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Trainers and training

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
One of the great things about this forum is that there is a broad spectrum of instructors here
from across the country. So I have a few questions for you.

What is the difference between a good lesson and a good training clinic? Should the two be
conducted differently or are they essentially the same thing with a different audience?

For the trainers out there. Do you approach leading a group as a trainer differently than as an
instructor to the public? How is your approach affected by the type of clinic you are leading, a
level one prep clinic as opposed to a skiing improvement clinic or a clinic focused on
teaching levels three through five?

Do you have a "style" that you use to conduct clinics? I know that in a clinic situation I use a
lot more questions than I do in a "lesson" and that the questions are more open ended.

Do you like to have a definite topic for the clinic with a firm goal in mind or do you like to "go
with the flow" with a less well defined topic and no clue as to where the subject might end up.

One of our best and most popular clinicians (are these two things always found in the same
person?) likes to approach all clinics having no agenda. He takes the group skis with them
and discusses what they are interested in doing that day points out some of the things he
observes them doing and asks them to try a few different things. Skis the hell out of the
group and asks them for feedback on what he has said and asked them to do. Everyone
raves about how fun his clinics are and how much they get out of them. What are the top
clinicians at your resort like?

Have you ever noticed a difference in clinic styles based on the part of the world that the
clinician was trained in, European vs Aussi/Kiwi vs PSIA vs CSIA etc?

Guess that is enough pot stirring to start things. Looking forward to responses from both
side of the ball game. I'm especially interested in hearing what trainers have to say about
attending other trainers clinics. Or when you become a trainer do you stop going to clinics
except as a leader?

post #2 of 35
Hi Ydnar--there is one big difference between most clinics and lessons. It is a question of WHO is paying for them, and therefore, of whose needs must be met!

In a lesson, of course, the participant pays for it (at least in most adult lessons), and comes with a set of needs, desires, and expectations. If the instructor can effectively address those needs, the lesson will be a success! (And if not, it won't.)

Many ski school clinics are paid for by the ski school--by the resort. They, too, are willing to pay for something IF--and ONLY IF--it addresses their needs.

So, to use the terminology of PSIA-RM's "Guest-Centered Teaching Model," the students of ski lessons have three types of needs--Motivational needs, Understanding need, and Movement needs (from the "CAP" model--cognitive, affective, and psychomotor). A clinic must address these needs of the participants as well, but it must also address a fourth category: "institutional" needs, to satisfy the institution that is paying the clinician.

The luxury of the situation you described, Ydnar, of the "best and most popular clinician" approaching all clinics with "no agenda" simply doesn't exist very often for most clinicians. If I'm told by my ski school director to take out a group of instructors and explore something in particular (presumably because of a need identified in this group by the director), then I'd better do that! If I don't, I have NOT met the needs of the person paying for the clinic. Regardless of how much my group may have enjoyed the thing, I have failed to meet the essential needs! And I may not get "return business."

The best clinicians (which is NOT necessarily the same thing as the "most popular") are able to incorporate all four of these types of needs seamlessly and smoothly. The participants have a good time. The institutional needs are addressed. And within the parameters set out by the institutional needs, each instructor feels like his/her own individual needs were also addressed.

One of the most important ingredients in a clinic--except for the rare "no agenda" clinic (which IS the same as a ski lesson) is a clear, concise "objective statement." Whether they selected this clinic based on its objective statement ("course description"), or they were "ordered" to attend the clinic by the director, both the participants and the clinician must have a clear understanding of what the institutional needs to be covered are.

Good question, Ydnar!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #3 of 35

I have to agree with you for the most part. However, if the clincian wishes that the clinic be successful, it is up to him/her to create motivation within the participants. If the participants become motivated, then the movement and understanding will follow. If not, than the clinic has become, for the most part, a waste of time.
post #4 of 35
Hi Ydnar-

I'll second BB! He has done his usual great job of laying out an expressive understanding of our business. But allow me to tackle a question he didn't respond to.

In my career, I have worked in the US, Canada, Europe, and NZ. You asked if clinicians/ training were much different in these various places.

From my experience, at one time they were quite different. But more recently those lines have blurred significantly.

Where as the European style was once very linear and dogmatic, it has been influenced by the West, and has become much more student oriented. While working in Switzerland, I was asked to give many sessions on the PSIA/ ATS. The sessions were heavily attended, with great questions being brought forward by the Swiss instructors. They were truly keen to learn how to interact with the students on a more personal level.

