This week I am helping tutor a Level 2 training course for canoe/kayak coaches. This involves giving students what used to be called a coaching process course. It builds on the basic coaching knowledge they will have learnt from a Level 1 course. On day 1 in the afternoon we covered several mini sessions about some theory, which included something about how memory works. Now I wondered at the time why this was important for canoe coaches. The analogy used was one of files in a filing cabinet, or the bin. Anyway whilst listening to the other tutor discussing the options I was thinking how this fitted into learning and teaching. Petty (2006; 8) says that "Learning is making sense, not just remembering", i.e. it is more than just pouring information into the brain to be stored away for later. In fact does the brain even retain information that isn't accessed regularly?

The relevance of the memory lesson is apparent on day 2 of the course when reference is made to "dog eared" files that someone has learnt previously and are now embedded in the long term memory. Or the need to create the right information to be stored in these files. These embedded memories will become active during times of stress. So with regard to canoeing technoques if someone has developed an incorrect technique, this can be very difficult to correct as you are trying to change a long term memory file for something new. I have certainly seen evidence for this today with someone attempting a reverse backwater stroke in which he consistently placed the paddle in the crossdeck stroke incorrectly. However in teaching using a "self-check" style markers were given for an effective stroke, including what face of the paddle should face forward on the crossdeck stroke. Thus the student could instantly see when the correct stroke was done when he was conscience about what he was doing. In a canoe this stroke can be done on both side (bilaterally). On the student's other side no such error of paddle placement was evident.

What I noticed was as soon as the student stopped "thinking" about the stroke he reverted back to his original incorrect method, although it was an easy matter of a one word reminder to correct. The student asked some questions about why the stroke should be as shown, i.e looking for some motivation and explanation as to effectiveness and reasoning.

Petty (2006;13) talks about reproduction of tasks which are on the lower level of Bloom's taxonomy and
"Do not require the learner to process the material, or apply the learning, or even to understand it. This makes the task simple, but has the disadvantage that it does not require the learners to create a meaning in mentalese and to connect it to their existing learning"
Mentalese is the language that our brains store information in, as opposed to the language we use to communicate to others in. So in the case of our paddler re-learning a stroke, only copying it isn't sufficient to add onto the current knowledge embedded in his brain. A teacher needs to create understanding and sufficient repetitions and adaptation in different environments to create enough meaning to change or add onto the previously learnt technique. Changing well use dog eared files is difficult and may need to tackled from novel approaches to create a new file which can be accessed more readily.

So for the paddler in question, on the side he has not practised the stroke before there was no memory, so the practice and coaching was effective quite quickly. However on the original side further understanding and effectiveness was required to start the process. If I ask for a repetition of the stroke tomorrow will a change be made without input? Maybe, but maybe not..So considering a teaching style which uses higher levels on Blooms Taxonomy may be necessary to effect the change permanently
 



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