How do the best competitors in our sport reach success? Teamwork: individuals combining efforts to achieve a common purpose. Teamwork works best when each member understands their part in the whole. So, in the case of skydiving instruction, who does what?
Part of USPA’s mission is “to promote safe skydiving through training, licensing and instructor qualification programs,” which it achieves primarily through the Integrated Student Program and instructional rating courses. During this process, USPA sets and communicates its standards: a base level that students or candidates must reach when learning a skill set or knowledge set. It also sets the curriculum: the specific goals, lessons, assignments and materials for a particular course.
Since USPA is in the unique position to collect data, discover trends, decide where safety can improve, develop standards and provide resources (such as skydiveschool.org presentations, category dive flows and quizzes), it makes sense that USPA is the curriculum developer. Instructors then teach from that curriculum.
Coaches, instructors and examiners using the USPA curriculum then develop their lesson plans to help guide class learning, keep themselves on track and help students reach their objectives. These plans can be in the teacher’s mind, on the back of an envelope, typed out nicely or even scribbled on a napkin, but they generally contain an introduction, an explanation or demonstration of the overall goals, details on how to achieve the goals, activities and an assessment of goals reached (whole-part-whole).
During their rating courses and through experience, coaches, instructors and examiners learn how to teach their respective topics, but none of them learns how to develop curriculum. Neither do they have the information required to set standards. For rating holders, the flexibility comes in the form of lesson planning. An excellent teacher communicates the goals dictated by the curriculum, discovers who their student is, figures out the best way to convey the information to the student and uses the provided materials to evaluate student progress. In other words, rating holders do not decide what the student needs to learn, they decide how they are going to learn it. Rating holders who deviate from USPA’s curriculum and standards are not exercising flexibility, they are simply deviating from standards.
USPA is doing its part for the team by listening to feedback from the field, reorganizing materials to be more user friendly, consolidating resources in one location, using technology to support instructors’ presentations and providing individualized learning directly to students and candidates. As a USPA instructional rating holder, you can do your part by visiting uspa.org/resources, downloading current manuals, using USPA content, reading “The Professional” e-newsletter and communicating your ideas or concerns to the Safety and Training Department.
Let’s do this together as a team.
Jen Sharp | D-17516
Coach and Tandem Instructor Examiner, AFF and Static-Line Instructor, PRO