Everyone from budding coaches to fully fledged and experienced instructors will know that there is a set of methods of instruction intended to guide our coaching and instructional techniques.
Those techniques are most commonly taught as part of the methods of instruction brief needed to start on your coaching journey. But their power lies not in that initial introduction, but in the way they are practically applied to lessons and briefs.
The aim of this blog post is to explain the methods of instruction as laid out by British Skydiving and to explore the ways they can be used in coaching and instructing.
Planning and preparation
Every good lesson or brief starts with a good plan and preparation.
a. Knowing your content and having your lesson plans readily available, which could be on a print out, or saved on your phone
b. Preparing your teaching aids and making sure you have everything you need, be it lesson plans/notes, creepers or photos or videos or a TV screen or a map or any other tools to help you get your points across
c. Preparing your teaching space so it’s free from distractions, warm enough/cool enough for your student and in a place that’s appropriate for the situation and with safeguarding in mind too, i.e. in a place that’s open and where your student won’t feel confined
d. Preparing yourself so you’re wearing the right gear, you’ve got a drink or anything else you might need and that you’re not distracted, meaning you can give your student the best lesson / brief
‘Aim’ is about setting an expectation for the lesson or brief.
The aim should be delivered using the words “the aim of this lesson/brief/jump is to…”. It should describe to the recipient what they are expected to learn / be able to do by the end of it. It should set a clear definition of what success looks like.
An aim becomes even more powerful if you can also include a ‘motivation’ for your student. Why should they want to achieve this aim? Perhaps it’s as simple as the skill being a necessary part of progression, e.g. “the aim of the level 3 skydive is to control your own heading, which is an essential skill you’ll need to learn before we can move on to your level 4, where we’ll introduce turns”.
It could be something more future thinking than that, highlighting to the student how important the new skill is in enabling them to jump safely with their friends or to achieve cool stuff, e.g. “the aim of this brief is to teach you how to safely control your fall rate, which is something you’ll need to be able to do to jump with your friends, to build successful formations and one day, if you want to, to compete at local, national and international competitions or be in world records!”.
It’s important that the lesson / brief you deliver is interesting to your student. Which may not be as straightforward as it might seem!
The benefit we have of being skydiving instructors / coaches is that our students want to learn. They’ve come to the DZ to gain these skills so in theory, they should be very interested in everything you have to say.
But it’s also worth noting that not everything in skydiving is a hugely exciting rollercoaster ride… in fact, ideally, it’s not that at all! And teaching someone to take things calmly, smoothly, slowly, can feel a bit dry.
A good technique to help maintain interest is to get to know your student and use references that make sense to them. If they’re involved in other sports, for example, try to use analogies from those other sports in teaching them the skydiving skills they need. If they have a certain type of job that means they’re more likely to respond to one way of explaining things over another, it will benefit you to know that.
It’s also important to give them enough information without giving too much. A good instructor or coach will call on their own experiences to add interest but they won’t stray into ‘showing off’. Use your own stories to enhance what you are delivering, without making it about you!
Keep it simple enough to understanding, but not so simplistic it becomes boring.
The key to simplicity is in the preparation; the better you know your subject matter, the more you’ve practiced delivering it and the more you listen to how other people deliver the same, the better equipped you’ll be to deliver your own content in a simple manner.
Tools such an analogies can be useful, but oftentimes, it’s just about finding the most efficient way to say what you need to say. Less is more.
‘Human factor’ refers to the considerations you make to help your student comfortable and in the best place physically and mentally to learn.
a. Making sure the space is warm / cool enough
b. Thinking about your students’ comfort through the lesson e.g. if you’re talking lots, make sure they have a chair, if you’re asking them to lie on a creeper, don’t make them lie there too long, if you’re wanting them to do physical activity, encourage them to warm up and cool down
c. Considering safeguarding and respecting one another, i.e. rather than taking them for a 1 on 1 brief in a closed off room alone, try to do 1 on 1 work in an open space with other people around
Human factor also refers to the tweaks we need to make in our teaching to suit our student. Everyone is different and everyone learns differently, so being able to deliver your lesson / brief in many different ways is important to giving every student the best experience.
Use of senses
This can seem a bit of an abstract one because it’s probably not appropriate to literally use all of the senses when teaching skydiving. But incorporating a variety of teaching techniques to get your student using their senses in different ways will bring depth to your lessons / briefs and improve your success as an instructor / coach.
Physical activity will really help you. Having people physically imitate what you need them to do and then practice it until their proficient will help to cement what you’ve taught them and ensure they’ve learned the right things. ‘Muscle memory’ is a big thing in our sport and the more you can get people on the creepers or in the mock up or walking through the plan for the jump, the better prepared they’re going to be to succeed in the sky.
Evoking mental imagery can be very powerful, too. If your student has experience, ask them to call on it, i.e. ‘think about how it felt in the door last time, imagine the sights and the sounds, remember that feeling of nerves, and then the exit went really well, what were you doing, what were you thinking, focus on that so we can emulate it on the next one!”.
If your student doesn’t have specific experience, you can call on other similar experiences to get their mental imagery flowing, too. For example, analogies relating to driving a car can be really helpful, or things like “imagine you’re the passenger in a car and you put your hand out the window while the car is moving, you can expect that same, if not more, wind pressure on your limbs when you’re skydiving so you’ll need to put some energy into keeping those arms and legs in the right place” etc.
You can also just tell the student about how it feels to you, to help them get a sense of what to expect.
Other senses we can call on are sight – show them things, demonstrate them to them or use photos, – and hearing – tell them things, use tone and volume to make your words more interesting.
Maximum activity is all about getting the student involved and doing things that help them learn.
That can be as simple as using questions to keep them engaged. Be sure to ask open ended questions that confirm what you’ve taught them in stages – “so with all that said, tell me how you’d safely approach a formation” – and give them plenty of opportunities to ask questions of you throughout.
It can be more involved, where appropriate. Using the right tools for the job is important here, such as using the creepers to demonstrate turns, and then actually turning the creeper while the student makes the inputs, or using the actual mock up for exit practice.
Practice makes permanent, so be sure to give your student the best opportunity to succeed by spending the time doing good practice with them. It may mean you miss the very next lift and have to go on the one after, but that investment of time will reap rewards when the student progresses more effectively as a result.
Confirmation in stages
This is a really important technique for two main reasons:
- It confirms to you that you’ve taught what you intended to your student
- It confirms to your student that they’ve learned what they needed to learn
The biggest implementation of this is to refer back to the aim at the end of the lesson and check that the aim has been met. Have you taught – and have they learned – what you laid out in that aim?
It’s important to get this confirmation in stages throughout the lesson / brief, too. Check in regularly. Use questions to check they’ve learned. Use practical practice to see that they’ve taken what you needed them to from your lesson / brief. Give the student time to breath and think on what you’ve said. Keep yourself open to questions throughout.
Methods of Instruction and the Progression School
The Methods of Instruction are an important part of our Progression School, which is our unique programme supporting more and better grade 1 coaching for our jumpers.
When teaching new coaches, we ask you to learn the methods of instruction and how to use them effectively in enhancing your briefs. When evaluating existing coaches, we want to see the methods of instruction in practice – that’s a big part of the ‘delivery’ component of the evaluations (which you can learn more about here).