Video: CASI Indoor Presentation

Our indoor presentation at Interski 2015 centred around generating discussion regarding the current trends in snowboarding, particularly the focus on turning. This presents a unique opportunity for snowboard instructors to capitalize on something we know well!

Intrinsic Motivation & Experiential Learning… two peas in a pod.

The FINS presenting their on-snow workshop in Intrinsic Motivation

During the on-snow and indoor lectures at Interski, a core theme I noticed seemed to be more and more about teachers (be it instructors, coaches or instructor-trainers) trying to find a better balance between when to direct the student in their learning, and when to “back off” and allow the student to practice and “discover” the skills or movements on their own. Each country had their own way of presenting and training instructors to use this philosophy, but the commonalities were there.

When you think about it, this is most likely a question you ask yourself during every lesson you teach. Shall I let them try again, or shall I give them some feedback now? Should I explain things in more details, or should I change the terrain? Should I do both? Do they need more feedback or more riding time? It’s definitely a balance that can be easy or hard to find, depending on the student, situation, terrain and what they are trying to learn.

In this blog article, I wanted to take a closer look at Experiential learning and how it can be closely linked to Intrinsic Motivation (IM)… which the guys from Finland did a great workshop on. Intrinsic Motivation is basically having a student want to learn what they are trying… and not simply doing it because the instructor/parent/coach has told them to. This component or “philosophy” to learning is very important. Creating an environment that supports IM is critical for fun, efficient learning and generating return clients. If students can be stoked on learning something themselves and stoked because of their achievement (rather than stoked because the instructor is stoked they learned it!), then IM is happening.

Think about it… any good lesson you’ve ever done, was most likely because the student was truly invested in what they were learning and they were genuinely stoked because they were proud of them self, and not just because they made the instructor happy. So how does IM relate to Experiential Learning?

Control. If a student feels like they’ve had the opportunity to learn in their own time, and has been able to figure out at least parts of the “puzzle” independently, then the reward is all the most sweeter. A student who is constantly being told what to do, doesn’t have the opportunity to ever “discover” something for themselves, and ultimately on completion of the goal may feel it is simply a result of following directions, rather than a true accomplishment on their part. In a lesson with multiple goals, this can lead to a frustrated, apathetic student who feels they are simply following orders from a “lecturer”, rather than being “guided” through a process with a friendly snowboard “coach”.

We often see this with new and experienced instructors a like… where they seem to forget the most important part of the training cycle, practice; and instead seem to continuously “teach” the student with constant explanations, drills and/or feedback. Long story short… a good instructor is one who is just as good at figuring out when to speak and what to say, as well as when not to speak and what not to say.

Like anything, there is a time and a place and a need to find the right balance. Too much direction (constant info from instructor to student) can reduce IM, but not enough (the instructor is leaving students to discover, without any guiding) will also lead to a frustrated student. Either way, I hope that by labelling this student investment/motivation in their learning as “Intrinsic Motivation” and discussing how Guided Discovery can help in achieving this, maybe you’ll find a better balance in the next lesson you teach.

Insight for Output – The WIR Approach – Feedback Learning

Beware the Feedback Junkie!

Austria’s indoor lecture addressed a problem that we have all experienced with our students; that they can only learn when they are with us. While this dependence may seem like a good thing for business it turns out that it’s not and it is actually doing a disservice to our students.

To help develop the ability for students to self assess they introduced the W (watching) I (inside view) R (reflection) approach,  which is similar to the new CSIA Experiential Education approach. 

This step involves creating awareness in the students of specific body parts and tasks they have to perform.  The instructor aims to create a common scale of performance between instructors and students.


Inside View:
This is the critical step in the process and involves developing student awareness of how their body is moving and how these movements influence their outcomes


This is the time to use the scale established in the Watching phase to help the student have a better understanding of how their body is moving.

In this last step we must ensure that the perspective is the same for the instructor and student. Once we have achieved this common perspective then a student can know what they are doing and they then know what they can change. A key component of this step is the use of questions by the instructor to guide learning and ensure understanding.  One tactic that can be used by the instructor is to give an observation exercise without pre-judging their movement. Simply ask your student to observe something in their riding, similar to our guided discovery approach.

Success in this teaching approach relies on the instructor being able to work WITH the student as opposed to dictating to the student,  as is often the case. The Austrians have noted that this can be difficult for some instructors as is requires that they relinquish their position of power over the student and allow the lesson to be a more collaborative effort.

Even if you don’t go to these lengths it is worth considering in your lessons this winter whether you are creating students who need feedback after every run or are you creating students who can self assess and guide their own progress.

If you notice that your students are becoming feedback junkies then try employing some of these approaches to break the cycle!

An Integrated Approach

Canada is one of the few nations (perhaps only) in attendance at Interski that has completely separate organisations for the various snow sports disciplines. This set up has some benefits but also some drawbacks.

Seeing presentations from both the Swiss and New Zealanders on their nation wide progress report cards that integrate both skiing and boarding made me wonder if Canadian resorts could benefit from the same approach.

CASI’s Mission Statement is “To promote the sport of snowboarding, snowboard instruction and the profession of snowboard teaching in Canada by training and certifying snowboard instructors to ensure that a national standard of safe and efficient snowboard instruction is maintained.” but ultimately, as a profession we need to be supporting the resorts that we all work at because without them there wouldn’t be much need for instructors. 

Both the Swiss and the Kiwis have shown that a national program for both skiing and boarding that the resorts can use with their clients has helped to improve engagement of students and drives return business. Both of these are critical to the success of resorts.

Both nations have developed a central database where all of the information can be tracked,  students can log in and create an account to track their achievements, and receive promotions and awards along the way.

The Swiss have taken it one step further by blending their progression with their instructor certification to help generate interest in getting certified by showing students what the next steps are. Switzerland is currently experiencing a shortage of qualified professionals who are seeking to pursue a career in snowsports and they are hoping to reverse this trend by building awareness and excitement about the opportunities available. 

In Canada we have two well developed programs through CASI and the CSIA but they are not integrated and neither have a national presence so resorts are often reluctant to use them. I see an opportunity to market lessons through a strong,  integrated, and national approach. The sheer size of our country poses some challenges for sure but I’m sure these can be overcome with some creative planning and if the program is well designed and compelling for resorts then the uptake will be improved.

For more information you can check out the following links: