By Dave Rossetter – Head of Paddlesport Coaching at Glenmore Lodge
In a previous article I mentioned the work of Simon & Chase, 1973 about the 10,000 hours rule. Where to become good at a skill, or more especially to become an expert we must put in the time and practice, especially deliberate practice.
That article looked at various ways to help us with this practice. This one however, is concerned about building on this and the work of others to aid us in our development.
Sir Isaac Newton back in 1676 stated in a letter about his attempt to, “See a little further” phrased, “By standing on the shoulders of giants.” This built on the writings of theologian and author John of Salisbury back in the 12th century. The meaning behind this seeing further by being taller isn’t about being superior but by using the work of those that went before aids us by adding their knowledge to ours, this in turn moves on our development.
Transfer of learning is the ability to apply knowledge learned in one context to new contexts.
Transfer of learning occurs when the learner:
- Recognises common features among concepts, skills or principles.
- Links the information in memory.
- Sees the value of utilizing what was learned in one situation in another.
By building up ways to help students with their ability to tap into previous learning, schemas and past experiences we can speed up the learning.
The following are some examples of ways that could apply to us and hopefully give the inspiration for coaches and leaders to look into how they aid their paddler’s development.
Previously I touched on the work of Brymer and Renshaw (2010) about the constraints that we could change to aid in a paddler’s development. This ability for a paddler to problem solve by looking at how the task is achieved in a different way or in a different environment or seeking ways for the individual to reduce the effort. By changing these constraints the paddlers are continually looking into their past experiences as to how they have achieved the task previously and forces the looking into the internal question of, “What did I do previously?” and in turn therefore, “What do I need to do this time?”
This works well with those that have an outcome already achieved and therefore have the knowledge that they can complete the task a way. When paddling harder waters, newer waters or trying to do something new this tapping into previous knowledge allows the transfer of what is common between the new task and previous.
Tasks can also be set where the paddler hasn’t previously done it. By using questioning with them about how they might go about completing the task with periods of discovery will tap into previous learning. This could be linking to similar manoeuvres from other areas, understanding form other areas such as water flow knowledge etc.
Problem solving at what ever stage a paddler is at forces tapping into existing knowledge and opens up new areas for the paddler to go and explore.
These are great ways of piggy backing on previously learnt set of rules or guidelines for similar movements. Lots of sliding, riding and gliding sports follow similar structures. This could be where you look as you are going round corners. Consider the skier looking down the fall line, getting their body into a position where the skis can then follow the arc round. How about the biker taking a corner looking into and beyond the turn could these sets of principles aid you in turning a white water kayak through arcs on a river?
When coaching river running tactics a recent analogy is finding the ‘booster’ pads. If you have ever played any computer games then you will be aware of these areas that once you pass over them they speed up your character. There are times when you want them and times when you don’t. As you play games you learn the ones that access new areas and the ones that you need to avoid. Tapping into this analogy focuses the mind in looking for these areas.
I am sure that if you have been coaching for a while you will have many that you use. From beach balls between your chest and paddle, billows between the blade and boat in a stern rudder, pushing on sponges during strokes, riding a bike round a corner, paddlers box etc. The list goes on.
These analogies give the learner something that they can visualise or imagine happening and therefore add to their existing knowledge and develop from there.
Thinking back on sessions from when I was working in outdoor centres and talking through with those in outdoor education then the ability to capture the learning of whatever the task happens to be is critical for the personal development of the learner. How often at the end of a days boating do we capture the learning from the tasks that we were involved in?
This can be from successful and unsuccessful outcomes. Spend time to talk this over in a way that can shape what you do with the information. Sharing the experience and then planning to do something with the new knowledge the next time out builds the patterns and schemas required to move in our ability. Too often we share what happened but don’t turn this into knowledge that can be accessed at a later date.
The previous article looked at ‘if’ and ‘then’ questions as way to be reflecting on the activity. This works well within the transfer of learning. What we can also look at though is critical thinking where in our own time we have the opportunity to make clear and reasoned thought out observations of what happened during the performance. Using this as a plan going into the next performance and then reflecting on both of these aids in the decision-making process and build up this bank of knowledge.
With these reflections it gives the opportunity to challenge your thoughts against the different environments and / or different paddlers. This aids in pattern recognition and what works in one place gives the start of the problem solving for another situation.
That’s what it’s all about after all! Get out there and gain knowledge / experience. Paddle the same rapid a few different ways. Work the river or flow and see what the outcomes are. Then using some / all of the ways described earlier to add to your knowledge.
Without having experience we will struggle to reflect. To ‘see further’ we need to get the information that is available, use it then importantly challenge it and own it! It needs to be yours to move on not just what someone else has said.
Take the practices that you have been shown / working on and put them into context. If the skill should be used on a journey – do a journey. Does it work?
If you are coaching then look to set practices that put the skill into the context of where it will be needed.
Coaches – what do you do to aid your paddlers with transferring existing knowledge / practices / learning into the new or current task?
Tap into your existing ‘rules’ or ‘guidelines’ and use these to help you problem solve new areas as they unfold.
Happy paddling and hope to see you on the water.
Dave is the full time paddlesport instructor at Glenmore Lodge – Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre. He has been involved in the development of the new awards and provides expert advice throughout the industry on all things to do with coaching, safety, leadership and personal paddling. He is passionate about all things paddling and specialises in white water kayak and open canoe where he will most often be found. He is supported in his paddling adventures and coaching by Pyranha Kayaks, Mad River Canoes and Palm Equipment.