Evaluations are always a sensitive topic. We do our best to maintain the ACA's excellent instructor reputation and provide consistent rankings. Instructors are evaluated on a number of criteria that includes both soft skills (communication for instance) and hard skills. A good place to start is looking at the instructor candidate evaluation form we need to submit: ICE Form.
During the IDW, you will get numerous opportunities to practice/perfect long (Formal) and short (Impromptu) teaching topics. Think about the great teachers you had growing up. What skills/techniques did they use to make the class interesting and informative? Here are some skills we look for:
- Preparation - Did the instructor develop some sort of organized agenda? An index card with a few bullet items or the tried and true Sara Palin approach - write a few buzzwords on your hand. Do you have any hand-outs?
- Presentation - Are you effective in catching your audience's attention? Did you answer WIIFM (What's In It For Me?). Another way to look at WIIFM is SELL the new skill. Demonstrate the overall skill, break it down, Re-assemble.
- Use of Props - Props are often excellent teaching tools and come in many forms - use your imagination. A small trickle with one of those foamie kayakers is great for demonstrating waterfalls, eddies, holes, etc.
- Questions - Can you handle impromptu questions? If you don't know something, that is perfectly acceptable as it may be a bit beyond the class level. Be honest and get back to them via a grass-catcher list.
- Knowledge - This goes without saying, you are an expert in this field. Do your homework, ask questions, research your topic, be fully prepared.
- Style - Are you able to use multiple teaching styles? Can you handle different types of learners?
- Attention - Survey your audience frequently. Make eye contact as much as is posible rather than staring out into space or looking down at notes. If someone raises their hand, can you recognize it in a reasonable amount of time?
- Role Model - Your students will often copy you. Are you dressed suitably? Do you pay reasonable attention to good paddling form? Do you pay attention when running a river? Do you practice what you preach?
- Closing - Do you summarize the topic with the essential items you want the students to remember?
We are reasonable. This isn't a paddling class although you will need to be reasonably proficient in your boat and skilled in self-rescue techniques.
Are you very proficient with a throw rope? Do you even carry a throw rope and some carabineers? Can you demonstrate safe wading and swimming skills? During this class, we will be testing these skills in a variety of ways. Can you act appropriately as part of a rescue team? Take a close look at the Level 4 skills assessment form: Level 4: Skills Assessment. These are the skills you will need to demonstrate to pass this course - pretty cut and dry. You will also need to show current CPR and first-aid certifications - this is a mandated requirement for all ACA instructors. I plan to use the skills assessment form as a teaching tool. You will be asked to self-evaluate so we can compare. Be reasonable with yourself - someday you will be providing assessments to students.
During this class, you will get many chances to lead. I plan to have people take turns leading on various parts of the river. I plan to add some minor challenges along the way so I can get a feel on how well you pay attention to your class of students. You will be asked to demonstrate trip leader, scout, and sweep roles (and perhaps some others as well).
How well do you work with others? Are you comfortable co-teaching? Do you know how to fill in for missing roles if necessary? Do you show up on time - this is a big one!
A great deal goes into certifying an instructor. Hopefully the above information helps to explain the evaluation process. We will be constantly coaching/mentoring throughout this class. We try to be as objective as possible but let's face it, soft skills are not exactly measurable. If you prepare ahead of time, read the training materials, and practice - I am certain you will succeed.