Where the Canadian system was once more interested in the pedagogy and technique, it has also become more student centered over the past couple of decades.

Australia used to be dominated by the Austrians, but have since broken out with some very contemporary ideas.

NZ's system was very heavily influenced by the Canadians and Americans initially, and have now created their own system, revolving around basic movements.

But the "common thread" (am I still allowed to use those words?) among them all is that the student has become the center point of the whole system of teaching. I believe there are many more similarities among us, than differences.

post #5 of 35
As one who designs the training and assigns the trainers, I find challenging the imagination and questioning the norm to be effective. Shaking things up, as it were.
There are clinics wherein some are best suited to thoroughly explore "topics". Teaching models, P&P, class management, terrain use etc. In this case creativity is secondary to a well rehearsed, thorough and complete package. Cert clinics are just that.
But when it comes to those transcendental, thought provoking and stimulating sessions it takes depth and experience. Leading a group to question their paradigms and belief systems, being experimental, modeling the mentorship that should be the hallmark of any learning session...that is the magic! After those kind of clinics...they can't wait to play, read and grow! They get lateral in their self-exploration...they reconnect to their raison d'etre, their passion and the excitement of fresh perspective.
For the most part, I advocate opening up clinic leadership to any and all, paid. Supply an outline, schedule it and I will send an auditor! I don't care if you are bringing in something transferable from your life experience as a first year rookie! Level II's going for III should clinic level I's and so on.
I believe in challenges....a guy who has never gone on split, relegated to first-timers I will approach. "Tommorrow you are going out with the level 4's at 10 o'clock....find your mentor and start preparing....read tonight...would you like to shadow this afternoon?" I never allow people to develop stale niches...a challenged level I will sometimes give a more inspired go at a group of 4's than the same stale performance of a level II. Afterward, give us a clinic on how it went.
You gotta shake things loose! And involve everyone in the learning and sharing.
post #6 of 35
There is little to add to the excellent comments here. As always, I am inspired by Robin's practice of what others merely imagine doing.

I think what distinguishes a really great teacher, whether leading a training clinic for instructors or for recreational skiers, is the ability to lead with "little-t" behaviors--inclusion, ask more than tell, subject-centered instead of expert-centered, learning rather than performance-based, creating an environment instead of dictating a script, etc. Too many clinicians and trainers have a delivery that is predominantly weighted to "Big-T" behaviors--directive, expert-centered, performance-based, one right answer (and the clinician has it), etc.
post #7 of 35
Hey, thanks Nolo...I do try to practice what I preach! It is not always easy, you never get all the way there, but if you have policies and hold your self accountable to make it work...it usually has some success.
We are always controlled by realities. How many times during a season does the group you really want to work with get the least attention. The guy who works his butt off day after day in the trenches who needs the bucks and struggles to get the time to join his cert clinic group. Needs the money for the event but can't get the time to do the practice. "Gee Bob, remember the best training for cert IS Teaching..." doesn't always satisfy.
Meanwhile, Mr.Retiree, overachiever, backliner, always-wants-to-clinic... continually gets FED! Sometimes there is no justice!
That is when I step in and make my self available. I would far rather work personally with a group of junior kid's core instructors on their level I at night, than the minimum work pin collectors from the back of the lineup!
post #8 of 35
I get a bit annoyed to find myself in a clinic where the topic or "thing we are working on" is not made clear, or worse, the ostensible topic does not seem to be happening! (shades of a psia clinic I attended this year, what a disaster).

I find sometimes the clinician will have something in mind, but it's not discernable at all. I utterly, completely loathe "guided discovery" if there's no over-arching concept that is made clear at the outset.
(actually I loathe guided discovery most of the time, in any learning situation).

I want to know at least the general theme, movement, thing, whatever, and i want to be informed of the relevance of what we are doing throughout the clinic to that theme. This magician pulling stuff out of his hat at the end thing really does not impress me. I want to be aware of it while we're doing it, not at the end.

post #9 of 35
I loathe guided discovery most of the time, in any learning situation...
What styles to you prefer, ant?

EDIT: I must admit I am floored by this comment! You must have been badly guided in the past.

To say you loathe guided discovery is to say you loathe the Socratic Method. This is tragic indeed, because there is little doubt that it is the very best, most ergonomic learning method ever devised, and I don't think Socrates or his scribe Plato devised it.

