or Connect
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Ski Training and Pro Forums › Ski Instruction & Coaching › Why isn't there a defined teaching progression from the PSIA?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Why isn't there a defined teaching progression from the PSIA?

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 

Maybe this is a naive question, but BWPA's thread and Bob Barne's post in there about the lack of a defined teaching progression got me wondering.  I didn't want to derail BWPA's thread so I decided to post this question.

 

Has the PSIA ever discussed establishing a more defined progression that would enable a student to take a lesson at one resort and easily continue their progression at another?  Heck, it doesn't even have to be a different resort - just changing instructors at most mountains means a lack of continuity in the learning progression.  I had my kids in ski school last season and their results were very mixed from week to week since what they were taught was completely dependent on which instructor they ended up with.  They seemed to be getting lots of tips and some good movement ideas, but there wasn't any real defined protocol for the teaching that I could determine.  They were rated at the end of each lesson according to the PSIA level system and those levels did have defined skill accomplishments, but it's not like the next week they picked up where they left off from the previous week.  Imagine learning any subject in school in this manner.  It's quite inefficient and at worse just a total failure.

 

So this season my money is staying in my pocket and I'm teaching them myself again even though I understand the risks in trying to teach your own kids. If the PSIA would adopt an established protocol and have all the instructors teach an agreed upon progression I think the buying public would get a lot more for their money and most likely the ski schools would see greater retention of students.  Am I missing something here?

 
post #2 of 46

Noodler, I have a copy of the PSIA Centerline video from the late 80's which contains fabulous demos from the rock stars of the day....Ellen Post Foster, Jerry Warren, I think Tim Petrick and maybe a couple of others.

 

This was intended to do exactly what you describe, identify key movement progressions through which all students should theoretically pass thru on their way to high performance skiing..... 

 

If you ask around you should be able to score a copy....I see it occasionally on ebay as well.

 

At the time I considered it pretty brilliant stuff and I was able to identify the progressions in my students and adapt accordingly.

 

The 2 video ATS set from the early 90's was similar, but focused on lesson situations at various levels...the.Sean Smith segment is absolutely killer in those videos.

Again, you should have no trouble with a little patience securing copies....I would be certain Bob Barnes would still have this material along with many others in the Rocky Mountain region. The method of presenting a typical lesson one might teach at levels 1-8 were very helpful and one could do a decent job instructing students as a novice instructor by dipping into the bag of tricks presented.

 

I still think Lito's 1st breakthrough video is the best instructional material ever done....I remain hopeful that someone would step up and update but I haven't seen it yet. The P M T S stuff has always been well done but of course that is a somewhat different pathway.

 

I have been out of PSIA for a few years, retired by choice but I am not aware of any similar materials produced since......I have relied on the Canadians, Italians and Japanese for the images I needed recently.

 

post #3 of 46

I think further if you could secure some of the material I describe you could do a fabulous job of teaching your own children being the student of our sport that you are....

 

None of my flock ever took a lesson from anyone else until 2 of them took ITS at the local hill in preparation for becoming instructors themselves. Both of them had devoured the material I describe prior to ITS and were way ahead of the learning curve of the other participants.

 

Risking being a bit controversial here, but if you get the material you need I think saving the dough would be fine for you vs. traditional teaching imposed on your children by someone else.

 

If your kids are old enough I would strongly recommend an ITS at a good hill vs. group lessons once they reach level 5/6.  If you haven't gone through an ITS program I would recommend it for you too. You could keep what you like and throw out the rest.  You might even enjoy it enough to put on a coat and impose your will on the hillbiggrin.gif

post #4 of 46

I hear your pain.

 

I just see the ski school as child minders who get the kids on the snow doing miles. The parent instructor thing is a tough gig.

 

I hesitate to ask them what they learnt after each lesson. Most of it is not in my book so I shudder when I hear them say things like, "we were told to keep a ruler length space between our skis".

 

post #5 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashski View Post

I hear your pain.

 

I just see the ski school as child minders who get the kids on the snow doing miles. The parent instructor thing is a tough gig.

 

I hesitate to ask them what they learnt after each lesson. Most of it is not in my book so I shudder when I hear them say things like, "we were told to keep a ruler length space between our skis".

 


Unfortunate that you have had such poor experiences with instructors. However, we are not 'child minders'. Most of us put many, many hours into learning our profession, and have a great many things to teach the kids we have in our lessons. As far as things not being 'in your book', there are a million ways to explain skiing movements, and it's the instructor's job to figure out how to explain things as many ways as they can think of until something makes sense to the student. Yes, maybe an instructor said 'keep a ruler length space between our skis'... because one of the kids was able to visualize a ruler and it helped them. Or maybe for another kid it was keeping a soccer ball between his feet. Or maybe for your kid it was shoulder width. I have taught for a number of years, and have had thousands of children in lessons. If I go an entire day teaching, and don't figure out a new way to explain a movement, I haven't done a good job.

 

The primary reason there isn't a defined progression in PSIA is because skiing is not a linear progresion. PSIA instructors are not teaching racers, we are teaching recreational skiers. It's about giving a student the tools they want or need to enjoy skiing. Are there skills that build and progress? Yes. But it's not set in stone. Each time I get a student, I evaluate where they are, and figure out where they can go next. How they get there is different each time. If you want strict linear skill progression, join PSIA and start getting certifications. In that situation, your personal skiing progression is much more strictly evaluated and graded.

post #6 of 46

 

Quote:
 
Has the PSIA ever discussed establishing a more defined progression that would enable a student to take a lesson at one resort and easily continue their progression at another? 

 

 

At one time there was a more or less established progression. PSIA's breakthrough was the realization that every one learns at a different rate and it isn't necessary, or even helpful, to totally master each step before allowing the next to be introduced. Even the centerline concept is based on the idea that although there is a recognizable progression in the way most people acquire skills, most people will learn best if allowed to deviate from the centerline. The "progression" may be the center line but most of the actual teaching and learning goes on in the spaces either side of the line. 

 

 

Quote:
They were rated at the end of each lesson according to the PSIA level system and those levels did have a defined skill accomplishments, but its not like the next week they picked up where they left off from the previous week.

 

That is why most areas offer season long programs for kids and many for adults. At the very least find out the instructors name and ask to get that instructor again. The only way to guaranty that is to spring for privates but if you're nice many supervisor will try to accommodate you 

 

Quote:
Imagine learning any subject in school in this manner. Its quite inefficient and at worse just a total failure.

