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PSIA Certification - do you think the degree of difficulty varies?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hey all - I was reading another thread and saw this...

"To be honest, I just got my bronze pin on Monday, and after seeing what passes for Level I, I don't think I'll wear it either. We had 100% pass rate. I can't imagine what it would take to fail the exam."

It made me stop and think about some possibilities...
- could there be an "unwritten" difference in examination standards between regions?
- could it be the subjectivity of examiners?
- could it be the prevailing conditions on the day of an exam?

I know there are PSIA Dev Team/Examiners, etc, who participate in this forum and I am very interested in your input on this. [img]smile.gif[/img]

My intention is NOT to invite random opinions or to create a place for people to relate their own personal experiences with the examination process. [img]smile.gif[/img]
If folks want another thread for that purpose we can create it. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

Thanks all!
post #2 of 21
Use the search feature, look up "Should PSIA have a nationally standardized exam".

You might find that this topic was discussed fairly deeply there.

But the short of it is-

to all of your questions.

post #3 of 21
I too was struck by that comment. Many consider the Level I here in Rocky Mountain Division "a formality". It traditionally has had a pass rate in excess of 95% (it remains to be seen what the new 3 day ITC does in pass rate).
Interestingly however, just a couple of weeks ago, 6 of 8 flunked their level I down in Santa Fe....by a very high level examiner...and in a couple of cases...their boss! Like VSP says, Yes to all your possibilities (especially IMHO regarding divisions where vast differences in standards seem to apply)!
post #4 of 21
There are several factors that come to play here.

- You have been teaching for a year and at that point, you should be up to the task of a Level 1 exam.

- The initial attrition rate from ITC to the line was very high. Of the (over 100) candidates who took the job, only tewnty or so made it to the first line up and of those only about seven or eight stayed to instruct.

- Of our group of about ten (for the event), half had been teaching for several years. Most were solid skiers, not fast, but solid younger folks who were progressing nicely.

- One dropped out when he realized he wouldn't make it.

- The group who participated were motivated to do so. Those who were the "hangers" opted not to examine. At the hill I was at, many couldn't and shouldn't even attempt the event.

Out examiner did work us pretty hard for two days and hit every point in the manual. You had to be on your toes because you never knew what task you would be asked to perform, demo or explain.

Any stupid comment you made while riding the chair with the examiner could and would be used against you.

If you taught each class by the book all year ...... you are right, the L-1 was not a problem. Everyone who took the exam is still teaching, most of the others have quit.

The "odd duck" in our group was the directors secretary. She is the strongest wedge turner I have ever seen .... [img]tongue.gif[/img] but while she rarely instructs she performed all of the "school tasks" flawlessly, as she has for years. She got hammered when she had to do the short/medium/long routine. But ..... she doesn't instruct at level, should she have failed?
post #5 of 21
"But ..... she doesn't instruct at level, should she have failed? "

I can't really speak to whether or not this person ought to have failed Level I because I am not really up on what the Level I standards for pass are today but I have strong reservations concerning someone who may have been teaching for years who is skiing at the level you suggest. I seriously question, for example, that her wedge turns were really any good at all. How competently can this individual teach if she can't progress herself, with the training assets of the ski school available? Wedge turns and the skill performance that goes with them are really so closely linked to short, medium, long turns that the progression of someone who is doing them well is pretty much assured, absent some disability, or lack of motivation. I question whether somone who isn't able to visualize the skill progression forward to parallel turns can be equipped to teach even an introductory lesson with professional competence. Good instruction requires the ability to adapt, improvise, create to fit the situation. I realize this goes against commonly accepted beleifs that lower level lessons are "cookie cutters " but aren't we speaking of professional standards here?
post #6 of 21
Regional differences have always been something that are curious to me. Think about the crud run or bump run in the west vs other parts of the country.

There are simply substantial differences in available "vertical". Endurance becomes a factor. A large portion of my preperation for the exams that I have taken involved endurance and strength training. I would have much rather faced two or three hundred feet of vertical for either the bump run or for the crud run.
post #7 of 21
Her pass was "politics" as usual. She retreated to her desk not to bee seen again. And you are right, it did detract from the work that the others had done. To make it even a bit more complex, she had just given birth to twins the month before and she is getting a bit on the ...... "portly side".