I think God did.

[ May 31, 2002, 07:53 AM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #10 of 35
Sometimes I have a clinic all mapped out, but some of my most sucsessfull clinics have been very spontaneous affairs. Somebody will ask a question on the way up, and the next thing you know we have gone somewhere very interesting, productive and fun. I really judge many of my clinics by the participation of others. Even the newest instructor will often have very interesting ideas, and thoughts worth exploring. Nothing is better than getting everybody to open up and share. But there are certain clinics that demand a very structured approach; policies and procedures stuff would be one example. I guess I am a big fan of barely guided disco. If we get lost it could be that much more interesting.
post #11 of 35

I like that--barely guided disco. I see this as curiosity-motivated learning. A socratic teacher lets loose a fox and starts the hounds off after it. So long as they follow the scent the teacher rides along, but if they get flummoxed, he or she is there to ask the well-timed question to redirect the chase.

You're right: there are topics that can only be covered by a directive approach. Lower level tasks that require replication of a model.

Too bad that so many instructors' first year of training is done this way. I think fox and hounds would be so much more effective to impart 85% of it.
post #12 of 35
Great image, Nolo!

The best clinics surely cover the "required" material, and go beyond into uncharted territory, lead on by the participants' imagination and enthusiasm. The clinician starts the ball rolling, and may give it a well-directed shove here and there to keep it tending in the right direction. But the participants provide the main thrust!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #13 of 35
Thread Starter 
My problem with guided discovery was that it had a definate goal that the leader was trying to get the group to. I always found it better to have a path to a possible goal that I and the group were following. That way if another path that was more interesting came up from interaction with the group I was free to follow it. The trainer that I picked this style up from called it guided recovery. In a thread "'Dazed and Confused" I started last year N. Spag used the term "guided confusion" which I just fell in love with and have used ever since.

post #14 of 35
The goal of guided discovery has to be macro, not micro, or it stops being "discovery" and starts becoming a forced march. At that point it would not longer be guided discovery in anything but name too generously applied.

I think of guided discovery as a form of teacher restraint--I may think I know the answer to a question I pose or is posed by a member of the group. I could just cut to the chase and tell them what I think the answer is, or I could use the question to create a learning environment around it. Even if it takes two hours to arrive at my answer, in terms of the staying power of the students' learning, the investment was a pittance.

[ May 31, 2002, 11:01 AM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #15 of 35
I think Ant has never been in the kind of guided discovery that you speak of Nolo. And I've only been in it rarely. Furthermore, I'm no damn good at it. It is a wonderful way of learning, but I think it really takes a lot of skill. (Tim Petrick used to talk about "abbreviated discovery". You guide 'em, and you guide 'em, and you guide 'em. And if they still don't get it, you tell 'em.)

When done badly, it really is frustrating, because you are aware that the pro has some cute little secret, that he or she could just tell you and you could practice it.

Back to the original thread, I think Bob's recognition of the hidden customer here is very apt, and really points to one of the huge difficulties of clinic and of kids classes. (In kids classes, the hidden customer is the parent.)

Ultimately, I prefer to do a clinic where the pros just say help me, or better yet, a spontaneous clinic, where we're all skiing together, and I or someone else gets asked for help. This way the clinic is more magical, like a lesson.

One thing I will always do in a clinic, however, is offer the teaching aspect of whatever we're doing. If we are working on carving, I'll never neglect ways of teaching carving. The difference is that I want the pro to be able to go beyond the "what". A good pro needs deeper understanding--not just performance.
post #16 of 35
"I'm no damn good at it..."

Yeah. Right, Jim Diamond.
post #17 of 35
Some of the best clinics I've ever given have been in bars.......

post #18 of 35
I second that. some of the best clinics I have attended have been in bars, where you can have frank open discussions, usually with no intimidation or feelings of inadequacy.
post #19 of 35
Weems, spot-on. Exactly. That cute little secret thing just makes me want to grab the teacher, lecturer, instructor or coach by the gills and shake them! Stop dicking me around and GET ON WITH IT!

How am I supposed to really learn if all we are doing is spending all this time "discovering" something? what about all the intervening stuff that gets discarded as we go stumbling around, looking under rocks for that cute little secret?!