 

Agreed. But also imagine any school where the primary goal is to stick to the syllabus despite the fact that....

Every student in the class has differing prior experience,

Most of the students haven't met before,

The instructor hasn't seen most of students before,

Its in a new class room every day, even if its the same classroom the furniture has all been changed.

 

And by the way keep it fun or you're fired.   

 

All in all letting the instructor teach to the student seems a better bet then teaching to a set progression. 

 



                                                                                                                                                                         

post #7 of 46

Noodler, FWIW, I have found the kids programs at areas like Copper and Eldora (and, I assume, all the others) that use the same instructor for a multi-week program to be the best way for kids to advance pretty quickly, for some of the very reasons you outline. I can say that the instructors at both Eldora and Copper who teach in these programs love working with the kids and seeing them improve over the course of the program, and having both the same instructor and the same group members over the course of 4-8 weeks makes a difference, too. It probably helps that all of the kids have similar reasons for being there, and really are looking to both improve and have fun.

 

That said, as you've noted, teaching is a mixed bag. I'm not sure it's the progression thing, though. There's a wide range of skills and aptitude among the various people who teach skiing, and if there was a progression, I think there would be at least as many issues with that approach as there are with this one. A skilled teacher should be able to take a look at your kids' experience and skills and adapt their teaching to help them reach their next level. But, it doesn't always happen that way, does it?

 

Too bad, that...

 

Hope to ski with you again some time...!

post #8 of 46

There isn't even a defined list of things that clinic leaders teach to instructors.  There needs to be a list of "things we don't teach any more."  Every year there is a new wrinkle or two taught to instructors, usually without a reason why it should work.  In a couple of years many of these are either ignored or replaced by another new wrinkle, but some instructors continue to teach these things that didn't work very well in the first place.  The result is a hodge podge of teaching materials.  The better ski schools train their instructors in a slimmed down list of true basic movements and teaching techniques, but still don't have that list of things we were taught, never worked very well, and aren't taught any more.  While it is certainly true that students learn at different rates, and some learn one task easily and the next with difficulty, while another has the opposite experience, PSIA used to have their "stepping stones" from beginning to expert skiing, and no two skiers need even travel the same path.

 

A couple of examples---

I've had clinic leaders teach instructors to use a huge arm swing for pole plants to get the body moving into the new turn.  A recent copy of the PSIA instructors magazine showed a very compact pole movement with little or no arm swing (much better IMO).  No notice was made why the old arm swing wasn't the best and why it shouldn't be taught.  Another item is counter...used to be taught to instructors with the mantra, "ski into counter."  The latest fad seems to be remaining square to the skis.  No word on why counter is now bad and square is good (and I think the square position will soon be on the "things we don't teach any more" list).  By the way, the big pole swing caused the skis to lose grip and the tails to slide downhill just before the turn.  Counter (turning the hips toward the outside of the turn...counter to the turn direction...) locks out further femur rotation and helps the ski tails maintain grip on the snow, especially in the last third of the turn.  And we have the old narrow stance, very wide stance, shoulder width stance, undefinable functional width stance, and natural width stance the feet are in while just walking/sliding on the snow without thinking of stance width.

post #9 of 46
Quote:
Am I missing something here?

Yes, I think so, Noodler. There are many reasons why PSIA does not establish a preset, consistent, universal progression. Perhaps the primary and most obvious one is the simple fact that ski school students do not come with preset, consistent, universal needs or goals.

Think of some of the variations:
  • What kind of equipment are you on--rental skis, new race slaloms, 20-year-old GS skis, all-terrain skis, park & pipe twin-tips, mogul skis, reverse sidecut rockered powder planks, snow blades....? How are they tuned? What kind of boots--and how are they set up?
  • What are your goals? Skiing switch and throwing down in the park and pipe? Carving turns for the thrill of it? Confidence on the blue runs? Moguls? Crud? Steeps? Learning to do a classic "schrittbogen" so you can perform in a movie about skiing history? Scoping and skiing extreme lines? Improving your NASTAR performance? Looking "elegant" and getting less tired? Doing hockey stops and mastering the White Room? Just getting back on your skis after a fifteen year lapse? Only here for today, and really want to see the top of the mountain? "I'll be taking a lesson every weekend all season." "Just got these brand new rockered skis, 160mm underfoot, and I want to learn to rip on 'em." This is your first day....
  • What is your skiing background? Lessons every day since day 1? One lesson fifteen years ago? First time? Raced in college? Took a Mahre Training Center camp/NASTC camp/EpicSki Academy camp/Copper's BumpBusters camp/PMTS camp/Pepi's Wedel Weeks camp/Taos Ski Week/Snowbird Steeps camp/Keystone Betty Fest/Lito's "Breakthrough" camp/you-name-it-branded camp? "I ski groomed runs well, but this powder really throws me." "I've had many lessons in Slovenia." "I learned on a ski deck in the Bahamas." "I'm an Italian-certified instructor." "I took an underground lesson from some guy I found on Craigslist." "I am coming off a horrendous accident with two hip replacements, and I need to get my confidence back." ....
  • What is your non-skiing athletic background and fitness level? Coach potato. Professional football player. Professional hockey player. Tai Chi master. Tri-athlete. "If I get the urge to exercise, I lie down and rest until it passes." Ex-prima ballerina for the New York City Ballet. "I haven't done anything athletic in 40 years." "I'm four years old." "I lost my left leg in Iraq." Champion water skier. Snowboarder. Sagittarian. "I'm an endurance athlete and never get tired." "I just had a quadruple bypass last month." ....
  • What is your motivation level and commitment? Casual, just skiing for the exercise, the company, the fresh air, a little fun, or to get your mind off your regular work? Extremely goal-oriented and willing to work very hard to become an excellent skier? "I hate snow." "I'm very timid." "I'm aggressive and fearless, and nothing frightens me." "I'm willing to slow it way down and work hard doing drills on green groomed runs to perfect my skills." "Green runs? Boring--I only want to challenge myself on the Double Blacks." "I value adaptability and want to be able to ski anything, anywhere, any style, at will." "I don't care about varied terrain or conditions--just want to master one preferred technique, for its own sake." "I want a sound foundation, but I'm not afraid to let it get a little ragged and use my athleticism when I ski." "I strive for perfection, and would rather ski slowly and precisely than ever get out of balance or have to improvise."
  • How do you like to learn and to be taught? "I just want to follow you and mimic." "I love detailed explanations, because I'm as fascinated with the technical side as I am with performance." "Just show me and let me practice and experiment with it on my own until I get it." "I prefer constant, immediate feedback." "Keep it simple--show me one way to do it and give me feedback about how good I am at that particular technique." "I love step-by-step, logically ordered progressions of drills." "I hate drills--just want you to ski with me and help me improve." "In the best lesson I've ever had, my instructor never said a word about technique, but she created tactical situations that caused immediate, specific technical changes." "I believe that skill is more important than technique." "I believe that technique is more important than skill." "I don't have a clue how I learn or what is important." "I believe that technique is a means to an end." "I believe that technique itself is the goal and I just want to be told if I'm doing it right or wrong."