Her presentations up to level three could not be faulted though she knew her stuff. I still can't shake that part of it.
post #8 of 21
Originally posted by Rusty Guy:
I would have much rather faced two or three hundred feet of vertical for either the bump run or for the crud run.
Rusty - Doubt you really would want 500 ft. vertical of midwest loud snow. Think about it?
post #9 of 21
In my humble opinion, Level I should signal completion of a common national curriculum instead of a regional exam. I liken the absurdity of examining people with very little experience and or knowledge to giving standardized tests to kindergarteners (which of course we do too).

The goals of the Level I program are:

1) Improve the content and delivery of beginner lessons at ski schools nationwide
2) Bring new members into PSIA/AASI
3) Employee retention: first year instructors who take their Level I are more likely to return for the second year

Considering the goals of the program and the absurdity of testing novices, high pass rates are a desirable thing. PSIA gets the pin (BRAND) on more instructors. Hopefully they will go on to Level II (which I consider a legitimate testing level) and stick around for five years (on average).

In our division, Level I can be done in-house by an accredited trainer over a season with a formal evaluation and graduation ceremony in the spring. It can also be done in a clinic that lasts 12 hours. Obviously, the season long prep is superior to the quick and dirty clinic, but we strive to be flexible to meet the needs of all the ski schools in the division, some of whom have no Level IIIs who qualify to attend the Level I trainers' accreditation. We send examiners to serve the ski schools without trainers, which we rationalize will ramp the 2-day clinic up to rival season-long training.

I used to love giving Level I clinics. I even wrote an article about one of my more memorable road trips, "Back to Basics at Bear Paw," in The Professional Skier. Bear Paw is a ski area owned by the Rocky Boy (Souix) Tribe and located on their reservation north of Havre, Montana. I passed every one of the instructors there and would have been proud to serve alongside any one of them on the beginner slope.
post #10 of 21

I guess my point is how many midwestern resorts have a run with 500 feet of vertical?

If they do......how steep?

One of the biggest factors that I faced in a recent exam was endurance. I ski six days a week, however, I get worn out skiing long bump runs from top to bottom.

My technique in bumps is fairly crummy to start with. Combine fatigue and it only gets worse. At my exam our examiner was kind enough to offer one "redo" to the group. The only stipulation was it had to be a group decision. All the "twenty somethings" wanted to ski bumps again. I hated to be a wimp but I said I was done. I was outta gas.
post #11 of 21

What you describe is what we have in Canada. Level I is the skiing equivalent of kindergarden. There is no requirement for teaching to get Level I. All you need is a 4 day course and very basic skiing skils. But then in Canada they go to Level IV certification.

The problem is that all certified instuctors have the same uniform and the public is left guessing about certification and about the quality of the instructors.
post #12 of 21
I did my level 1 in Eastern, and was outraged at how it was cracked up to be a "real" exam, that you had to try really hard to pass...and yet everyone passed, including a boy who was out of control most of the time (and his teaching task was embarassing, one of the examiners whispered to me that I could jump in at any time and help!).

I bailed up the head examiner in the bar later and demanded just what did you have to do to FAIL? And he ummed and ahhed a bit, and said a guy had failed once, as he made some "inappropriate comments about women".

I think that anyone passing the basic level of exam should at least have good, sound basic skiing, up to dynamic parallel. The bells and whistles can be tested at higher levels. As for the fat secretary, I would say that if she taught good lessons to level 3 level, that's great, but her skiing should still be correct, if not flashy, to at least sound ATS level 7.
post #13 of 21
I think if you hit your examiner and broke his/her leg, that might be enough to make you fail.
post #14 of 21
I have known a couple of people that have failed in the RM division. Three to be exact. Their skiing isn't bad, however, I'm told they went to the exam and clearly didn't "ski the task". They would make decent enough open parallel turns.....the problem was the task was wedge christie's, or vice versa.
post #15 of 21
Since Level 1 started in RM, I would have to guess that somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-40 people have failed it. I know of one individual who failed L1 twice!