Out with the cute little secret, so that we can explore it, discuss it, experiment, do stuff, rather than wasting time looking for it!

I hated it at school, university, in hockey, and in skiing. It probably has been done badly, so I'd add a caution when you guys are teaching people how to teach, that you keep an eye out for badly-used "guided discovery".

It's got to the point now that even well-applied guided discovery would probably have me launching myself at whoever was doing it with howls of rage.

I don't know what styles I prefer, anything but this annoying stunt.

Unfortunately, my degree is in classics and philosohpy, maybe I've OD'd on it.
post #20 of 35
Ant--tell us how you REALLY feel!

If I ever have the privilege of having you in a clinic or exam again, I promise--no secrets, little or big, cute or otherwise. Thanks for the warning!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #21 of 35
Ant--I do have a question, though. I too despise the "clever little secret--let's see if you are clever enough to find it" type of so-called guided discovery.

But have you ever had an "aha" experience in a clinic--or any other ski experience--a light bulb that came on suddenly, a quick little smile of satisfaction as something suddenly made sense? It may not have seemed like "the point" that the clinician was trying to make, but are you sure it wasn't a well-orchestrated guided discovery anyway? Are you sure it wasn't exactly what the clinician was hoping for?

Guided discovery, well-executed, should never be obvious to those being guided. It should never seem like a "clever little secret" that they coyly refuse to divulge. It may simply involve leading you through a similar experience to the one where the clinician/instructor made the same discovery himself. Indeed, it should really seem like it was YOUR discovery--your own private "eureka"--which it really should be!

I've had students ride lifts with me, all excited about the discovery they just made on the last run, trying their best to explain it to me, when it was exactly the point I had tried to help them discover all along! I would never try to burst their bubble by telling them it was an evil ploy, and trying to take the credit. One of the strengths of successful guided discovery is the real sense of ownership of the "new" idea that it can produce.

So think back. All real knowledge must be "discovered" somehow. Are you sure some of your personal discoveries weren't at least partially the result of a skillful, subtle guide helping you find the way?

The fact is, I think that almost ALL real learning is in many ways "discovered"--rarely "taught"! And whether we are intentionally using "guided discovery teaching style" or not, any valuable learning our students retain is what they, themselves, discovered for themselves during the experience. We may tell them stuff, and show them stuff, and give them brilliantly concise, clear explanations--and they may even remember some of it--but the real learning is what happens within them, when some of it starts to make sense and a light bulb switches on and they discover that they are enjoying skiing more. We rarely give them the light bulb--we just help them find the switch!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #22 of 35
Sound of hearty applause.

Bob said it beautifully. The point of guided discovery is that we are all still discovering stuff about skiing. If we treat it as a cadaver and just do an autopsy, well, so what? Not very lively, to my way of thinking.

I just finished a master's program that was almost exclusively guided discovery, problem solving, and independent study. That's what the high level teaching styles are.
post #23 of 35
Yep, agree Nolo, Bob's explanation is what I regard as learning.

but "guided discovery" I think gets interpreted by too many teachers as the cute little secret thing, and hence that's how a lot of them teach. (i can feel my blood pressure rise again!).

I really get resistant to those situations where the clown...<thwack!> Ok...the teacher has some particular thing in mind, a phrase or word, it's very specific, and they want you to come out with it.
Intensely annoying, as it ignores every other thing a person might come out with. They might have the concept, maybe even have moved past it, but unless they say the Magic Word, they haven't got it.

it's not an exploration, it's a guessing-game!
Further, I tend to suspect that such teachers don't know the subject well enough to know when someone has "got it" without their mentioning the Magic Word.

I think I'm happier with the idea of just plain 'discovery' in a learning situation. The "guided" bit has too many misapplications.
Exploration and discovery, teacher as facilitator.

Of course, I rather like the old fashioned lesson, too, where the topic is on the table, and the learning is accompanied by a commentary.