This list barely scratches the surface. Do you think "a defined progression" will work for all of these people and their diverse backgrounds, needs, commitment levels, goals, and motivations? Neither do I.

---

Next, consider that PSIA does not teach lessons. But PSIA-trained instructors work for all of the programs I listed in the third bullet above--each of which defines its own unique (at least from a marketing perspective) progression and agenda. Again, PSIA is not an instructional program, but its instructors do work in instructional programs, some of which incorporate highly proprietary progressions. PSIA instructors work for different ski schools across the country--and across the globe--with widely varying clientele, widely varying terrain and learning facilities, and widely varying philosophies driven by their individual directors. PSIA's mission is to prepare instructors with the skill and broad understanding of the sport of skiing that will enable them to succeed in any environment. Many PSIA instructors are the directors of these special programs, tasked with developing a proprietary, marketable program that can be differentiated from the rest. PSIA does not teach progressions--it trains and educates instructors with the background to develop their own progressions as needed.

It is worth noting that PSIA is not alone in recognizing that student needs are critical in developing an individual lesson plan. Most organizations that train instructors recognize the same, and do their best to promote "guest-centered teaching."

Finally, recognize that PSIA is not entirely as progression-free as you may surmise. At the very lowest levels of understanding and experience--PSIA's Level 1 Certification--instructors are, in fact, introduced to a consistent, prescribed basic progression. It's a job necessity--they will be working as instructors with very little training and education, so they are "given" a basic progression intended to be reasonably effective for the middle of the bell curve of typical students. They are trained to deliver this progression simply because, at this level, they generally lack the deeper understanding, skill, and experience needed to create customized progressions and lesson plans tailored to the particular, unique needs of varying students and situations.

Delivering a prescribed progression is easy. It just takes a little "knowledge"--no deeper understanding is needed. It is our first step. For many instructors, that's all they know--and all the training they'll get. For the better ones, continuing education and experience brings them to a level far beyond that of "defined progression deliverer."

As a result, superior instructors are quite capable of delivering a refined, logical, effective progression based on sound, universal, consistent skiing principles. They just can't tell you what that progression will be until they know more about you, your needs and goals, and the specific situation of the moment. "Canned" progressions that are more technique-focused ("mechanistic") than student-focused ("humanistic") are anathema to PSIA--and really, to any qualified instructor or teaching program. They are also anathema to you, if you think about it. Would you really want to invest money and time in a lesson that was all about "the progression" and ignored your needs and wants, as the paying customer?

But being "student-centered" does not mean that good PSIA instructors do not share (reasonably) consistent beliefs and understanding of good ski technique. Of course, thinking pros will never agree about everything all the time. Progress and technical evolution depend on conflict, growth, and challenging the status quo and "conventional wisdom." Instructors who do not challenge dogma and question beliefs don't ever amount to much--and indeed, are incapable of anything beyond delivering prescribed, canned progressions by rote. Great instructors are creative; automatons are not great instructors.

Progressions teach technique. PSIA instructors teach skiing! Skiing is as multi-faceted as skiers are.

---

Unfortunately, none of this guarantees a great lesson at any particular ski school. The reality is that PSIA has limited influence, and zero control, over the instruction and programs of most ski schools. Indeed, even in official PSIA-affiliated schools, many instructors have had little to no PSIA training. There is no law that requires instructors to be certified. Ski schools hire whomever they want, pay generally very little, and train them as much or as little as they want and can afford. Many instructors are uncertified. Some are Level 1. Some are Level 2. In most ski schools only a small minority, at best, are Full Certified.

Think some PSIA-affiliated instructors are sub-standard? So does PSIA. Not everyone passes our exams, at any level. Many never even seek certification. At least one major western resort, by its own admission, hired nearly 200 brand new instructors this season (half its staff), and put them to work before they had received any PSIA training whatsoever. (Some of these will pursue, and presumably by now already have pursued, PSIA training and certification, but many will not.)

If anything, perhaps these areas are where PSIA should focus its attention. No matter how brilliant an education program PSIA may offer, it is a moot point when instructors haven't been exposed to it. I've long thought that the requirements for being a PSIA-member ski school should be much more rigorous than they are. To me, a great part of the problem that is evident in threads like this is that many people have experienced or witnessed sub-par lessons and, to a large extent, these lessons reflect poorly on PSIA, even if PSIA had absolutely nothing to do with them.

There is no doubt that not all instruction that is available out there is going to be excellent. But a large share of the blame should point to the ski and resort industry as a whole. There are excellent instructors. And there are many others.

---

Anyway, these are a few of the reasons that PSIA does not identify or promote "a progression." Truly great instructors are extremely knowledgeable as well as creative. They will each have their own spin on things and, like physicians, engineers, and experts in most fields, they won't always agree on everything. But they will help you ski better, and while they may not be clones or automatons, the lessons of one great instructor will complement--not conflict with or contradict--a lesson from another. Different situations will, of course, demand different approaches, tactics, and (sometimes) techniques. All learning is good and, ultimately, it is up to you, the student, to become the skier you want and choose to be. No great skier focuses on a single technique or progression. Versatility, skill, adaptability, and expression are the hallmarks of great skiing--and great instructors.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

 

post #10 of 46
Quote:
There isn't even a defined list of things that clinic leaders teach to instructors.

