This post has nothing to do with cardio-pulmonary resuscitation nor bull_hit. Sorry if you were looking for those. As is my wont, I’m taking my brain out on a stroll from the safe confines of conventional instructional strategy and looking at the process of teaching kayaking strokes from a tangential perspective. I’m not sure whether I’m ascribing to, nor proselytizing this approach so much as just putting some thoughts out there on the wind.
Conventionally, strokes are introduced in an instructor certification workshop or paddler-level skills classes on a stroke-by-stroke basis, preferably with 3-4 key teaching points per stroke, intending to get across fundamentals while not overloading the learner’s brain. A typical whitewater paddling workshop (or instructor course) will be introducing forward, reverse, forward and reverse sweep, sculling draw, slicing draw, rudder, bow draw, stern draw and frequently several combinations. So that’s about 10 strokes times 3 or 4 key points per stroke= 30-40 key points. I know that many will be similar and, once understood, will start to fall into place in the mind’s map, but I’ll be honest, when I was first exposed to them formally, my brain had little overload lights flashing on and off.
Our teaching resources1 propose the 20-40-60-80 “rule” for the comprehension efficiency for material we’re taught. We absorb 20% of what we hear, 40% of what we see, 60% of what we do and 80% of what we discover on our own. When I’m eye-to-eye with 30 key points, that 20% comprehension level is looking like a lofty goal.
How then, can we condense our purpose in teaching strokes using key points down to a memorable level and use some method of sliding up that comprehension scale to somewhere greater than 20%? One of my keys, as is frequently the case, comes from my mentor Robin Pope who wrote one of the better comprehensive articles on instruction I’ve yet read (and have cited before) titled “Teaching Tips for Kayaking“. In this article Pope discusses the role of physical forces in paddling and even “basic naval architecture”. These concepts resonated well with me when I first heard them and gained further traction as I attended to the physics of paddling and helping others understand.
Marrying the concepts above, my proposal is illustrated by Figure 1: The CPR-BS-Spin model. Every stoke we’re working with will characteristically have: 1)Catch-Power-Release phases (each of which is typically taught as one of the key points), 2)target Blade and Shaft angles and 3) a characteristic intent to maximize or minimize spin (yaw) of the boat by modifying the stroke’s relationship to the boat’s center of spin. The red circle, serendipitously, also embodies the paddler’s rotation inherent in any of the strokes we’re teaching.
Encapsulating (tl;dr, for the Reddit crowd); What will happen if we spend 15-20 minutes in a class carefully describing the CPR-BS-Spin variables and then challenge our students to move their boats forward, backward, sideways, and spin (or prevent spin) using these variables? Will this “discovery” process begin to resonate the commonalities and the underlying intents of strokes with students better than our current model of introducing multiple (albeit similar) key points for each individual stroke? Will the concepts learned through discovery begin to slide us up the 20-40-60-80 scale of comprehension?
In beginner and intermediate-level classes, my guess is that a simple model and mnemonic like this might prove to carry past the class better than students relying on recall of individual key points of individual strokes. It may also start them down the path of self-discovery and understanding better and give them a mechanism for self-evaluation. When working with returning or more advanced students, instructors can move to more subjective fine-tuning of form and function once these baselines have been set. Are there some limitations to this? Yes. It may be a stretch (although a workable one) to cognitively fit this into the sculling draw or rudder, but, the model does fit when an understanding of its principles and application are in place.
Food for thought. Discuss freely in the comments.
- ACA Instructor’s Manual ↩