Our job as instructors is to take all the fragments of information the students receive and turn it into a cohesive experience for them and show them how their training and experience will transfer to future experiences and course.
For example – during the PADI Instructor Development Course presentations covering the instructional system, course details, marketing and risk mitigation are fragments of information spread across teaching materials such as the PADI Instructor Manual, Teaching Slates, Guide To Teaching, Course Director Manual and the IDC Slide Deck.
My job as the PADI Course Director is to find the connections between the pieces of information and turn them into cohesive knowledge and guide the candidates along the same path. Mastery for us is in some way our ability to join those dots and create cohesion through all aspects of the program and not just connections between Knowledge Development, Confined and Open Water training sessions.
The more readily the candidates can build the pathway from information to knowledge, the better prepared we are to move along with our process to wisdom. This is where we can use real-life scenarios or anecdotes to test our knowledge against real-life situations they either have or may occur.
This also allows us to move into less tangible aspects of being an instructor such as empathy and intuition and we can use them to better convey knowledge and skills along with providing better customer experience using our three S method – Standards-Safety-Satisfaction.
Having a balance between these factors during training experiences will help with better risk mitigation and decision making for newly certified professional and experienced dive pro’s alike.
One of the key attributes to building better dive pro’s is discovering their existing talents and traits and how they are transferable into this new field.
There are no negatives here; if they’re young and have a fresh outlook they are probably in line with emerging technologies. If they spent 20 years in the delivery service they will have a strong sense for the logical instincts.
Within a group of candidates, individuals will have strengths when it comes to the role of being a dive professional based on these transferable skills from their own life experience. This can also allow them to become a quasi-mentor in the development of their fellow candidates and other dive pro’s needing insight and guidance they can offer.
Take the time to invest in discovering candidates pasts; the roles they have fulfilled, the skills required to do them, their intrinsic strengths as individuals and the values that have led them to this point in their lives.
Play to their strengths and work on their weaknesses and you'll be building better dive pro's in no time.
In my role as a PADI Course Director, I help candidates not only construct prescriptive teaching presentations but also develop their presentation technique.
A common sticking point for many of them is their ability to draw practical application to real diving circumstance, early on in the development phase of their training we’ll often help them out by providing examples and hopefully how we mapped out the connection between the topic and the example. Many seemed wowed by these quick-fire examples set by more experienced presenter but that’s the precise reason a rapid example can be drawn; experience.
Something that shows a clear separation between newer dive professionals and their more experienced colleagues is their ability to use an example. To draw upon varied examples of practical application and how they seem to conjure from thin air stories of their experience in a short time frame.
There’s no short cut to that experience but something we have to our advantage as humans is our ability to listen, learn and repeat.
I use to think that old instructor war stories were just bravado and bluster; in many instances they were but some became pure gold to me in my formative years as a PADI instructor. Examples of how they coped with diving conditions changing, students overcoming difficulty all the way to sales techniques they had used.
I changed those stories from the first person to the second; ‘A friend of mine was diving and…’, ‘I heard a great tip about…’ and appropriated them into my arsenal.
Having a bank of appropriate stories and examples will most certainly come with experience feel free to have the first entries to that bank be the experience of others that you work with, trained with or even follow on social media.
Once you’ve started collecting examples it’s just a matter of connecting the dots and that’s what we’ll be teaching you during your IDC.
It’s great to look back at our previous dive training and fondly remember all of the great instructors that made up those collective experiences.
But no matter how fond those memories are, could any of our dive training or customer experience have been better?
If so, how could it have been improved?
I asked an IDC candidate this question and their response didn’t necessarily convince me. She had thoroughly enjoyed their OWD experience which then led her on to the path to be sitting in a classroom with others beginning their own instructor development experience.
When I asked about her OWD she said it was ‘perfectly fine’, unconvinced I felt it was worth digging a little deeper into critical aspects such as buoyancy and dive planning and then we hit gold.
‘Well, it could have been a little better’; ‘did you tell your instructor that you felt you needed more work on it?’ ‘Not really, if he said I was good enough I assumed that was what was required’
There are a few areas that could be addressed for improvement from this tale. Primarily was there a defined line of communication from the instructor for the student within their micro-relationship to say that even though the instructor felt mastery had been met the student felt that extra practice in certain areas may be required? We have the demonstration slate now for just this purpose but it must be explained by the person conducting the program, the onus is on them not the student in this instance.