Of course not, SSG. Clinics go out on a myriad of topics--some specific, some not. But there are specific clinic outlines with specifically defined lists for specific clinics intended to produce specific outcomes. All of our PSIA clinics in the Rocky Mountain Division--as well as most in-house clinics at many ski schools--involve clinic outlines with very specific outcome statements, at least, and some outline specific progressions in bullet form as well.

Again, remember that great teaching is not about belief and knowledge--it is about understanding (which goes far beyond mere "knowledge") and skill. Developing understanding entails conflict, cognitive dissonance, exploring paradoxes, challenging "conventional wisdom" and dogma, and not being afraid to expose yourself to varied and even contradictory information. If you're all right with being an OK instructor, seek knowledge. If you want to be a great instructor, challenge everything and explore all possibilities.
Quote:
There needs to be a list of "things we don't teach any more."

Really? I hear what you're saying, and it would be true, I suppose, if "what we teach" is a specific progression or a single unvarying "technique." But that's hardly what skiing is about. We teach skills, and no skill is ever obsolete (although certainly, its application may change as technique evolves). I contend that nothing that was ever taught is obsolete, and everything that has ever been taught has a place in the repertoire of all great skiers. If there's something you cannot do, you'll be a better skier when you can. New equipment has not obviated any techniques, although it has certainly increased our opportunities. Intent dictates technique, though, and just because I can do things I couldn't do in the past, does not mean that I should not learn the skills or use the movements that worked for different intents and purposes. There is not a single thing that I am able to do on skis that I would prefer to be unable to do.

On the other hand, I do recall a document that I produced at Keystone many years ago, entitled "Ski Instruction Don'ts." It was intended to debunk some mythology--mostly things that actually never were good teaching in the past, and still aren't today.
Quote:
While it is certainly true that students learn at different rates, and some learn one task easily and the next with difficulty, while another has the opposite experience, PSIA used to have their "stepping stones" from beginning to expert skiing, and no two skiers need even travel the same path.

The Stepping Stones™ model is still current, and its core philosophy still valid. It is, as you say, a recognition that not all student needs are the same, so no single progression will be ideal for everyone. Personally, I preferred the predecessor to Stepping Stones--the Center Line™ Model--which outlined both "linear learning" (increasing proficiency in a single technique or movement pattern) and "lateral learning" (varying movement patterns, skill blends, and techniques to enhance versatility and adaptability). But both models are highly relevant to this discussion, and illustrate why good instruction does not, and cannot, emphasize a single, universal, all-purpose progression.

Best regards,
Bob
post #11 of 46
Thread Starter 

Bob - thanks for taking the time to so thoroughly answer my questions.  I didn't fully understand exactly how the PSIA works and its role within instructional programs at the resorts.  I now see why it functions as it does and what the goals are in trying to meet students' needs.  However, with that flexibility to customize a program for the individual skier comes the perils of good instructors and bad instructors.  I guess it's the same as in any kind of school, but there doesn't seem to be a defined syllabus that everyone has agreed to work from.  So this of course led to my chief complaint and that is of continuity from lesson to lesson, but as SSH pointed out there are programs that can provide that.  We just didn't experience that with the typical "stick your kid in ski school each weekend" that most parents do.

 

In the end I personally would like to see the PSIA promote a well defined progression as an option for those students that want it.  Keep the ability to provide customized learning experiences from those instructors actually capable of teaching in that manner, but also provide a recommended learning progression program that people can jump in and out of easily from resort to resort or instructor to instructor.  Over time the PSIA would learn which type of program more people gravitate toward.  Maybe even include some level of certification for students where they receive confirmation of exactly where they are in the progression so that at the next lesson the instructor has a "guarantee" of what skills the students have already acquired.  That should make student ability grouping simpler (another problem I noticed with the ski school).

post #12 of 46

It sounds like ski instruction, like democracy, is a messy business...  As a consumer of ski instruction, I appreciate being able to read all the different opinions, arguments, and explanations on this, and other, threads.  It is unfortunate (and likely impossible), as stated above, that all this stuff is not more transparent to the person who shows up at a ski school desk wanting to sign up for a random lesson.  However (to answer my own comment), my guess is that this random person would not really care as long as he/she gets value for the money spent on the lesson.

post #13 of 46

Noodler, SSD's and SAM teach their newbies some stock progressions but they also expect them to grow and expand their teaching tools over time. So that standard progression is covered by them and PSIA's role is to help the coach develop additional teaching options that compliment the SSD's and SAM's original SOP's. So to complain that PSIA doesn't impose a standardized progression country wide sort of ignores the fact that the resorts may have their own SOP's. It's really no different than expecting a college to set specific SOP's for businesses that hire their graduates.


Edited by justanotherskipro - 1/10/11 at 6:44pm
post #14 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Noodler View Post
 Imagine learning any subject in school in this manner.  It's quite inefficient and at worse just a total failure.
 

How about golf?

post #15 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheRusty View PostQuote:
Originally Posted by Noodler View Post
 Imagine learning any subject in school in this manner.  It's quite inefficient and at worse just a total failure.
 

How about golf?


Hmmm, interesting thought.  I was taught my golf swing in private lessons with the same instructor for a year.  I guess you could tackle skiing instruction the same way, but I'm sure not going to spend that kind of money on lessons for all my kids.  Point taken.

post #16 of 46
Quote:
It's really no different than expecting a college to set specific SOP's for businesses that hire their graduates.

Good point, JASP. I've suggested before that it would be like expecting a cooking school to require its graduates to cook only one particular dish, or a medical school to outline a standard care regime for its graduates to follow regardless of patient diagnosis.

Again, it is a main difference between a general instructor educating body like most national instructor associations (PSIA, CSIA , BASI, and so on), and a proprietary skiing program like most individual ski schools, or EpicSki Academy, Mahre Training Center, PMTS, MogulLogic, or what have you. Both types of programs may train instructors and may even "certify" instructors, but the former trains overall knowledge, skill, and understanding, while the latter trains and certifies to work in the particular program. Some proprietary programs focus on a specific type of skiing (moguls, racing, freestyle) or particular expectation (Mermer Blakeslee's Fear Workshops, Keystone's BettyFest), while others are more general and "student-focused" like typical resort ski schools. Whether it is the particular advertised progression, the unique needs or expectations of the targeted customer, or the resort-specific protocols, procedures, and policies, the training for proprietary programs is different from the overall understanding and skill base training of an organization like PSIA. (That is not to say that PSIA does not offer targeted training as well: it does: Children's Specialist, Freestyle Accreditation, race clinics, adaptive certification, alignment and equipment setup, and so on. But even these are intended to enhance the instructor's overall knowledge and skill in specialized areas--to expand the instructor's capability, not to limit the instructor to a particular protocol, progression, or need.)

