On Simplicity of a Good Teaching 2

Yesterday, Robert had a therapeutic riding lesson at Bridge Center.   During the previous lesson, Robert was doing what he always does.  His instructor, Kate, asked him to keep the reins higher, not on the horse’s back.  As always Robert listened.  He raised his hands a little higher and after a few seconds… lowered them to a previous position.  It is not that Robert did not listen.  He listened every time! He put his hands higher, then he… lowered them.

As I watched Robert, (still during the previous lesson) it occurred to me, that Robert didn’t understand for how long he had to hold the reins above the horse’s back.  He didn’t have measurable unit of time that would give him a clue.  I suggested to Kate, to ask Robert to hold the reins for as long as he counts to ten.  I am not sure, if this suggestion worked or not.  I simply forgot to ask after the lesson.  Yesterday, however, Kate, gave Robert much better instruction.  She told him to hold reins until he reaches the letter A displayed on the arena’s wall.

That was IT!.

She repeated  similar instruction:  hold your hands up until letter C, until letter B, until Robert held his hands properly almost all the time.  He was not only riding properly.  He also understood what the instructor’s words “hold the reins up” meant in the context of his riding.

Yet again I witnessed the version of the same approach to designing instruction:

1. Define the problem

The problem was that Robert kept the reins very low, with his hands touching horse’s back

2.Design instruction to address it, the same way you would form a scientific hypothesis.

Tell him and/or demonstrate to him  proper position of hands.

3.Check it in practice.

It worked only for a very short time just after the instructor gave Robert this direction. Then Robert lowered his hands  down.

4. If it doesn’t work make corrections, or redefine the problem.

Since the verbal instruction and  demonstration did not work, find a prompt that would be delivered to Robert during the prolonged period of time.  For instance counting how long the hands should be up.

5. Even when it works, think about improving it.

Providing more easy to follow visual cues such as in a request,  ” Hold your hands higher until you reach letter A.”

This is precisely the same structure of developing a proper instruction as the one I have just described while talking about the skiing lesson. That supports my believe that a good teaching is a simple but a thoughtful process.

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