Clinics in bars, gosh we had a lot of those in Gassy's this year! Those bar stools are pefect for leaning on, angulating, taking weight off feet for edging. I haven't seen anyone stand on them yet though.
post #24 of 35
Bob's nailed it as usual. Ant, what kinda posers have been working with you? "Cat and Mouse" sadism is not the highest form of learning and surely is not well crafted discovery.
I'm with Bob, when they come flying in the office with the lightbulb over their head barely able to contain themselves two days later!!
Smug clinicians who play hide and go seek have self serving agendas...and maybe some self esteem issues. It isn't Three Card Monty!
Under a egoless talent like Mr. Barnes, GD is an intoxicating search for self improvement. Ant, don't condemn the practice just the practioner.
post #25 of 35
Bob is right. Guided Discovery in this sense is not so much like leading a person by the hand down a path to a treasure, but rather helping the person learn to peal her own onion, layer by layer. This way the learner owns the learning and therefore it becomes real and long-term.
post #26 of 35
I agree with ant. Guided discovery done poorly is an unpleasent experience. Since the group does not know the answer to the discovery, the group must suffer thru the humiliation of a series of incorect guesses as to right answer. The longer it goes on the more pain. However if its done well it can be fun and educational experience, but maybe that is the definition of "done well".
Guided discovery is an upper level teaching style. A lot of new clinic leaders seem compelled to use it and when they cant pull it off, the group suffers.
post #27 of 35
Robin, Interesting that you should talk of clinicians being challenged. We have about 150 weekend pro`s, divided into teams of +/- 10.
They have level 2`s, on a 3`s wannabee track, as team leaders--FOR THE SEASON. Every 9AM line-up they ski together with a topic--to be adjusted by conditions. ( our line-up lessons begin at 10AM)There is an occasional switch in leaders, temporarily, for diversity. The 3`s are filling in for specialty clinics, race, bumps, etc.
In fact this becomes an easy way to move pro`s around the mtn. as needed. Always subject to pvt. requests. Our TD is always on the hill monitoring.
There is always time for free skiing--rip time.
When the holiday`s come around we work our butt off, cause we know there is going to be ski time.
We have a high % of level 2 & 3 candidates passing. Our specialized clinics deal with candidates as well as teams. Totally , we manage about 350 + pro`s in all categories, jr. ski.,tiny tots, race, etc. oh yea, in addition, we have the teams running NASTAR as teams. Our NASTAR course is set on the race hill.

[ June 01, 2002, 11:33 AM: Message edited by: Larry C ]
post #28 of 35
GD is, without a doubt, the most sophisticated form of teaching. What you must have experienced was untrained, or under developed instructors attempting to use it, without the necessary background.

When most instructors are asked about teaching/ learning styles, they can usually name all or most of them. But when asked to give examples of each, either there is a lack of understanding relative to each, or only the barest, briefest examples are given. This goes to show that many instructors are aware of the style, but unaware of the technique. (Sounds like some skiers...)

Nolo and SCSA-
Bumper sticker seen on my way home from Elitch's yesterday-

"Subvert the Dominant Paradigm"

Thought of both of you when I saw it! [img]smile.gif[/img]


PS- Ant- I've been known to stand on bar stools, and if you really get me going, to dance on the odd table as well!!!

[ June 02, 2002, 01:45 PM: Message edited by: vail snopro ]
post #29 of 35
The various directions of this thread seem to be really striking a chord with me.

GD: I have experienced, and hated it, from people upon whom PSIA felt compelled to confer the title of "examiner lvl III"! Not just unskilled instructors. I'd say it's a widespread problem, I see a few others here with the same feeling.

Bob's way (and probably many others of you here) is obviously a wonderful way to learn, but like Hill and Dale says, when the group is blundering around trying to unearth the trainer's stupid little secret, it's humiliating (I respond to that with sarcasm!) and frustrating. It happens just too darn often.

Robin's thoughts on who gets training, heavans! So true. We fulltimers who need THIS job to pay the bills - the only days off I took were to train for my level II. (so I was in skiboots every day). When in March it got busy, they stopped offering training in the day, and we had to do it at night. Meanwhile, the retirees who did this job for whatever they do it for had a marvellous time, doing every bit of training available. One guy would drive to Breck and Vail to do company training also. They would tell us to stop griping when we complained about pay, work levels, amount of training etc. Many of the kids instructors got very little training, because kids ski school lost instructors and they were needed to work on their training days. A SSD who identified that problem would be a wonderful animal indeed. The part-timers with other income sources definitely won.

Bar stools! Well, I'm thinking of Bob's fulcrum mechanism entry in his book, the funny drawing, and the seemingly heart-felt comment that if you stand on the bar stools to try this, you WILL get thrown out! I wonder if there's a story there?
post #30 of 35
It's a short story, Ant--not really worth telling!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
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