Best regards,
Bob
post #17 of 46

Although many of the respondents have made excellent points, I couldn't resist adding my personal observations.   I am a second-year part-time Ski Instructor, and an old-timer, areasonably good skiier who has taught several children (including my own), and a PSIA member.  

 

I am shocked at the vague, unstructured nature of the PSIA teaching materials.  Filled with half-baked nonsense culled from educational theory and incomplete understanding of physiology, they are essentially useless.  The reason that multi-session programs with the same instructor are best  is there is, indeed, no defined teaching progression from PSIA.   There are no skill requirements for entry into a ski lesson class; no requirements for advancing from level to level; no teaching tools; no curriculum or lesson plans  -- essentially, PSIA offers nothing except for a bunch of platitudes about childhood development and physiology.   My area, which does seem to try hard, assigns kids to classes based on parental statements about ability!   True,  we do sort them out after the lesson begins,  and we do teach them to ski pretty well, I think, but it's painfully difficult, and almost totally dependent on the dedication and skill of the individual instructors.   And the one-off group lessons, and even some of the private lessons, are really a waste of time and money for many kids, and also for some adults.  It should be completely feasible to develop a structured, uniform nationwide program, allowing for regional differences.   But I have a feeling that this won't happen for the same reason that we allow novice snowboarders and bad skiiers onto expert terrain where they can cause injury to themselves and others without any attempt to screen them.  Namely: It's all about money.  Even so,   I think parents deserve a lot better for the money they are spending on ski lessons for their kids.

post #18 of 46
^^^ what level are you? I'm curious because there's no way one can pass a level 2 or 3 exam without demonstrating teaching and MA skills commensurate to the level one is testing. These include progression, etc.... How one arrives at a successful progression (sometimes they can be non-linear and work incredibly well) is the result of both experience and training. The more you have, the more successful you're likely to be. The more you practice, the greater the odds you'll have more to creatively contribute.
post #19 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashski View Post

I hear your pain.

 

I just see the ski school as child minders who get the kids on the snow doing miles. The parent instructor thing is a tough gig.

 

I hesitate to ask them what they learnt after each lesson. Most of it is not in my book so I shudder when I hear them say things like, "we were told to keep a ruler length space between our skis".

 

Narrowing a stance makes for easier turning using steering with a low edge angle and the path to tossing a wedge if it is present.

post #20 of 46

Holy two year old thread bump, Batman!

 

Quote:
There are no skill requirements for entry into a ski lesson class; no requirements for advancing from level to level;...

 

These are up to the individual ski school, which is why they are not mandated by PSIA.

 

Quote:
...no teaching tools; no curriculum or lesson plans...

 

Not sure what you mean, since I have numerous books of teaching materials from PSIA?  (see: http://www.thesnowpros.org/PublicationsVideosResources/Resources/AlpineEducationalResources.aspx)

 

"Lesson plans" like you might have in a school classroom environment ("Okay, class, today we're going to learn about the Battle of Antietam...") are not particularly useful, since beyond the very basics you really have to work with the student(s) to address their skill development needs.

 

Quote:
It should be completely feasible to develop a structured, uniform nationwide program, allowing for regional differences.

 

Get back to us on that and let us know how it works out.

 

Believe me, people have tried much more structured teaching systems, with varying degrees of success.  Most modern (20th century, at least) ski schools grew out of military ski training in Europe, which was FAR more regimented and structured.  Many of those early teaching systems focused on "final forms", where you learned to emulate specific movements as handed down from on high.  Bob Barnes and some other people discussed this in more detail earlier in this thread, but the current PSIA curriculum is to a large extent a reactionary move AWAY from that.  The current focus of PSIA is on student-centered teaching and skill development with a lot of customization by the instructor, which is why they do spend a lot of time talking about learning models, child psychology, etc. in addition to ski technique.  Rather than working a progression of movements or forms, the progression is based on increasing competence in core skiing skills (edging, rotary, pressure, balance).

 

The advantage to this is that it encourages working with the student to provide them just what they need.

 

The downside is that doing that is hard, and it's even harder in a one-off lesson where you've never met this person before and may never work with them again.

 

Quote:
...The reason that multi-session programs with the same instructor are best  is there is, indeed, no defined teaching progression from PSIA....

 

Taking a series of lessons with the same instructor is much better in this kind of teaching environment because they get to know you and can better customize the lessons to your needs, not because PSIA and ski schools are doing a terrible job of telling instructors what good skiing is and how to teach.

 

Quote:
...I have a feeling that [a standardized national curriculum] won't happen for the same reason that we allow novice snowboarders and bad skiiers onto expert terrain where they can cause injury to themselves and others without any attempt to screen them.  Namely: It's all about money.

 

That's quite a non sequitur.  There are actually legal reasons why resorts don't want to get into the business of certifying skiers/riders beyond whether or not such a move would be popular with the clientele.

 

While I am sure there are individual ski schools that care about nothing but the bottom line, from everything I've seen the folks at PSIA are really trying to do what they can to improve ski instruction and the value thereof.  You may disagree with their educational philosophy -- and you wouldn't be the only one -- but they're trying.

post #21 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by rudbek View Post

Although many of the respondents have made excellent points, I couldn't resist adding my personal observations.   I am a second-year part-time Ski Instructor, and an old-timer, areasonably good skiier who has taught several children (including my own), and a PSIA member.  

