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Open-Mind, Open-Approach Skill Development for Confined Water Mentoring

The first installment of this series showed that the best way to teach PADI® Divemaster dive theory is by not teaching – at least in the conventional sense. It emphasized that your goal should really be mentoring to foster divemaster candidate growth and development. American film director Steven Spielberg said, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” In other words, when you apply a mentoring strategy, the PADI Divemaster course becomes one of the easiest and most-rewarding programs, and that applies to confined water training as well as knowledge development.

Mentoring takes the pressure off because you already have a good deal of experience. You know how to recognize diver stress, how to lead and manage groups of divers and so on. During confined water training (and open water), much of what you’re doing is simply explaining why you make specific choices and your basis for making judgments in given situations. Rather than teach them what to do, by sharing your personal insights and experience you’re teaching them how to figure out what to do for themselves. You’re guiding candidates in discovering for themselves by asking themselves the right questions – once they do can do this, what to do is usually straightforward. This is a highly effective technique in developing candidate judgment, skills and attitudes. (See Training Dive Leaders in the Philosophy and Approach section ofPADI’s Guide to Teaching.)

In confined water, as you know divemaster training can be through both the internship and scenarios approaches. Which you choose depends local logistics, the environment, candidate preferences etc., and three approaches are an immersive internship style program, realistic scenario-based training or a mix. From a teaching-philosophy perspective it doesn’t really matter which one you choose, because the heart is discovery learning and realistic practice guided by you explaining your thinking, usually by asking guiding questions, such as “Which student is most likely to need some assistance?” or “Where can you see the instructor and watch students at the same time?”

A Safe Place

Discovery learning can only happen when candidates feel “safe” with respect to making mistakes, so your goal is to help create effective and approachable environments in which this can happen. Confined water sessions should be approached as situations in which candidates can feel free to make mistakes, learn from them and try again until achieving the performance requirements. Evaluation is essential of course, but if your approach is as an advocate and coach who is helping candidates to clear the bar rather than a judge that they must please, candidates can focus less on scores and more on how to think like a PADI Divemaster. Candidates will also typically become more cohesive and help each other. If candidates see scores as a way to measure progress and a guide to reaching the requirements, then scores no longer threaten them.

Try to approach each session with the following goals:

1. Where appropriate, start with a role model demonstration.

2. Guide candidates to see errors as steps forward by revealing they have not learned something yet, and now they know what they need to improve.

3. Help candidates develop a prudent and conservative approach to diver supervision and training: Student, Staff, Self – Safety First.

4. Improve team-building skills, group discussion and cooperation.

5. Develop critical thinking skills – thinking like a divemaster ­– with guiding questions.

Practical Application Skills and Workshops

Structure the confined-water workshops so they develop prescriptively based on a variety of problem-solving scenarios. As candidates show increasing skill, create and adjust problems requiring their judgment, tailored to where each candidate can improve. This approach not only makes the workshops and scenarios more engaging and promotes team building, it also provides realistic problem-handling experience in a low-stress environment. Add in additional examples, practice sessions and/or content as appropriate to enhance your candidates’ learning and to provide additional context at it might relate to your specific environment.

For example, with Workshop #1 for the ReActivate® program, start with a role model demonstration. Then, assign roles to candidates to simulate divers of various skill (and knowledge retention) levels so that in-practice candidates learn not only to identify skill/knowledge gaps but how to tactfully remediate them as well. Try starting with an interview session between ReActivate “participants” and “divemasters,” ideally with two or three “participants” at varying levels. Mix things up, and randomly assign a variety of realistic problems and roles during skill practice, gauging how candidates respond to each. Don’t be afraid to “press pause” and jump in to guide how to approach something in a more appropriate fashion, and then hit “play” for the candidate to resume. Keep the tone developmental and somewhat conversational in nature, allow for group discussion during these interjections and after each session to ensure mastery, and hold repeat sessions as required.

After completing workshops, if your candidates have the ability to shadow the actual situation – in this example, a ReActivate program – at your facility with a skilled instructor, they learn more as they see what they’ve practice applied.

