Developing Your Teaching Style
by Ronda Brodsky, MS
Excerpts taken from her book, Aquatastic: Swimming Made Simple
Learning styles help us understand different ways that people learn. There are three main types of learning styles: visual, auditory and tactile/kinesthetic. People are usually geared toward learning in one of these approaches, but each individual learner will adjust to his or own learning style. Knowing these three categories will help us better teach our aquatic participants.
Visual learners need to see the instructor’s body language and facial expressions to fully understand the information presented in the lesson. These students tend to prefer sitting at the front of the room, or positioned at the front of the pool, in order to avoid visual distractions such as other people’s heads. These learners will usually think in pictures and learn best through the use of visual aids such as your physical demonstration of an exercise or the use of cue cards with diagrams at circuit stations. Visual learners talk sparingly but dislike listening for too long. These people tend to favor words such as see, picture and imagine, so consider incorporating into your verbal cues to help focus their attention to what you are saying.
Auditory learners will learn best through verbal directives and listening to other types of audible cues, such as music that delineates changes in training intensity. These learners interpret meaning by listening to the tone of voice, pitch and speed. So, keep in mind, your verbal cues are more than the words that you say. Written information often has little meaning until it is heard, so if you use printed cue cards it will be helpful to also read aloud that information. These people may easily get distracted by other sounds or noises during your class (such as other participants talking or simultaneous activities in the pool). Auditory learners enjoy listening but are very impatient to talk; some key words to help focus include hear/listen, tune and think.
Tactile/kinesthetic learners will greatly benefit with a hands on approach. These learners actively explore the physical world during the learning process, including fitness classes. These students usually tend to have a hard time remaining still for long periods and may become distracted as they feel a need for activity and exploration. These people gesture and use expressive movements – so will be assisted by these types of cueing from you. Key words such as feel, touch and hold will help get and keep their attention. Tactile learners can be easily distracted by surrounding activity. This type of learner may enjoy you leading class in the pool, as long as you are standing near them.
Regardless of the participant’s learning style, there are some general concepts that apply to all aquatic fitness professionals in presenting classes safely and effectively.
- Be trained and certified in first aid and CPR/AED. Participants safety must be the priority in any class; ideally it is best for all involved if there is separate lifeguard on duty during your classes. All instructors should also have some type of national aquatic certification, such as the Aquatic Exercise Association’s Aquatic Fitness Professional.
- Display a happy, positive and enthusiastic demeanor. Your facial expression, body language and overall energy influences the participants.
- Accommodate the various needs of participants, who need to feel comfortable in their environment. Allow each individual to develop and progress at his or her own rate. Remember the workout is for the participant and not for the instructor.
- Accidents are caused by personal practices or a condition of the aquatic environment. Recognize or eliminate hazards to minimize potential effects. Rules and regulations are much easier to enforce if they are explained in the context of the situation. Know what is going on around you.
- Be prepared; know what you are doing ahead of time.
- Your success as an instructor will partially be determined by your ability to communicate with your students. Get the attention of your participants before starting the session. Talk with your students not at them.
- Demonstrate exactly what you want done and explain it step by step. Make sure your directions are clear and easy to understand.
- Be on time for all classes.
- Safety first, last and always.
Remember my motto, Aquatics are FUNdamental. We need to emphasize fun in our aquatic environment. Have a passion for what you do; your students will catch on and they will also become passionate about this beautiful aquatic avenue.
Ronda Brodsky is a Physical Education and Health Teacher at a charter school in Detroit, Michigan, with a master’s degree in Physical Education. Ronda is an American Red Cross CPR, first aid, lifeguarding and water safety instructor. She has over 30 years in the aquatic industry as an AEA certified professional and a past presenter at IAFC. Ronda is a frequent contributor to Akwa magazine, AEA’s member publication, and the author of Aquatastic: Swimming Made Simple. Ronda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org