 

I am shocked at the vague, unstructured nature of the PSIA teaching materials.  Filled with half-baked nonsense culled from educational theory and incomplete understanding of physiology, they are essentially useless.  The reason that multi-session programs with the same instructor are best  is there is, indeed, no defined teaching progression from PSIA.   There are no skill requirements for entry into a ski lesson class; no requirements for advancing from level to level; no teaching tools; no curriculum or lesson plans  -- essentially, PSIA offers nothing except for a bunch of platitudes about childhood development and physiology.   My area, which does seem to try hard, assigns kids to classes based on parental statements about ability!   True,  we do sort them out after the lesson begins,  and we do teach them to ski pretty well, I think, but it's painfully difficult, and almost totally dependent on the dedication and skill of the individual instructors.   And the one-off group lessons, and even some of the private lessons, are really a waste of time and money for many kids, and also for some adults.  It should be completely feasible to develop a structured, uniform nationwide program, allowing for regional differences.   But I have a feeling that this won't happen for the same reason that we allow novice snowboarders and bad skiiers onto expert terrain where they can cause injury to themselves and others without any attempt to screen them.  Namely: It's all about money.  Even so,   I think parents deserve a lot better for the money they are spending on ski lessons for their kids.

I love these observations. This is a real issue. PSIA definitely needs to address these concerns. It will be difficult because this opinion absolutely and directly contradicts some of the core premises of PSIA. I will also acknowledge that there are other teaching systems who agree with your main point: that instructors should teach skiing via a "cookbook" type of approach. That said Rudbek, you also need to acknowledge that as a second year part time instructor that there is a good chance that people who have successfully taught skiing for many years might have some method behind their madness. My first point is that finding value and commonality among conflicting opinions and facts will help accelerate your growth as an instructor. There is a lot of disagreement in this business.

 

Ski schools have primary responsibility for training their staff. Ski instructors who are interested in improving their skills beyond the training offered by their school can come to PSIA for supplemental learning. These statements are meant to add perspective, not duck the issue. We need to acknowledge that most US resort ski school training programs are based heavily on PSIA concepts and methodologies. But it also works the other way. Updates to the PSIA manuals come from concepts that are fully explored and tested on the front lines in individual schools. If changes need to be made, the place to test your solutions is in your own school.

 

I know for my resort and many others that new instructors begin their teaching career teaching first time students. At my resort we give new instructors a progression to use for their first time lessons. This works well enough for first time students and for new instructors without a lot of training. You've acknowledged that ski teaching is "painfully difficult". You've also acknowledged that money is a problem. Most resorts would love to put new instructors through a multi year training program before they ever teach their first lesson. Many would argue that most US resorts are putting new instructors into uniform without adequate training. But money means that the line must be drawn somewhere between zero training and mutli year.    That means that there is no best answer to this problem. The road from "well enough" to "good" to "great" is a long one with a lot of training and experience required to achieve progress. In my experience, shifting from a "progression" teaching approach to a "student centered" approach is a faster way to get to "great". Student Centered teaching works extremely well. But there is no denying that this is hard.

 

What helps student centered teaching work well is all that educational theory and bio-mechanics. PSIA presents an overview of these concepts in their manuals. The intent is that this is just a starting point for an instructor's education. The other part of this is that the manuals are just supporting information. You need to personally experience the results of this teaching approach in the training that you receive and see how it is applied in the training you receive to fully believe in and learn how to use these concepts. The training events offered by PSIA are where this is best experienced. It's like school where reading the homework is required in order to get the most out of the teacher's instruction in the classroom. As much as the many education theories are a lot of half baked nonsense, most do contain kernels of truth that can be used successfully in ski teaching. Finding those kernels and learning how to use them takes a lot of work.

 

There is no denying that many lessons taught are a waste of time and money (also no denying that many are worth every penny). In my experience PSIA membership is one indication of dedication to constantly improve one's skills and constantly do one's personal best to fix this problem one lesson at a time. So let us walk through your list of reasons why lessons are a waste, one by one. 

-no skill requirements for entry into a ski lesson class, no requirements for advancing from level to level

It is the line up supervisor's job to make sure students are put in the appropriate level class and the instructors job to verify that skill level in the lesosn introduction. Skill requirements are defined generally in the PSIA's zone approach and specifically at individual schools. At my resort, levels 1-3 are defined as first time, working on turning and stopping and linking turns on beginner terrain. This also works as requirements for advancing levels. If your resort does not have this, it's a school problem not a PSIA problem. It is a problem that levels are not consistently defined across all resorts but agreeing on a common definition for levels is problematic. That's simply not going to happen anytime soon in the US. PSIA tried to go there with the zone approach. This is easy for everyone to agree on, but not very useful for splitting students into groups.

 

-no teaching tools

Among many tools, PSIA has two great teaching tools: the teaching model and the visual cues. The teaching model describe how to structure the lesson  and is the framework upon which the instructions for what to do in each section are hung. The visual cues describe effective and ineffective movements. The job in the lesson is turn the ineffective movements into effective movements. You can do a lot with just these tools.

 

-no curriculum or lesson plans

The curriculum is the skills (balance control movements, edging control movements, rotary control movements, pressure control movements and directional control movements). We teach movements.

 

-no lesson plans

This is intended in Student Centered teaching because of the belief that one approach does not fit all students. The Stepping Stones model shows how to create different learning progressions from individual pieces. In the PSIA approach, it is the instructors job to develop a customized lesson plan for each student. PSIA does not advocate "no lesson plans". The teaching model has extensive instructions for how to devise lesson plans.

 

This stuff does fit together, but sometimes it is too difficult to see this. This is supposed to be understood by the time someone achieves level 1 certification. We can do better. I'm thinking that a video showing segments of lessons taught by different instructors would more clearly demonstrate the value of all of this half baked stuff that PSIA preaches. In the mean time, I recommend shadowing a level 3 instructor or a trainer at your resort and compare that to the lessons going on nest to you on the slopes. And although we have a lot of material and conversation about student centered teaching, we don't have any material for alternative methodologies. There has been some discussion of this as part of debriefing demo team members from Interski. I especially liked the report from the Swiss about how they had a leveling system and instructional program for kids that was common for all Swiss resorts. One way to help get the word out is to write an article for 32 degrees. With some research this could be a very interesting article (and you get paid too). The best way to substantiate your ideas is to take a closer look at the people who are already using them. You may find that PSIA's approach looks a lot better or you may find greener grass (oops - whiter snow) elsewhere. Whatever happens, good luck and thanks for spending your time and effort to help share the love with other skiers!

