by Chris Thompson, PSIA-NW Certification Vice President
Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI) divisions have been conducting skiing certification exams since the early 1960s, and snowboard exams beginning in 1996. We all know that testing is an integral element of the education process. Each of the eight other divisions inclusive of Alaska, Western, Intermountain, Northern Intermountain, Northern Rocky Mountain, Rocky Mountain, Central and East have an exam similar to that of the Northwest. Functionally they vary in time and duration however, all are looking for similar outcomes. As an instructor seeking to improve teaching and skiing or riding skills, look at the exam as an opportunity to challenge yourself and to learn; not as something to be feared.
Both the Alpine and Snowboard Northwest Certification Guides point out that the premise of the certification standards is based upon the concepts of “levels of understanding” which define stages of learning in degrees of understanding. As certification is a measure of understanding, levels of certification represent stages of understanding. Candidates are held to the knowledge and performance standards of the level at which they are testing as well as the criteria for all preceding levels. The exam guide is a living document constantly edited to best reflect current skiing, riding and teaching trends.
Examiner and Divisional Staff Training
Divisional Staff training is held twice per season with the first training at Mt. Hood in mid-November and the second in early to mid-March, typically at Stevens Pass. The Friday of each session is devoted to the exam process. At the fall training, we focused on how to improve the overall exam process. In the spring, we review the current standards to ensure that the exams are conducted according to the certification guide. Although it is exam oriented, the examiners as well as the Divisional Clinic Leaders are engaged in the training process to ensure the message delivered at divisional functions is consistent.
The Divisional Staff is comprised of individuals from all levels of member ski and snowboard schools. They are directors, supervisors, full time and part time teachers or coaches. They work for resident and concession schools. They come from different walks of life and varying skiing or riding experiences. They all have a passion for teaching snowsports and are devoted to working with their guests including the public as well as other instructors.
Last season the focus of the alpine staff was on the teaching and professional knowledge segment of the Level II exam. The Level II topics were rewritten to better reflect the current Alpine Technical Manual – Second Edition, Core Concepts for Snowsports Professionals and other current teaching manuals and resource materials. Both Level II and Level III result sheets were reworked providing the examiners the opportunity to better express their findings. It is the examiners goal to provide the examinees with constructive feedback, including concrete, and attainable short and long term goals. Much is the same with the snowboard, nordic and adaptive exams.
There are three exam modules – written, skiing/riding, teaching/professional knowledge. The modules of the exams are designed to test the skill and knowledge you have amassed throughout your teaching career. It truly is your opportunity to showcase your skiing or riding skills, as well as your teaching skills and professional knowledge. Look at the exam positively and you will derive the greatest benefit.
Each day you are on the snow with your students or free riding, you are rehearsing for your time in the exam spotlight. The primary differences in the exam and day to day teaching are two fold:
- time allowed to work with your students;
- you will be working with your peers versus paid guests.
Yet, your charge is the same, being prepared, working with the teaching cycle, communicating effectively. You will be working to enhance the skiing or riding, and knowledge of your peers.
Throughout the season, I am certain that you will have the support of your peers, trainers, supervisors, and divisional staff members you interact with. All of them are there to help you succeed, along with the examiner staff.
As is said, it is not the pin as much as it is the path along the way. The final outcome is more the personal gains and the ability for you to become a better teacher and coach.
The on-snow module of the exams is always staffed by two examiners. On the alpine side, this season, we are working to have the makeup of the teaching/professional knowledge module also have two examiners working together. We feel that this will make for a more complete and equitable exam. In addition to the staffing changes we have adjusted the Level II and III teaching topics and modified the skiing task descriptions.
If you have any questions regarding the changes or the exam process, the divisional staff email addresses are listed in the Who We Are section of the website in the individual disciplines.[connections_list id=14 template_name=’div_staff’]