Try Dry

Don’t hesitate to run dry practice (out-of-the-water versions) prior to (for foundational information) or after (for added follow-up) with any of the workshops, or even some skill-development sessions. Dry workshops don’t replace the inwater ones, but you can do them quickly and they can ultimately save a lot of time by having candidates get a feel for how you’ll run things and by helping identify areas that need work. You’ll often find that after a few “dry rehearsals” the water sessions are more about refinement and less about initial learning.

Practical Assessments

For Practical Assessment #1 it’s often ideal to have candidates work with real student divers, but this isn’t always possible. And, simulated situations have the advantage of giving you more control. To facilitate this, structure assessments with candidates role-playing, keeping in mind that there are specific conditions for this outlined in your PADI Instructor Manual. Allowing candidates to first participate in a role-playing practical assessment with other divemaster candidates or staff acting as student divers allows them to get the kinks out before then moving on to working with real student divers. When structuring this way, give each candidate an opportunity to address each of the six performance requirements outlines for Practical Assessment #1 with the role-playing divers. As with the workshops, draw upon your experience by prescriptively assigning a variety of scenarios and problems for candidates to address. This structure allows for more discovery-based learning and will provide candidates with more experience from which to grow from.

Waterskills Development and Dive Skills Workshops

Initially, it may seem you would approach Waterskills Development and the Dive Skills Workshop more like lower-level course teaching, but even here you treat PADI Divemaster candidates differently. Candidates already have these skills or they wouldn’t be in the course; your approach should be that you’re refining, refreshing and confirming – not teaching.

Schedule multiple confined water sessions to spread out exercises over the length of your program. This is important because they can be physically and mentally taxing. For example, having to swim 400 and 800 meters back to back can be very tiring, even for those who do it quite easily. And for those a bit out of shape or practice, it can be stressful. There’s little reason for this, so kill the time pressure and distribute these as much as possible between sessions progressively. You may need to book extra pool time for this, but usually you can weave these between other confined water training. Here are some tips that make things more productive and less stressful for you and candidates:

1. Know pool/space distances where candidates do their swims and count laps for them so they can just focus on swimming.

2. There’s no required score for individual water skills (except a 3 on Equipment Exchange), but all must be completed and all together must total at least 15. Have candidates aim for a five on everything, but be okay with completing each exercise.

3. In the Dive Skills Workshop, each skill does have a minimum score. Start by demonstrating the 24 skills, then schedule short practice sessions between workshops in confined water. Guide their practice over several sessions – when they do all the skills to the required level in a single session, they’re done. (They may not even know until you tell them.)

4. When working on any skill, if you see weariness or frustration, guide candidates to complete a substep successfully so they end on a high note, and then stop for the time being. Pushing on will not usually be productive. Stop and work on something completely different or head to lunch or do another task that takes their mind of what they’d just done. Come back to the skill after a break – not necessarily even the same day.

No matter how you structure your PADI Divemaster program, encourage your candidates to dive as much as possible beyond the dives for the course itself. Give them opportunities to “just dive” for experience and building confidence, even making them part of the schedule if appropriate. Where possible and prudent, also give them opportunities to shadow real diving courses (in an unofficial capacity of course) to gain experience. This will also help with team building if you have a group of divemaster candidates. Everyone benefits from spending more time diving – after all it’s why they decided to become a divemaster in the first place!

At the end of the day, confined water training for divemasters is about creating and/or involving candidates in realistic experiences that allow them to develop their skills and thinking, accelerated and guided by your experience as a dive professional. As their mentor, your job is to nurture the growth they accomplish for themselves – way more effective and rewarding than trying to “pour in” knowledge or skills.

For more information please review your PADI’s Guide to Teaching, Teaching Techniques – Divemaster Course Conduct and Skill Recommendations.

Up Next

In the third part of this series, look for how to approach PADI Divemaster training in open water using both the internship or scenarios approaches.

The post Open-Mind, Open-Approach Skill Development for Confined Water Mentoring appeared first on PADI Pros.

Business of Diving / Business Support, Teaching Tips, confined water, Divemaster course, mentoringPADI Pros

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