I posed this question and wasn’t at all surprised by the response. No.
Every educational experience, even the ones we remember fondly because of the fun we had, the things we saw and the people we met are open to review. Was there anything you would have done differently given the knowledge you have now?
Things change over time, standards, legal requirements and even teaching methodologies but one thing that shouldn’t is our striving to continuously improve the programs we offer.
By setting ourselves the goal of being better than the instructors that came before us, no matter how amazing they were, we will be able to move the world of diving forward and achieve excellence in the roles that we fulfil.
In 2004 I sat my IE, like many there I was nervous as we sat through the orientation and I really only recall the list of ways we could fail being read out by the examiners; I’m certain they said much more but that’s where my mind was focused at the time.
Our assignment sheets were handed out, our confined water, open water and knowledge development presentations all listed on them for us to prepare for the next few days and every group asked their teammates “who got the CESA”, exactly as every group of candidates does today.
In retrospect we were clearly over prepared when we arrived; we’d been going in the pool for early morning skill circuits without our CD’s knowledge and had been giving each other physics and decompression theory presentations late in to the night, all on top of a solid IDC.
I don’t remember the skills I got but I do remember two things very clearly. I remember all of the scores I received and I remember giving my knowledge development presentation. It was ‘How do computers compare with each other and the RDP with respect to surface interval credit and M-values?’ taken from the decompression theory section of the then Divemaster program.
I looked at that question as many of you may be now and thought ‘ahhhh sh….!’ At the time I will admit my knowledge of the topic was minimal and even if could research the subject to the best of my abilities I was unconvinced on how was I going to teach the subject in the limited time frame available during the IE.
I decided to stick to the basics. I looked at what was expected of me by the examiner and delivered a presentation that would secure me a pass. The next day I stood in front of my peers, classmates and the examiner and delivered a presentation on Spencer Limits EE Washout and 60 Min Washout and Buhlmann Limits EE Washout. After I had finished what I felt was a rather flimsy presentation I was rewarded by a firm congratulatory handshake from my examiner and a faultless 5 out of 5.
I asked my friend, Paul who I had completed both my Divemaster and IDC with if he understood the topic any more than yesterday to which he gave a highly expected, no.
I tell this story a lot during the IDC’s and other pro development workshops I conduct now as an example of how every presentation can be improved. I was extremely proud of my 5 back then but as I started teaching I realised it really meant nothing, especially not to them.
During the IDC we encourage to think of the process not only as candidates preparing for an examination but also from the students point of view. Our candidates at all levels are scored and counselled on three levels during each presentation and the pertinent feedback is given according to each individual candidate’s development and needs.
Firstly we score and council for development. This is what I as the PADI Course Director see requires addressing in the development phase e.g. demonstration ability, knowledge required, organisation and technique. The IDC is after all a development program and is a space in which candidates are encouraged to make mistakes and try new methods of delivery rather than just a program conducted to help them pass an IE. It’s the first horizon in their career as Instructors and the counselling process is vital during this phase.
The second scoring view point we have to consider is what the summative scoring system used by the examiner will see. This scoring has no subjective opinion; it was either said or done therefore passes or it wasn’t and does not. Style, delivery, depth and relevance of information, the type of language used, amongst many other key presentation factors are not taken into consideration. This score is final and is a reflection of what the examiner will score during the IE, their second horizon.
The final and most important feedback I feel is from the student’s point of view. Was there any real substance to the presentations? Were realistic diving applications used? Would the student really feel like they understand the correct answer and also why they should remember it from the information and the way in which it was delivered?
Good teachers in any field are empaths and scuba diving is no different. The language used, the method of presentation and even the style of its delivery may vary based on an understanding of how each student is receiving and processing the information. Our job as instructors is to adapt to that as they are people seeing or attempting to understand information being delivered to them for the first time.
The emphasis should be on practical examples and good values during the development phase of both instructor candidates and their future students. I’m always extremely proud when a candidate completes their IE with solid passing scores but it’s how they felt about presenting during it and their feeling of being able to stand in front of real students in the future which is more important.