A new format was adopted this season- 3 days, with a written test each day, while the outdoor focus of each day changed from teaching, technical/GCT, and skiing on the last day. I have heard that there have been a few unsuccessful candidates in this new format, as well.

What does it take to fail?
Well, the inability to perform certain skiing skills/ tasks, the inability to work within the frame work of GCT, in transfering information to students, and an overall lack of knowledge available in the several different books and publications we use as resource materials.

Though not an extremely difficult evaluation, there is still some measurable degree of ability and knowledge which must be evident to pass.

Yes, there is a very high % pass rate, but it's really just an introduction to the information, the nature of instructing, and the industry.

Many divisions no longer require employment to take the Level 1, but most will require employment before you will be awarded the pin and certificate.

post #16 of 21
If the Level I clinician can't get a group of people who think they're good enough to instruct to ski the tasks, understand their purpose, and be able to repeat certain tenets of teaching, then I'd wonder about the ability of the clinician and the effectiveness of the training course. Here's an idea: The exam or validation process should assess the effectiveness of the training course and staff, and not be approached with the same zealotry as at Level II-III. We want to start instructors, not break them. Improve the program, process, and delivery and better instructors will come of it.

My feeling is that everyone who tries should be able to reach the Level I standard. Those who won't try won't make good instructors, so by all means, fail them. Level I is the gateway to the profession. It should filter most prospects in, but keep out the obvious cranks and misfits.
post #17 of 21
Great comment Nolo, Agree! Hated that people's first introduction was a pass/fail. Creates tension even when you do your best to make light of it and set up a best performance situation. It has improved a little in the east now that we have gone back to a 2 day clinic before you can take the level 1 exam.
post #18 of 21
One of the few redeeming aspects of the western division (my opinion) that I witnessed was the integration of the Portfolio system for level I aquisition.
We scheduled season long clinic requirements, homework, MA sessions etc., made our recommendation as to who was eligible for validation, then had a validation day in-house. Lots of work, but effective.
post #19 of 21
Nolo is right on the money. The idea is to get new instructors into PSIA and hopefully retain them.
post #20 of 21
speaking from the international perspective, PSIA needs to accept that before it awards a certification, people should meet some minimum standards. Having courses etc before the exam is possibly a good way of helping people to self-select, they can see whether they should attempt the exam or not.
If it becomes "every child wins a prize" however, it's not a certification but a club membership.
post #21 of 21
Todo, I second your commentary on the current approach and results with PSIA here in the East. Now that instructors can attend a two day clinic, known as "First Tracks", which is not intimidating they can ease into their first exam at level I or not if they choose to pass on it.

Our adaptive instructors at Loon are highly encouraged to take the Alpine First Tracks clinic and the Alpine Level I exam thereafter, to prepare them for their Level I Adaptive exam in the future. We rarely allow a first year instructor to attempt any level I certifications, based on our training plan, which is rigorous enough for most to pass during their first year. We feel that our typical weekend warrior needs to have sufficient training and teaching time, so that skiing fundamentals are well founded and have become somewhat second nature when they attend an Alpine or Adaptive Level I exam.

The feedback from our instructors returning from each of their exams, whether it's a level I, II, or III, is that they are always over prepared for each respective level. In particular we have found that not one level I candidate has failed to date nor are they insufficiently prepared. At level II the rubber really begins to meet the road and yet we still have a high pass rate.

Finally, I'd like to say that I'm not convinced that the National Standards are really all that different from the East to the Far Western divisions, subject to the nuances of the terrain and snowpack conditions unique to those specific areas.

However, I think the real differences lie within the enforcement of those standards from division to division. Personally, I embrace the enforcement of upholding the National Standards across all divisions. If a level I, II, or III, shield is to uphold the respect it deserves then there should be a single and distinct standard for each level to attain.

I also agree with Nolo in developing a system, which creates an instructor educational training system that will lead to the retention of high quality instructors and foster growth within the instructor ranks.
: whtmt :
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