Interactive Learning In The Open Water

Interactive Learning In The Open Water

A professor standing at a podium lecturing students on physics concepts or a mathematics teacher explaining calculus in front of a classroom has similarities to a coach standing onshore telling a swimmer what to do in the open water.

That is, the information is unilaterally shared from a professor, a teacher or a coach to the student or athlete, but is this the way information is learned optimally?

More than a decade ago, Harvard University physics Professor Eric Mazur was teaching a difficult concept in physics, but his lecture hall of bright Ivy League students remained stumped. He then asked the students to discuss the concept with one another. The decibel level in the lecture hall immediately rose as 150 students chatted away with one another. “It was complete chaos,” recalled Professor Mazur. “But within three minutes, they had figured [out the problem]. That was very surprising to me [since] I had just spent ten minutes trying to explain this. But the class said, ‘We’ve got it. Let’s move on.”

He then modified his method of instruction and now incorporates interactive learning as his preferred method of teaching. He now says that learning interests him more than teaching. His landmark 1997 book Peer Instruction promotes a shift from teaching to helping students learn. This pedagogical method of interactive learning not only significantly increases students’ comprehension in the short term, but also aids in the long-term retention of knowledge.

Similarly, Open Water Source encourages groups of athletes to swim a race course with their teammates, stopping at various points (e.g., turn buoys, critical visual vantage points along the course, points where currents or waves occur) to discuss the optimal means to navigate and swim fast. Then after the practice swim is over, the athletes are encouraged to discuss among themselves in order to optimally determine the best strategy for various race conditions. Preferably, at least one member of the group would have swum the course in actual race conditions.

This kind of practice swim is ideal for swims under 2.4 miles where often there are several buoys and turns, especially in ocean competitions.

And where do coaches play a role in this kind of open water pedagogical instruction?

Either on a paddle board or kayak alongside their athletes, listening and asking questions – or even swimming with their athletes. Standing onshore away from the action cannot be avoided at times by coaches, but other means of instruction work well in the open water swimming community. The Socratic Method of open water swimming instruction is effective, especially for those early in their triathlon or open water swimming careers guided by an experienced coach.

Interactivity…it happens in the open water whether there are masses of athletes in a large race or between swimmer, pilot and coach on a solo channel swim. Coaches should utilize this method of enabling swimmers or triathletes to learn – and enjoy – open water swimming with their friends, teammates and colleagues.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source