e-Lessons from s-training – what the whole-part-whole approach to swim training can teach us

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One tactic used in all swimming training from club squads to the Olympics is the concept of whole-part-whole: to develop the stroke, either to improve skills or strength, you break the stroke into parts. The simplest expression of this is arms only or legs only followed by the full stroke. This is repeated over different distances and whether an aerobic or anaerobic set, against different turn around or repeat times. This is finessed with drills, so taking on of the four competive strokes – frontcrawl backcrawl, breasstroke and butterfly – what might we see? This morning’s Master’s set had the following drills: short doggie laddle, long doggie paddle, carchup, touchfloat and closed fist. Each was a 50m drill followed by 50m full stroke. Later we did some arms only sets over 100m against the clock. And we swam sme backstroke and breaststroke for slme variety before some short full strokes sprints on Frontcrawl and a swim down.

How might this translate into a training session or e-learning module? To start with the module, like a set, would need to change every week, so that there is progression in the challenges set, the skills in technique to demonstrate and even the times to rest or turn around a swim.

There would need to be variety too, which typically means emphasis on a different stroke but inlcudes having a different coach, swimming in a different lane and having different swimmers in the lane with you.

I rarely see such variety or such progressive, long term, planned in progression in learning and development, while many e-learning modules are no better than the leaflet or linear video they replace – they are fixed.

Does this work? How do you reversion content so that it gets progrossively more challenging at a pace that puts the individual learning just beyond being able to d the thing with ease? Effort matters, easy learning isn’t learning, just as a stroll in the park isn’t a training run.

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Using Gagne’s steps for instructional design to develop e-learning for swimming teachers

Gagne’s events of instruction applied to helping swimming teachers develop a specific stroke.

1. Gaining attention
The scene opener, even the preview or title sequence. e.g After – then before. A competitive ten year old swimming a beautiful stroke, and then a weak swimmer showing how it starts out with problems and mess galore.

2. Informing the learner (their guardian and coach/teacher) of the objective. Presenting the destination and what milestones have to be reached, or what crests to climb. e.g A programme of development over two years, over six terms, with as many galas and assessments, with fun too.

3. Stimulating recall of prerequisite learning
Tapping into what has already been understood – creating empathy. The known to make the unknown less scary. So swimming as play.

4. Presenting the stimulus material
Presenting the case, offering evidence that might impress or inspire, that could be controversial and memorable. The interactivities, or e–tivities, or interplay between person and PC, or other people online. More than passive viewing or being taught.

5. Providing learning guidance
Offering a way through the maze, the thread through the labarynth or the helping hand. The programme of events, the menu.

6. Eliciting the performance
Now it’s their turn. Having a go in a measured way, making it progressively more difficult, returning to some learning, building on it, adding more …

7. Providing feedback
Sandwiched, constructive feedback on which to build. Where social learning is vital to provide support, guidance and motivation.

8. Assessing the performance
How are targets going? Assessment, as in testing, as part of the learning process, whether a multi–choice or practical. How are they doing? Have objectives been met?

9. Enhancing retention and transfer
Did it stick, could they pass it on and so become the teacher? What event or events can embed, even celebrate the achievement so that others may benefit from it?

Assesments – assignments and written exams for ASA Level 2 and Level 3 Coaching

Paper Assignments

I have in-front of me an Amateur Swimming Associations (ASA) paper for the Level III Senior Club Coach certificate. There are 12 sheets, facing side only. The paper is waxed, copyrighted and stamped with the ASA logo. Having attended a day long workshop on the topic, done some reading and from my own experience I complete these assignment and submit. It ought to be submitted as is; this is in part a test of authenticity. I have handwritten my responses. My habit and way of doing things is to have it in a word document, so I load the text and tables, complete the required questions/tasks, print off and submit both parts. Invariably I get a note about the typed up/printed off version being so much better … it takes skills that even I lack to write something in some of the minuscule boxes.

I was discussing on Monday with the ASA how to avoid plagiarism with e-assessments.

I mentioned Nottingham University medical students attening a computer-based assessment. I mentioned software that can spot plagiarism. I struggled however with the kind of forms the ASA uses as these tests seem to be have written with the EXAMINER in mind … i.e. to make them easy to mark. Which also makes it easy to cheat. The answer is the same, not open to interpretation. More or less. This isn’t strictly fair … papers are returned covered in red ink – I have redone one paper.

There has to be a sign in process that is used to identify a person.

How many people cheat? Is it such a problem?

Apparently so. Even with certificates and qualifications it appears easy to falsify documents. And often, these determined people are excellent teachers/coaches who have learn their trade as competitive swimmers and/or on the job, so they know what they are doing, they simply don’t have the piece of paper.

Memory Cards

I also have in front of me a set of handwritten cards given to me by a colleague who has just taken her Level II Coaching certificate. She failed the written paper. She used these cards to test herself. My intention is to put these into Spaced-Ed, as an exercise, possibly to create or to begin to create a useful learning tool.

I like the way Space-Ed prompts you over the week, tests you on a few things, then leaves you alone. You have time to assimilate the information. Is it easy learning? It is easier learning … nothing beats a period of concerted effort and self-testing to verify that you know something or not.

Whether electronic, or paper … or the spoken word, there is always a bridge to gap, a translation, as it were, of the information a person wants or needs to assimilate and this assimilation process.

Common to all is EFFORT.

Do you work hard at it for longer periods of time … or divide the task up into smaller chunks? Which works best? For you, or anyone? Is there a definitive answer? No. It will vary for you, as with anyone else. It will vary by motivation, inclination, time available, the nature and importance of the topic, the degree to which this topic is covered in print or online, or in workshops and in the workplace. In deed, my contention, would be that the greater the variety of ways to engage with the information the better it will be retained and the more useful it will be when required in a myriad of ways to be applied or is called upon.

On reflection

I learn from writing somethign out by hand. I learn again when I type it up. I may not be engaging with it ‘in the workpale;’ but there is engagement non the less through my eyes, hands and fingers. Similarly the person who wrote out this pack of 71 cards (both sides written up) was preparng themselves, afterall, for a written exam. She knows her stuff poolside, her struggle (as I know is the case for many) is translating this into exam-like responses in a highly false setting, away from a pool, from swimmers, having to read words to respond in text, rather than reading an athlete (observation) and responding with a fixing drill or exercise.