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Balanced Body COREterly

Winter 2015

Teaching & Learning

Effective Teaching through Cueing and Communication Tools
Part 1: Effective Teaching

by Lee Cooper

The more we know about Pilates and the relationship to the learning process, the more we can ensure individual success as well as the realization of program expectations. As advances in movement sciences, especially motor learning and motor development, find their way into the Pilates venue; we find the integration applicable to this field. This promotes better teaching and learning strategies.

The foundation for this knowledge includes the three components of motor learning, which will be addressed in Part I of this article. How an individual teacher applies this material will be based on training and background. The pathway is then about student motor learning and understanding this course of action. Part II (in our next issue) addresses the opportunity to read a client and their individual learning process. Information provided speaks to the subject or knowledge on task via the teacher’s ability to read verbal, physical, and sight related cues. The final segment will speak to a functional, interactive approach to communicating the Pilates verbiage, based on these new teaching skills.

Part I / Effective Teaching
The Pilates material speaks for itself. Connect this data to a teacher’s personal background and the story takes on a deeper meaning. Attach curriculum studies to the acquisition of skill progressions. Then add training and the uniqueness of a teacher’s style acquired through these two avenues and this becomes the base for a Pilates teaching practice. How the information is passed on from here can be impacted by these two factors. The plot thickens with the student’s motor learning process, which can be defined as follows: a series of measurable, assessable patterns of movements associated with practice, leading to comparatively permanent changes. Key words are “practice” leading to “permanent changes” coming full circle and back around to “measurable events” or the thinking ability that occurs between watching the demonstration and performing the action. Performance success is determined by taking in the information, refining, and then transforming a response in the body. Practice determines the outcome, and thus, the motor skill becomes a permanent change in the body and mind.

Analytic cueing and coaching
As full and rich as training may be, there is always room for more analytic cueing and coaching skills. Thus, understanding the need to incorporate the idea of motor learning. With this in mind, the first element is to demonstrate the exercise. Once this is accomplished, it is up to the student to evaluate the material they see, feel, and hear which leads to their individual motor response. Receive input, process visual, auditory, kinesthetic response, and then proceed to energy output. Sounds easy enough, but of course, this is only the beginning of the learning journey, especially in a field that can be likened to speaking a new language which takes time to wrap around a learning brain. So many intrinsic, fine movement patterns to define and train the body to process! In a foreign language, one does not jump to the subjunctive until the learner has laid the groundwork with past tense, future tense, a rich vocabulary and speaking practice to comprehend the skills associated with the new language. The same is true about Pilates as it takes time to allow the body to find its way into these subtle yet precise motor movements.

The procedure to the next phase in this motor learning idea can be broken down into yet three more components, based on different learning styles (Part II of this article) and body type imbalance issues. Number one is the “effort” to attempt the exercise (measurable movement patterns). Input has been received and process is beginning with use of “correction” from an instructor (practice), and lastly, one tries to “perfect” the exercise in the output (leading to permanent changes). It all ties together with the definition of motor learning, watching for good demonstration, learner evaluation, and their personal motor response. This is finally followed by the effort, correction, and perfection model.

Hundreds is a perfect illustration to incorporate this motor learning concept. Fundamentals have been introduced, muscles are strong enough, and the client is ready for the experience of learning the most famous of the repertory. The learning process begins with a verbal description and demonstration. Cues are given, mental image has formed, a motor plan is established, and the movement is implemented. Keep in mind, there is a great deal of cognitive concentration applied from the learner in order to execute the exercise correctly. What happens after this depends on a number of issues. Did the client pick up on timing? Was there a clear picture of leg placement, arm placement, upper body “rib hinge”, and what are those arms doing anyway? Oh, and by the way, breathe in for 5 counts and out for 5 counts. Success will depend on the client’s perceptual abilities thus the first attempt may be a rough estimate of the exercise. Nonetheless, the client has received input and the measureable movement pattern is introduced.

(continued above)

Now the juicy part starts! The practice piece comes into focus as the client filters the feedback from the teacher, otherwise known as “correction”, or, in reference to the motor skill application, “refining” the practice to achieve permanent changes. The Hundreds becomes refined with effective communication and cues. The skill gains insight through an internal process, as self-sufficiency becomes the goal. There is reinvestment in the original motor plan as the student attempts the proposed adjustments to the movement. With time and insight, The Hundreds takes on a different look from that first attempt. Practice and repetition reveal a perfected model as arms are connected to the back and scoop in the belly is stronger. The flowing, completed model is now in sight.

Interpretation of input
The interpretation of “input” will be different in every single client, as each individual will process in a style of learning that can be similar to that of individual fingerprints. The incoming information is processed based on what a client already knows. Getting a lead on how they map their world makes it possible to be more refined in the communication process. This provides a doorway to molding this information into a strong practice and perfecting not just the movement, but also the Pilates model of vocabulary. Now the “output” begins to make sense in all the layers of practice based on client’s learning mode, which in turn creates better presentation from facilitator. In other words, if the client has to see the material executed before transferring it into the body, demonstration is an important tool (visual). If a client asks the teacher to “talk them through it” then cueing verbally is a better practice with this individual (auditory). If a client has to experience the movement, setting it deeply into the body, the cues are addressed based on “feeling” the process rather than talking the process (kinesthetic). Finally, there is an avenue where permanent changes are potentially on the road to discovery. Part II of this series goes more in depth regarding this learning modality. This prototype brings every teacher, no matter the background, to a middle ground of instruction. The goals are the same despite previous “career upbringing”. The objectives are to understand the motor learning theory, apply it through assessable patterns of movement, develop a practice, and then watch for those permanent changes.