In my role as a PADI Course Director I help candidates not only construct prescriptive teaching presentations but also develop their presentation technique.

A common sticking point for many of them is their ability to draw practical application to real diving circumstance, early on in the development phase of their training we’ll often help them out by providing examples and hopefully how we mapped out the connection between the topic and the example. Many seemed wowed by these quick fire examples set by more experienced presenter but that’s the precise reason a rapid example can be drawn; experience.

Something that shows a clear separation between newer dive professionals and their more experienced colleagues is their ability to use example. To draw upon varied examples of practical application and how they seem to conjure from thin air stories of their experience in a short time frame.

There’s no short cut to that experience but something we have to our advantage as humans is our ability to listen, learn and repeat.

I use to think that old instructor war stories were just bravado and bluster; in many instances they were but some became pure gold to me in my formative years as a PADI instructor. Examples of how they coped with diving conditions changing, students overcoming difficulty all the way to sales techniques they had used.

I changed those stories from the first person to the second; ‘A friend of mine was diving and…’, ‘I heard a great tip about…’ and appropriated them in to my arsenal.

Having a bank of appropriate stories and examples will most certainly come with experience feel free to have the first entries to that bank be the experience of others that you work with, trained with or even follow on social media.

Once you’ve started collecting examples it’s just a matter of connecting the dots and that’s what we’ll be teaching you during your IDC.

In 2004 I sat my IE, like many there I was nervous as we sat through the orientation and I really only recall the list of ways we could fail being read out by the examiners; I’m certain they said much more but that’s where my mind was focused at the time.

Our assignment sheets were handed out, our confined water, open water and knowledge development presentations all listed on them for us to prepare for the next few days and every group asked their teammates “who got the CESA”, exactly as every group of candidates does today.

In retrospect we were clearly over prepared when we arrived; we’d been going in the pool for early morning skill circuits without our CD’s knowledge and had been giving each other physics and decompression theory presentations late in to the night, all on top of a solid IDC.

I don’t remember the skills I got but I do remember two things very clearly. I remember all of the scores I received and I remember giving my knowledge development presentation. It was ‘How do computers compare with each other and the RDP with respect to surface interval credit and M-values?’ taken from the decompression theory section of the then Divemaster program.

I looked at that question as many of you may be now and thought ‘ahhhh sh….!’ At the time I will admit my knowledge of the topic was minimal and even if could research the subject to the best of my abilities I was unconvinced on how was I going to teach the subject in the limited time frame available during the IE.

I decided to stick to the basics. I looked at what was expected of me by the examiner and delivered a presentation that would secure me a pass. The next day I stood in front of my peers, classmates and the examiner and delivered a presentation on Spencer Limits EE Washout and 60 Min Washout and Buhlmann Limits EE Washout. After I had finished what I felt was a rather flimsy presentation I was rewarded by a firm congratulatory handshake from my examiner and a faultless 5 out of 5.

I asked my friend, Paul who I had completed both my Divemaster and IDC with if he understood the topic any more than yesterday to which he gave a highly expected, no.

I tell this story a lot during the IDC’s and other pro development workshops I conduct now as an example of how every presentation can be improved. I was extremely proud of my 5 back then but as I started teaching I realised it really meant nothing, especially not to them.

During the IDC we encourage to think of the process not only as candidates preparing for an examination but also from the students point of view. Our candidates at all levels are scored and counselled on three levels during each presentation and the pertinent feedback is given according to each individual candidate’s development and needs.

Firstly we score and council for development. This is what I as the PADI Course Director see requires addressing in the development phase e.g. demonstration ability, knowledge required, organisation and technique. The IDC is after all a development program and is a space in which candidates are encouraged to make mistakes and try new methods of delivery rather than just a program conducted to help them pass an IE. It’s the first horizon in their career as Instructors and the counselling process is vital during this phase.

The second scoring view point we have to consider is what the summative scoring system used by the examiner will see. This scoring has no subjective opinion; it was either said or done therefore passes or it wasn’t and does not. Style, delivery, depth and relevance of information, the type of language used, amongst many other key presentation factors are not taken into consideration. This score is final and is a reflection of what the examiner will score during the IE, their second horizon.

The final and most important feedback I feel is from the student’s point of view. Was there any real substance to the presentations? Were realistic diving applications used? Would the student really feel like they understand the correct answer and also why they should remember it from the information and the way in which it was delivered?

Good teachers in any field are empaths and scuba diving is no different. The language used, the method of presentation and even the style of its delivery may vary based on an understanding of how each student is receiving and processing the information. Our job as instructors is to adapt to that as they are people seeing or attempting to understand information being delivered to them for the first time.

The emphasis should be on practical examples and good values during the development phase of both instructor candidates and their future students. I’m always extremely proud when a candidate completes their IE with solid passing scores but it’s how they felt about presenting during it and their feeling of being able to stand in front of real students in the future which is more important.

In aviation accidents, a chain of events (or error chain) is the many contributing factors typically lead to an accident, rather than one single event. These contributing actions typically stem from human factor-related mistakes and pilot error, rather than mechanical failure.

Sometimes you find interconnectivity in strangest places and several years ago I recall reading an article reviewing the US Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster which occurred on January 28, 1986 in which the Solid Rocket Booster malfunctioned upon launch and tragically resulted in a massive explosion killing all seven crew members on board over The Atlantic Ocean.

The piece struck a chord with me as I recall watching the event live on TV as a child. It was a surreal experience; seeing the explosion and hearing the seemingly endless silence that followed from the usually vocal new reporters. I guess some images stick with you forever.

The piece which is now sadly lost to memory was the first time I had read the term ‘Error Chain.’

‘In aviation accidents, a chain of events (or error chain) is the many contributing factors typically lead to an accident, rather than one single event. These contributing actions typically stem from human factor-related mistakes and pilot error, rather than mechanical failure.’

The term clearly stuck with me for some time as I recall bringing the term up while teaching Risk Management during an IDC a few years back and it has evolved in to a natural part of the presentation each time I give it. We watch a series of videos of a dramatized event that happened during confined training of a PADI Open Water Training dive in which a series of events also results in a tragic but easily avoidable accident in a pool.

After each section of the video the candidates are asked if they saw anything that concerned them and of they would have done anything differently. I recorded each one of their answers on the whiteboard and we go over each step once the videos have concluded to see if we can see the root cause for the accident or identify the first link of the error chain.

We invariably end up at the same place during every program which is great to see. The candidates identify that the instructor should have been present and in full control of proceedings before entering the water as defined by PADI standards of Direct Supervision.

Observe and evaluate student diver ability to perform skills and understand theoretical knowledge. Do not delegate this responsibility to certified assistants except as outlined in specific course standards or professional membership standards.’

-2017 PADI Instructor manual-

This is an awesome exercise to go through as one of the major objectives of professional diving programs is to instil an instructors mindset and chasing the error chain back to its root cause most certainly proves that they are ready to move forward in to teaching real candidates and use these critical thinking skills to avoid incident or accident happening in the first place.


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