Connection and Collaboration – The Keys to a Successful Learning Partnership

Connection and collaboration – The Keys to a Successful Learning Partnership

Scott Birrell – PSIA-AASI RM Children’s Committee

Last season I taught one of the best lessons of my 18-year snowsports career. Towards the end of the lesson a student said “Scott, I feel like you really pushed me. I learned more today than any other lesson and am proud of the new skills I gained. You’re my second favorite instructor.” I was shocked. I asked why I was only the student’s second favorite instructor. They replied “Well, last time I had this nice instructor that always let us ski in front, didn’t teach us too much, and gave us lots of freedom”.

Reflecting on this experience it was clear that I had misjudged the student’s needs and goals. Looking back, I tried to figure out how I could have delivered a better lesson experience and determine what actions I needed to take for this to happen.

How many times have you had a similar experience? Have you ever found yourself trying to balance conflicting goals from the student, their parents, and you as the instructor? For example, the student wanting to do jumps and have fun, their parents wanting them to move to the next level and explore more challenging terrain, and you aiming to keep them safe and progress their skills.

In all the above scenarios the common theme is a lack of alignment in the learning partnership. Knowing that we need to invest time to map out and align each person’s goals is simple. Effectively connecting and collaborating on these goals is the challenging part, and the art of being a truly outstanding instructor.

These skills are also critical to achieve success at the Children’s Specialist 1 and 2 Assessments. In these assessments various activities may be used to evaluate your ability to identify the goals of your students and their parents to determine common themes or individual needs. You will need to deliver upon these goals to provide a lesson that is tailored to your students and relevant to their cognitive, affective and physical (CAP) characteristics.

Below are several suggestions you can apply in your lessons that may lead to more positive experiences for your guests and can also be applied during your Children’s Specialist 1 and 2 Assessments.

Asking the right questions

An important first step is to ask your students and their parents for any specific goals they hope to achieve by participating in the lesson. These can be discussed collectively and revisited individually with your student.  Verifying student goals individually may alleviate any influence that may occur from answering in front of their parents.

Remember to be deliberate with the types of questions you ask and the way they are presented. For example, asking a student their goals for the day may yield a significantly different answer compared with asking about their favorite lesson experience in the past.

Follow up and dig deeper. Actively listen to the answers provided by your students and their parents, and utilize phrases such as “why?”, “tell me more” or “show me…”. Going one step further in your questioning can help you uncover a huge amount of information including underlying motivations, current understanding, and plenty of data to form your CAP Profile.

Balancing goals and appropriate framing

Every lesson will require you to balance parent, instructor, and child goals. This will often require some level of compromise given the limited time, energy, and resources available for the lesson. There are various approaches you can take, from spending some time addressing each goal at a broad level or focusing on a narrower set of goals more deeply. Regardless of your approach it helps to find common ground or themes. This could be a common skill pool, celebrating progress and learning, or linking what was covered as a steppingstone towards future goals. Work to paint a picture of how your lesson addresses the goals of each individual, clearly outlining the rationale for what was included and excluded from the lesson.

Celebrate individuality

Everyone brings their own perspective, experiences, and context to your lessons. Use this to your advantage. Find out what your students like to do away from the slopes, listen closely to their explanations and comments, and bring your collective enthusiasm together to create a memorable lesson experience.

By tailoring your lessons to each student’s interests and current understanding you will create more effective learning experiences and help your students feel valued and understood. The added bonus for you is that each lesson will feel new and exciting, even if you are on your 20th day in a row of teaching similar skills at the same level.

In summary, a great lesson delivered to the wrong student will not lead to the desired result. Collaborating effectively with your students and their parents is critical to set the foundation for a successful lesson. Be mindful of the questions you ask and how you frame them. Often it is about drawing out appropriate information, not what you put in. Collaborate with your students and their parents to form an effective learning partnership, clearly communicate in a CAP appropriate manner, and reflect on your successes and areas for opportunity so you continue to deliver tailored, inspiring, and memorable lessons throughout this season and beyond.




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