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Why 'just' doing [insert activity] isn't the best way to learn.

Updated: Feb 1, 2022

For over 40 years now I've been very lucky to be taught by some amazing tutors/coaches/guides in sports and adventurous activities. I've also been involved with National Governing Bodies for over 20 years - and in this seeing how the coaching process has changed is brilliant. But, what I've also learned is that experts at doing, don't necessarily make experts at teaching.

You should not expect to learn navigation skills by going for a walk, any more than you should learn first aid by having a PowerPoint slide read at you.

Coaching Adventure Sports book

In the last 18 months, a book "Coaching Adventure Sports" has been published. This is aimed at training the trainers. And within it's 358 pages lies for me the real explanation of why we all love the activities that we do. Adventure.

With adventure comes a load of pressures on the learner. Some environmental, some equipment based, some emotional, some physical. Teaching or coaching or guiding has very different requirements on the learner, so as an educator or leader we have to think very carefully about what the single thing that will increase the learners knowledge, ability or confidence. Sure, sometimes this is about guided self-discovery (letting the learner play in a safe way), but most of the time for teaching it's about simplifying core skills in a safe way.

When we teach or coach anything at no-mad. a lot of thought goes into how the person we're supporting will make the most progress. This is why there is no formulaic approach with big ratios on our courses.

Navigation teaching aids

As an example, teaching navigation, is often done by going for a walk. At no-mad we do teach navigation on a walk, but going for a walk adds so many pressures on the learner (being hot/cold/wet/hungry, worrying about fitness/equipment/environment). So, teaching basic navigation skills took a bit of thinking about, but now, this can be done really successfully in a space about the size of a tennis court. Once these skills are grasped, then, and only then do we transfer this into the wider landscape. A good analogy is how to teach someone to roll their kayak. We don't teach this on a cold, raging river. We teach it in a warm familiar environment (a swimming pool) and once it's consistent, then transfer those skills to a more challenging environment.

It is important for a coach or tutor to be competent in the activity themselves, and be current in techniques and applications. For example remote first aid is quite different to sitting in a classroom, but learning remote first aid techniques might not benefit from being outside a classroom. It takes quite a bit of thought for what a big group might benefit from, and about how the environment gives the best results.

L3 Education and Training Award

At no-mad keeping current, and developing knowledge is really important to us. We like to use, as much as possible externally verification of good practice and competence. That's one of the main reasons we maintain our provider status with Mountain Training, National Navigation Award Scheme and REAL First Aid. For example, REAL First Aid require tutors to demonstrate competence in teaching - so a regulated Education and Training Award made a lot of sense.

And whilst this was for First Aid training purposes, this transfers in to intro to navigation, OMM training weekends and, actually everything we do.

So, no-mad keeps current with the ways to teach, coach and guide the activities we're passionate about, as well as getting out there regularly and being adventurous.

There's a building set of videos on our YouTube Channel that shows the variety of areas and activities we do personally, and as part of groups.

Have a look here if you fancy it!

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