By Rich Waldie 2015
Just like in a lesson, where the instructor has to balance their goals with that of the student, for
a trainer planning a clinic reconciling the wants of the instructors with the needs of the
Snow sports School can be a difficult task. There’s often a limited budget for training. Trainers
can be under pressure to focus exclusively on addressing the needs of the business, that is
improving mainly low end teaching and increasing client retention and revenue. Here there’s a
risk that clinics might end up stale. The attendance of the clinic suffering as the goals of the
instructors fall by the wayside.
Clinic vs. Lesson
A good way to approach this quandary can be to think about the difference between a clinic and
a lesson. In a lesson, we’re focused on improving a rider’s skill in some way to arrive at an
outcome. We focus heavily on the what, when and where of a movement in a given situation
(e.g. an s-turn on a beginner slope) with a touch of how and why. However in a clinic, we should
start out with an outcome and focus on developing an instructor’s understanding of how to get
there. How and why do those particular body parts move to arrive at the outcome. What are we
doing to pass that on to the student effectively?
Once we start to plan a clinic with this in mind, a lot of different solutions start to pop up. We can
both get instructors enthusiastic about attending the clinic whilst also improving the quality of
their day to day teaching.
This could be as simple as going out with a higher end focus and working on the understanding
of how a movement works. Then discussing how this relates to some element of lower end
teaching. For example, working with an outcome of a high performance, up unweighted carved
turn. We could use, and even increase our understanding of the principles of form to see how a
very similar movement pattern when timed differently looks a lot like a C or STurn we might
teach a beginner.
Another approach would be to use an example lesson of a higher end progression and highlight
some pedagogical elements alongside the teach. For instance at a Level 2 training level, we
could run a clinic where the instructors work on their carving skills. Being taught portions of the
‘Exploring Carving’ progression, the instructors get some guided mileage and real feedback,
working towards the outcome of linking carved turns. We can turn this from a lesson into a clinic
by focusing on the instructor’s understanding of a teaching topic. Topics might include how did
the lesson follow the teaching cycle; a demonstration of a specific teaching style (Command,
Task/Practice, Guided Discovery etc.) and how to use it effectively based on the lesson situation;
how was feedback delivered etc. This approach can be thought of as analogous to teaching a
manoeuvre in a lesson; we present information, do a demonstration and check for understanding.
The example lesson becomes the demo and we might even incorporate some practice teaching
into the clinic to add guided mileage and feedback elements.
So by fully appreciating the difference between a lesson and clinic and starting out with an
outcome, we can start to plan some great sessions that please everyone. Sharpening up
lower end teaching without going anywhere near a magic carpet. Clinics can be the funniest part
of a day working in a Snow sports School, so anything we can do to run more of them is
definitely a good thing!