post #22 of 46

This is a great topic and one I have struggled with.  I share rudbek's frustration with PSIA training materials which oftern seem vague, even new-agey, poorly organized and more than a little puffy.  As a consequence I have sought out every bit of printed and on-line material I can get my hands on from Ron Lemaster, Warren Witherel, Bob Barnes and many others.  EpicSki itself has been an important part of my education.  After 14 seasons of part-time instruction I feel that I am finally starting to kind of get IT and really grasp the wisdom of PSIA's approach (which doesn't make their manuals any easier to read, useful, or organized, by the way).  Rusty hit the nail on the head when he called out the teaching tools: the visual queues and the teaching model.  I would add the Centerline which is an organizing principle behind the skills concept.  These are the method behind the madness.  Many times I've wished for a recipe book of lessons to memorize and deliver and now I realize that the real deal is both simpler AND more complicated.  A true understanding of these tools (and yes, now I know why I had to read about Bloom's taxonomy) allows an instructor to customize a lesson plan on the spot for these customers, these conditions, this hill, today.  We might like to think it would be great to go to a new resort, walk up to an instructor and say, "I've had lesson #89 and I am ready for lesson #90, now," but it does not work that way and it wouldn't make you happy if it did.  The fundamentals, though, should be constant from one PSIA school to another, the movements and mechanics associated with the centerline maneuvers should be the same, the nomenclature should be constant even though every instructor will have their own style, their own bag of tricks, their own store of useful images, etc. 

 

("Should" is the operative word, unfortunately.  I've worked at a number of schools and encountered folks with bronze, silver, and even gold pins who will point to a glaring departure from the short list of tools above and call it a matter of style.  Like Bob said, "There are excellent instructors.  And there are many others.")

post #23 of 46

Mole - have you seen the Vail manuals? I suspect these have exactly what you were searching for. I know I said bingo when I saw them. The strange thing is that I never found them to be useful in the ways that I expected.

 

I hesitated to mention the old PSIA manuals. I thought they were better for new instructors when the newer manuals were issued. I loved the Centerline model, but it had to be officially abandoned because too many people used to continue the concept of "final forms". It's still a great model if it is correctly understood.

post #24 of 46

I have not seen the Vail manuals.  Where would I go if I wanted to see them?  I agree that the previous generation of of PSIA manuals, especially the certification guides, were MUCH more useful than the current edition.  Thank goodness I have them in my library.  It took Bob Barnes' "Encyclopedia of Skiing," to help me grasp the meat of the Centerline, and this was years after PSIA stopped talking about it.  I talk and think about it now more than I did when it was current.  The "Encyclopedia" is one of the best book I have run across, even if the jokes are a little .... oh wait, Bob hangs out here doesn't he?  Never mind.

post #25 of 46

Well .... I want to thank all the commenters, both pro and con.   I agree that as a 2nd year instructor, there's a lot I can learn (and am learning!)     Even so,  I think some of the more seasoned hands agree with me that there is something missing in the PSIA approach.    For me, skiing is all about technique.   In all the PSIA material I've read, I didn't see much about technique - about simple "how to do it" and "how to teach it" stuff.    See, for example, the "Core Concepts" manual.     In one of the manuals, I think I saw some material on Maslow's hierarchy   If I ski another 50 years, I'll never believe that Maslow's hierarchy is relevant to teaching 6 year olds - or 60 year olds - or anybody!   One other minor quibble (directed to Matthias99):  I don't think liability concerns would necessarily preclude ski areas from grading skiiers, and thereby preventing novice skiiers from entering intermediate or expert terrain and causing injury to themselves or others.     In fact, I think a case can be made that by failing to evaluate skier ability prior to issuing lift tickets, areas are in fact incurring liability.    

 

In any event - a heartfelt "thank you"  to all.  I will re-read all the comments with careful consideration.  

post #26 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by rudbek View Post

Well .... I want to thank all the commenters, both pro and con.   I agree that as a 2nd year instructor, there's a lot I can learn (and am learning!)     Even so,  I think some of the more seasoned hands agree with me that there is something missing in the PSIA approach.    For me, skiing is all about technique.   In all the PSIA material I've read, I didn't see much about technique - about simple "how to do it" and "how to teach it" stuff.    See, for example, the "Core Concepts" manual.     In one of the manuals, I think I saw some material on Maslow's hierarchy   If I ski another 50 years, I'll never believe that Maslow's hierarchy is relevant to teaching 6 year olds - or 60 year olds - or anybody!   One other minor quibble (directed to Matthias99):  I don't think liability concerns would necessarily preclude ski areas from grading skiiers, and thereby preventing novice skiiers from entering intermediate or expert terrain and causing injury to themselves or others.     In fact, I think a case can be made that by failing to evaluate skier ability prior to issuing lift tickets, areas are in fact incurring liability.    

 

In any event - a heartfelt "thank you"  to all.  I will re-read all the comments with careful consideration.  

 

The underlined will never happen. Matter of fact, I've never seen any 'test' required to ski any particular hill in three continents worth of sliding around. 

 

I do agree about Maslow and Piaget. They're kind of sound bite versions of the real thing that seem like an attempt at finding some sort of academic legitimacy. Better to write a clear idea and have a reference to Piaget, etc...  rudbek, I think if you really commit yourself to pursuing certifications 1 ~ 3, you'll rapidly accelerate your learning curve and have a greater appreciation of what PSIA is and what it offers those who desire to become both better instructors and better skiers. You'll also meet a lot of great folks along the way which is really the best part of the whole deal!

post #27 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by rudbek View Post

Well .... I want to thank all the commenters, both pro and con.   I agree that as a 2nd year instructor, there's a lot I can learn (and am learning!)     Even so,  I think some of the more seasoned hands agree with me that there is something missing in the PSIA approach.    For me, skiing is all about technique.   In all the PSIA material I've read, I didn't see much about technique - about simple "how to do it" and "how to teach it" stuff.    See, for example, the "Core Concepts" manual.     In one of the manuals, I think I saw some material on Maslow's hierarchy   If I ski another 50 years, I'll never believe that Maslow's hierarchy is relevant to teaching 6 year olds - or 60 year olds - or anybody!   One other minor quibble (directed to Matthias99):  I don't think liability concerns would necessarily preclude ski areas from grading skiiers, and thereby preventing novice skiiers from entering intermediate or expert terrain and causing injury to themselves or others.     In fact, I think a case can be made that by failing to evaluate skier ability prior to issuing lift tickets, areas are in fact incurring liability.    

 

In any event - a heartfelt "thank you"  to all.  I will re-read all the comments with careful consideration.  

