Take Responsibility, Own the Dive, Gain Confidence

Not many adventure sports occur in alien environments. In that regard scuba diving is less like skiing or rock climbing and more like playing ping pong in outer space. Divers have to learn knowledge and skills as well as how to properly kit up to simply breathe while participating in and enjoying the activity. To be captivated by diving, an individual needs to engage deeply in diver training. How do we get people to do that?

PADI® courses, while remaining true to their roots, are continuously refined toward moving the diver beyond elementary knowledge and skills to being and thinking like a diver. Your personalized, patient instruction, coupled with PADI training programs and materials, not only sets divers up for success, it also helps them take ownership of their decisions and experiences. For example, they can make diving adventurous or Zen-like because they develop the ability to make sound diving decisions.

Open Water Diver Course – Being a Diver

In the Open Water Diver course, student divers transition from discovery and learning to actually being divers. Each knowledge development section begins with “Being a Diver” and covers topics from understanding what happens to our bodies and our equipment underwater to understanding dive environments and conditions, equipment fit, function and maintenance, taking responsibility for oneself including health and fitness, actively diving, refreshing skills and taking continuing education courses. Students think about what they want out of diving, and they ease into the dive lifestyle through the dive center and dive social media.

At the start of inwater training, students begin purposefully evaluating personal comfort levels using the Skill Practice side of the PADI Skill Practice and Dive Planning Slate so they learn to:

  • Recognize when a skill has gone well and feel confident in their ability.
  • Understand that if a skill has not gone well yet, repetition and practice will develop their ability until they can recognize success and feel confident about the skill.

Use of the confidence self-checks enhances learning directly and indirectly:

  • Indirectly – The instructor recognizes mastery, but finds that students don’t express confidence. If instructor and student assessments don’t match, through this discovery the instructor can use repetition and encouragement to create confidence that matches competence.
  • Directly – The diver learns that it’s good to express emotional discomfort to guide learning. It indicates the need to take extra time to repeat, slow down and review. After certification, the diver has learned how to take responsibility when presented with a diving scenario in which confidence is lacking. This encourages the diver to appropriately step back and evaluate readiness. It might motivate the diver to ReActivate®, take a continuing education course, get professional guidance, etc., depending upon the situation.

This is why the PADI Skill Practice and Dive Planning Slate is required. Using it, student divers take more responsibility for their training. It’s a tool that gets them to speak up if they need to slow down or need extra practice, or to say they’re ready because they know that they are. This approach not only lets them enjoy learning more because they grow in ability as well as confidence, but also because they learn that their choices will affect what happens in the water, which is certainly the case once certified.

Though Open Water Diver students have always been part of the dive planning process for open water dives, the 2013 revision enhanced this by putting them in the lead for Open Water Dive 4. Flipping the slate, divers use the Dive Planning side to work in teams to plan and execute the dive. Ideally, the instructional team is there only to oversee and help when required.

Building upon what they practiced during Confined Water Dive Five’s minidive, students transform into divers under your supervision. They “own” the dive because they show you that they can do it without your instructions. What better way to measure if students have the skills needed for certification than to watch them carry out a dive?

During the debrief, you can reinforce their ability to dive without supervision by using guided discovery questions about what went well and according to plan, how the dive could have gone better, and what they would do differently next time. They are beginning to think like divers.

Advanced Open Water Diver – Thinking Like a Diver

With the 2016 revision of the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course, the required Thinking Like a Diver knowledge development section illuminates the path to diving proficiency. By building on previous knowledge, divers focus on four central dive skills:

  • Planning dives with secondary objectives
  • Developing and applying situational awareness
  • Managing task loading
  • Maintaining good dive habits

This section applies to all Adventure Dives. Regardless of experience coming into the course, Thinking Like a Diver gives students even more ownership of their dive experiences. They do this through awareness, by knowing how to think through problem situations, and by recognizing the value of good habits that might have gone unnoticed before.

Thinking Like a Diver, when fully applied, not only boosts diver skill level, but also creates an earned and appropriate sense of confidence. Putting this into practice on each Adventure Dive and reflecting on it with the instructional team during the debriefing instills the responsibility divers must take for themselves.

As with many activities, people sometimes rely on others to make the experience go smoothly, and skilled PADI Pros play an integral role in helping divers do this. Yet, ultimately, divers must take responsibility for their diving decisions (even on a guided dive). The more they do so, the more they make better decisions that reduce risk, increase enjoyment and boost their emotional investment in the diving experience.

IDC – Thinking Like an Instructor

The revised IDC refinements put our most experienced educators – PADI Course Directors and IDC Staff Instructors – more squarely front and center when it comes to mentoring, and that includes helping new instructors to “own” their instruction and to take responsibility for their teaching decisions.

IDC eLearning exposes instructor candidates to concepts underpinning instructor training. When they come to class, they spend more contact hours in workshops with seasoned instructor trainers. Through training-based scenarios, both dry and inwater, candidates practice the art of teaching in simulated experiences. In this environment, candidates are free to make mistakes, learn from them and adjust accordingly.

The revised IDC (in development now) embodies the thinking-like-a-diver concept turned pro. While candidates hone and develop decision-making skills critical to teaching people to dive, they also acquire the knowledge they need to be successful, not just at the IE but more importantly when they step in front of their future students.

This article appeared in the Fourth Quarter 2018 The Undersea Journal®, written by Julie Taylor Sanders