Practice is the most important part of learning a new motor skill– PADI Course Director

Exciting Practice for New Divers

A few years ago, I was in a pool watching a confined session of an Open Water course. There was an Instructor, a Divemaster and 4 student divers. The pool was booked for an hour, from 8.00 pm to 9.00 pm. so the Instructor knew that there was no time to lose. At 8.00 on the dot The Instructor had the class in the water and without a moment to lose started to brief the first skill of the evening. Following the briefing, the class descended and watched as the Instructor demonstrate the skill. One by one, the students took their turn at imitating the skill back to the instructor. The student divers were fine! There were just a couple of tiny issues that the Instructor had to deal with. It wasn’t long before the Instructor could bring the class up to the surface to begin the debrief. After that, the instructor briefed the next skill.

All 4 students were very “average” which meant that there were no real major concerns, just a bit of fine tuning here and there. The hour went by without any issues, and all of the skills were completed. The Instructor and whole team were pleased with the session. What I’ve just described is a very “typical” pool session.

A waste of time?

Nothing out of the ordinary, and one that is occurring around the world every day. The Instructor was busy for the whole hour, and the Divemaster was excellent, always in the correct place at the right time. However!!! What about each individual student? ? How much time did they spend learning? How much actual time did they spend doing something other than kneeling down waiting for their go? The people who had paid for the course.

The people that the whole session was arranged for. The answer is an average of about 6 minutes each! They had given up a whole evening of their time, just for about 6 minutes of practice! Surely we can do better than this? Surely our customers deserve a better service than this? So How can we give people more practice time? Even when we have limited pool time? Well the question has many answers. I have other videos on YouTube that explain why Briefings and demonstrations should be short and to the point.

Other Videos and Other methods

I also have other videos explaining why skills should be taught while neutrally buoyant. But what about practice? How can this happen? Well as soon as a diver has been congratulated on imitating a skill, and the Instructor has moved onto the next student. The Diver can then be invited to repeat the skill as often as they would like. The diver can practice while the Instructor is dealing with other students. It’s not difficult for the Instructor and the Divemaster to keep an eye on all of the the divers, we are in confined water after all. This is a great way to make use of time, but it’s still not enough. More practice is needed to make the session effective for each student. But first we need to look at how practice helps with any new skill.

When I was 7 years old, my parents sent me to piano lessons. Every evening, they made me practice for one hour before I could eat my evening meal. The problem is, I was lazy. Oh I sat at the piano and played notes, but they were always the SAME notes. I had two very favourite pieces of music. They were the easiest pieces in my book, and I just played them over and over again. I NEVER improved at all. Despite all of the hours of practice! A year later, all I could do was play the same two simple pieces of music.

Exciting Practice for new divers

So with our new Scuba Divers, we need to vary their practice. There should be time for every pool session to include a “mini dive” where the students can plan and swim in pairs around to different areas of the pool. The Instructor can link a certain skill to designated areas. For example, over by the steps, is a place where your mask needs to be removed. On the way to the deep end, one student will run out of air and need to buddy share. And so on. The students can choose their own routes, but must visit each designated area at least once. By making the student the centre piece of attraction and a little bit of simple planning, each student should be able to have at least 30 minutes of quality skill training in every hour. More as the course progresses. I practice a similar approach when I teach my PADI IDCs.

My IDC Candidates don’t spend hour after hour sitting in front of PowerPoint slides, they are continuously involved in their own learning and are engaged for the whole duration of the course.