 

Hi rudbek, 

 

As someone who's been working towards a masters degree in education, I may be able to offer some insight into why PSIA teaches some of the things they do (and I'm CSIA, not PSIA, so I don't really care about PSIA politics): 

 

Maslow's hierarchy: If a skier is cold, he won't be able to learn. If a skier is starving, she won't be able to focus. The 12 year-old girl crying in fear looking down a bump run isn't in a position to learn. So every time you assess your learners for their mental/emotional/physical state, you're using the principle of Maslow's hierarchy of needs--you just haven't used any psychology jargon! We don't explicitly teach Maslow's Hierarchy in CSIA, but "guest service" encompasses these principles. 

 

Lesson plans: All learners come with unique goals, skills, knowledge, life experience, etc. An instructor who plans a "carving" progression would be negligent to implement it if the group wants to work on bumps. Similarly, when you have an ex-racer, a park rat, a ballerina and a 6 day/year Floridian in your lesson group, you can't expect learners to all achieve the same goals or progress at any predetermined pace--it isn't fair to the learners. Even in traditional teaching environments, lesson plans are evolving. Check out the concept of a "flipped classroom" (google Khan Academy), where students go home and do the rote learning, and then in school the students work with teachers through their assignments and the truly challenging content. 

 

Assessing kids based on parental statements of ability: This is a logistical issue. In a good ski school, I'd expect the instructors to be able to divide up kids after a ski-off. That said, I assume the PSIA, like the CSIA, expects instructors to be able to customize a lesson for multiple skiers with varying issues and at different levels of skill development. It takes instructors time to develop these skills. That's part of the process of gaining experience. 

 

 

 

My personal beef is when instructor training programs trot out Kolb's learning styles (feeler/thinker/visual/experiential). Learning styles are pseudoscience and they need to go away. Instead, training programs should teach principles of good learning: Everyone learns through experiencing success. Everyone gains exposure to a concept through a demonstration and tactile cues. Not everyone's analytical, but we know people remember things longer when they understand why something works, rather than just memorizing facts. So please, let's drop the learning styles, and just refer to principles of good learning. 

post #28 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by rudbek View Post

 In all the PSIA material I've read, I didn't see much about technique - about simple "how to do it" and "how to teach it" stuff.    

....

In fact, I think a case can be made that by failing to evaluate skier ability prior to issuing lift tickets, areas are in fact incurring liability.    

 

Have you read the "Visual Cues" guide? This is an incredible compaction of what took up many pages in the old manuals. Do you have the Alpine Technical Manual? That has the visual cues and teaching progressions. 

 

You are right that a case could be made for evaluating skier ability. There is some history to support this. In the early days of snowboarding several resorts required riders to pass a test to get a lift ticket. Okemo currently requires a special pass for entrance into their terrain park that requires passing a written test. That said, the likelihood of winning this case is beyond laughable.

post #29 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheRusty View Post

Mole - have you seen the Vail manuals? I suspect these have exactly what you were searching for. I know I said bingo when I saw them. The strange thing is that I never found them to be useful in the ways that I expected.

 

I hesitated to mention the old PSIA manuals. I thought they were better for new instructors when the newer manuals were issued. I loved the Centerline model, but it had to be officially abandoned because too many people used to continue the concept of "final forms". It's still a great model if it is correctly understood.

 

Rusty, would you elaborate?  I'm very curious.  

 

post #30 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by molesaver View Post

This is a great topic and one I have struggled with.  I share rudbek's frustration with PSIA training materials which oftern seem vague, even new-agey, poorly organized and more than a little puffy.  As a consequence I have sought out every bit of printed and on-line material I can get my hands on from Ron Lemaster, Warren Witherel, Bob Barnes and many others.  EpicSki itself has been an important part of my education.  After 14 seasons of part-time instruction I feel that I am finally starting to kind of get IT and really grasp the wisdom of PSIA's approach (which doesn't make their manuals any easier to read, useful, or organized, by the way).  Rusty hit the nail on the head when he called out the teaching tools: the visual queues and the teaching model.  I would add the Centerline which is an organizing principle behind the skills concept.  These are the method behind the madness.  Many times I've wished for a recipe book of lessons to memorize and deliver and now I realize that the real deal is both simpler AND more complicated.  A true understanding of these tools (and yes, now I know why I had to read about Bloom's taxonomy) allows an instructor to customize a lesson plan on the spot for these customers, these conditions, this hill, today.  We might like to think it would be great to go to a new resort, walk up to an instructor and say, "I've had lesson #89 and I am ready for lesson #90, now," but it does not work that way and it wouldn't make you happy if it did.  The fundamentals, though, should be constant from one PSIA school to another, the movements and mechanics associated with the centerline maneuvers should be the same, the nomenclature should be constant even though every instructor will have their own style, their own bag of tricks, their own store of useful images, etc. 

 

("Should" is the operative word, unfortunately.  I've worked at a number of schools and encountered folks with bronze, silver, and even gold pins who will point to a glaring departure from the short list of tools above and call it a matter of style.  Like Bob said, "There are excellent instructors.  And there are many others.")

 

 


I am with Molesaver.  When I started skiing as an adult, I longed for some consistency from instructor to instructor.  It just wasn't there.  None of the instructors I took lessons from explained why we were doing the drills we were doing, nor what our objectives were.  I thought a progression created by some umbrella organization (PSIA being the obvious choice) would solve the problem.  I bought all the technical books I could find, read voraciously, took ridiculously detailed notes, and went out on snow to teach myself.   Eventually I became an instructor.  Still things were murky, but at least I could watch and train with people who could ski well.  Having now been teaching part time for 5 years, I know a progression imposed from above wouldn't work, just for the reasons all listed in this thread by people in the know.  I've come around to understanding where PSIA is coming from.  And now I know the reason the instruction I got was inept was because the instructors delivering the lessons were inept.  It's just the way it is.  

 

An excellent instructor can teach a group lesson with an ex-racer, a park rat, a ballerina and a 6 day/year Floridian in the group, based on experience gained from teaching, learned on the hill from trainers and at PSIA clinics, and from PSIA manuals.   And then there are the rest, who couldn't do squat with that group even if they were working with a trademarked progression.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Ski Instruction & Coaching
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Ski Training and Pro Forums › Ski Instruction & Coaching › Why isn't there a defined teaching progression from the PSIA?