Learning to Learn


Last evening Sue and I started a beginners fencing class at the local university.  It was interesting to be on the student side of the fence.  As a coach, you can become so used to examining your students learning styles and their progressions that you often forget your own. Coaches and teachers don’t always make the best students. :)

According to the experts everyone comes at the world with 3 basic learning styles, Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. Meaning very generally that they need to see it, hear it or feel it to learn.  Of course it’s much more complicated than that and most of us while leaning one way or another, actually learn in all three ways depending on subject, environment and situation.  As paddling coaches it helps us to observe and understand how our students learn best.  As students it’s probably even more important to understand how we learn.  Knowing how we learn helps us to help our coaches give us the information we need.

Personally I’m visual and with good helping of tactile Kinesthetic.  You could tell me something all day and it won’t stick.  Which meant that in our fencing class, I really couldn’t get a feel for the whole process until I got to spar a bit with another class member who had some experience. I’ve always had the same issue with kayak classes.. Talky coaches just left me staring at the clouds waiting for them to just be quiet and start demonstrating or letting us try it.  I hate standing on the beach!

In my years of coaching experiences, I feel that most people lean toward Kinesthetic and Visual learning.. but you do need to have your auditory skills handy as well.  You know the auditory folks because they regularly ask questions and explain back to you what you just said.  They are often the very last people to really try something.. they are loath to try until they feel they have some good understanding of what they are trying to do and what the result should be.

The true Kinesthetic learner just has to do.  I’ve found that these folks, especially the high-energy types can be challenging at times.  I relate to them on a level, because I have to “do” to learn as well, but I can listen long enough to know what I’m supposed to do. Some Kinesthetic learners leap into action before they actually know what they are doing and then just get frustrated.  Their learning process is comes in fits and starts.. They leap, fail, come back for a tip or other very short instruction, then jump in again. As a coach I’ve learned  that with these folks, it’s how they process.  It used to be frustrating to me as well.  I’d think, “If you’d just listen for two seconds you’d learn something..” but the truth was, they couldn’t.  They would learn as long as I kept my instruction down to snacking size and then let them learn through experience until they needed to come back for another “snack”.

I hate going back to kayak classes and certifications.  Let’s face it.  Things don’t change that much over time.  Certainly there are always new things to learn.. but often they are hidden in a mountain of things you already know.  You have to ferret out the new stuff.  Re-certifying is important but I don’t think that on the whole, the process really lets you be a true student again or necessarily helps you to be a better coach.  I think to continue improving as a coach you need to keep teaching AND keep being a student. But to really connect with your student self, you need to go learn something really new. Something you know nothing about. It helps you reconnect to your own learning styles and should refresh your approach to your students as well.

Just my nickel… En Garde!

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