained, in perfect terms, what was wrong with this technique! I was delighted. This student had absorbed all the good stuff from their instructor (a person whom I respected) and was already able to apply it in a situation.
Well, the body-turning lady was furious, she realised she'd been gypped. So me and the well-taught person both helped her out of it and into the right stuff. She had two instructors that lesson.

But it showed that, although you'll get people who've been taught rubbish by charlatans, remember there's lots of OK instructors out there, getting it right, and also quite a few steller instructors.

The crap instructor, btw, had also favoured his 1st timer class with the information that he was just teaching to make up the required hours for his season pass, and he was almost there...
cringe!
post #46 of 49
Quote:
Originally posted by ant:
The crap instructor, btw, had also favoured his 1st timer class with the information that he was just teaching to make up the required hours for his season pass, and he was almost there...
cringe!
Reminds me of a story:
A couple years ago I naively recommended to a couple good friends a large western resort for their first ski lesson. Their instructor let them know he normally didn't teach beginner lessons but he was nursing a knee injury which evidently relegated him to this lowly status. Their own knees were so sore from trying to crank their bodies around with the deep snowplow he taught them in the soft snow that they concluded skiing was way too dangerous for the knees and took up snowboarding instead!

[ October 31, 2003, 07:33 PM: Message edited by: arcadie ]
post #47 of 49
Quote:
Originally posted by kieli:
When an instructor works 1-on-1 with a learner, the environment can be tailored to the the learner's preferences. When you have a group lesson - you may be called upon to balance one learner's need for FUN with another's need for serious coaching. How do you do that?
My question wasn't clear - I wasn't asking this from the perspective of "tell me how to do this because I don't know"... rather "HOW do you do it... as in, explain what you do". I was hoping for a share of tips/techniques - because, I think that the challenge of the GROUP (different skills, different needs, different wants/goals, different learning styles) is the most pressing *instructional* challenge that we face.

Thanks again!
kiersten
post #48 of 49
Kieli - I have taken a few group lessons during the season (part of the maintenance to stop "withdrawal" from not taking a private lesson every day)

If I turn up at the meeting area I am always a much higher level than the highest group class they have....
The poor instructor with that class then gets lumbered with his group - which is normally a bunch of long time skiers who don't know how to make the most of their "new shaped skis"... & me... [img]redface.gif[/img]

The most common tactic has been to ride the chair or t-bar with me - giving me pointers or tasks to work on... & then I bring up the end of the class (so I can collect any stragglers if conditions are tricky .... I've done all the "oh @#$% I'm gonna die" much better than any of these students can - so I can mostly get the scared girls - yes they always seem to be girls - to ski along with me)
If needed they tell me something quickly on the way past as they group starts off again...
They also use my innate need to learn - by telling me WHY they feel the group needs to do xxxx.... or a certain student is struggling with xxxx

Works OK - although less than ideal - ski school would NEVER make a group of 1 when they have already sold the lesson at HALF of a discounted price... so it is a fair compromise...
post #49 of 49
I think Kieli has a legitimate question. This is a difficult problem instructors frequently face. Some ski schools have a bigger commitment to the quality of the student's experience. Others have a bigger commitment to the bottom line, BS notwithstanding. Some will make a greater attempt to describe the level qualifications to the student. Some will make a greater attempt to query the student. Some supervisors making the assignments wil be competent, others will not be. Some schools will make an effort to get the student into the class that will potentially be most useful, others will not. Some will allow an instructor to go out with one or two students, others will pack them into another level class to save paying the additional instructor's wages. Regardless of the best intentions, or not, the instructor will inevitably find differences whether they be interests, learning styles and/or personal skiing characteristics. My advice was that you have to make them aware that this is not a private lesson but a group lesson, which can have its own characteristic advantages. If you focus, rather than on personal remedial work per se but instead on some aspect of good skiing that they can each aspire to then any necessary corrections to individual skiing are automatically in context. Each can learn from the least or most skilled and potentially help one another. The key is encouraging them to feel this is a shared experience, which it is. I like to think of some PSIA lead clinics i,ve been to, which were very good in this respect.
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