Surf school revisited

Six weeks had passed and Jane from Head Office decided that it was time to return to The City Surf School to see if any progress had been made. A meeting was convened to discuss the action plan.

“So,” said Jane, “I hope you’ve all had a chance to read the research that I sent you about effective surf schools. What are people thinking at this stage?”

There was a pause. Julius and Brian looked to Marie who spoke for the group. “We are explicitly teaching basic skills,” she reported.

Jane smiled with relief, “Oh, that’s excellent!” she said, “so when when did you start with that?”

Marie looked rather stern. “No,” she clarified, “I meant that we are explicitly teaching basic skills. We always have done.”

Jane was now puzzled. “But when I was last here I got the impression that you weren’t keen on the basics; that you saw surf school as being about higher kinds of objectives; learning how to learn water sports and that sort of thing.”

“Then you must not have been really listening,” suggested Julius. “A true dialogue requires all participants to hear.”

Jane wasn’t quite sure what to do with that. Then she had a thought. “So how do you explicitly teach the basic skills of surfing?” she asked.

Marie stiffened a little in her chair, “It is about unpacking the skills for the students; enabling them to make the right connections.”

“Enabling them to make the right connections?” repeated Jane, “That doesn’t sound very explicit to me.”

No-one responded to this comment.

Julius developed Marie’s point. “We assess all the basic strategies that our students use in order to develop their balance. We provide them with the language to talk about the surfing. We give them supports; making the elements of surfing visible to them. We make complex practice accessible.”

“But I don’t know what that means,” complained Jane. “What does that even mean?”

“It really is very clear.” Stated Brian. Everyone briefly looked at Brian.

“OK,” said Jane, “Do you practice these skills on the sand before going in to the water?”

Julius bristled. Disgust transited his face. There was a pause.

Marie responded, “We unpack the skills for the students.”

“On the sand?” Asked Jane.

“We often engage in instruction on the sand,” Marie suggested.

“Yes,” agreed Jane, “but do you get your students to crouch on a board that is on the sand and then stand up on that board in order to practice the manoeuvre that they will need to do out in the sea?”

Quietly and slowly, Julius hissed, “We teach in an authentic, situated and engaging way.”

Brian nodded. “I have a motivational poster,” he added.

Jane was struggling to hide her frustration. “But successful surf schools directly teach the skills necessary for surfing. All the evidence says that you have to explicitly teach these basic skills and get the students to practice them!”

“I know,” said Marie, “I could have told you that. That’s exactly what we do.”

[The original surf school post may be found here]

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3 Comments on “Surf school revisited”

  1. David says:

    All Surf School needs now is a 1:1 iPad program with surfing simulation software that allows students to personalize their education.

  2. This is a major problem for education and education research. Words do not have definite meanings and end up referring to very different things. This makes debate and discussion hard, confusing, and often fruitless.

    ‘If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.’


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