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Instructor Trainer Apprenticeship Redevelopment Proposal

Request for Feedback

The Program Coordination Committee is keen to hear your thoughts and feedback on either the proposals outlined below or other ways to improve the Instructor Trainer development process.

Please submit your feedback in writing by August 31, 2016 via the online form.



Over the past couple years Paddle Canada has received feedback from the membership that they feel the Instructor Trainer mentorship process needs to be improved.

In July, 2015 the Paddle Canada Board of Directors tasked the Program Coordination Committee to do a complete review of the Instructor Trainer (IT) training process and to report back a list of recommendations for improvement.

In February, 2016 an initial report of findings and recommendations was submitted to the Board and it was approved for release to the membership along with a request for feedback.

Challenges for Instructor Trainer Candidates

Identified issues facing instructor trainer candidates include:

  • difficulty for IT candidates to find mentors to work with as well as courses to apprentice on,
  • inconsistent training experiences across Canada,
  • difficulty transferring IT status from one discipline to another (canoe IT certification to SUP for example).

Challenges for Instructor Trainers

We identified several significant barriers to participation for current Instructor Trainers which include:

  • dfficulty finding apprentices to work with. Many would be willing to mentor if asked but don’t know who is interested,
  • there is little to no training on how to actually organize and conduct a mentorship,
  • lack of clear direction and learning outcomes in the manuals,
  • volunteering verses getting paid due to the significant time investment,
  • perception for some business owners that they don’t want to train their competition.

To help mitigate the many challenges listed above, we are are proposing several significant changes to both the way that candidates are trained as well as instructor trainers are supported. Please note that these recommendations have the full support of all the Program Development Committees as well as the Program Coordination Committee.

Proposals & Recommendations for Change

1) IT Apprenticeship and Application Process

The biggest change we are proposing is the development and implementation of a new Instructor Trainer apprenticeship and application process.

To help the training process as well as provide a gateway for Paddle Canada to formally approve new candidates, we are proposing a new application system which would roughly consist of the following (draft) process:

When a prospective apprentice (PA) feels he/she is ready to start the apprenticeship process, the following (draft) steps will take place:

  1. The PA will first ensure that they have met the requirements for the specific IT level they wish to attain. The list of requirements can be found in the program manuals.
  2. The PA will complete the Application for Apprenticeship paperwork from the Paddle Canada website. The PA will also be required to provide the following:
    1. evidence of the completed prerequisites,
    2. a completed questionnaire as to why he/she would like to become an IT,
    3. references made up of at least 2 former students and 2 peers (Paddle Canada instructors or Instructor Trainers).
      1. Student reference checks will focus specifically on the PA’s teaching and group management skills while the instructor peer references will used as a character check.
      2. Of the 2 required instructor peer references, at least 1 must come from an instructor not affiliated with the PA’s business or paddling school.
      3. All reference letters will be submitted directly to Paddle Canada.
    4. a completed copy of the current IT Commitment document.
  3. The paperwork will submitted to the respective PDC to approve or deny the request.
  4. If the application is approved, the PA will be responsible for finding mentors to work with. Paddle Canada can help facilitate that process by providing the PA with a list of Instructor Trainers for hire.
  5. The supervising IT will then work closely with the PA on the requirements to complete the apprenticeship.
  6. When the apprenticeship requirements are complete, it is the responsibility of the supervising IT to report back to Paddle Canada on the PA’s new certification status. Please note that this is a major change as currently this process is the responsibility of the PA.
  7. If a second supervising IT is a part of the apprenticeship process, the first IT will ensure that the necessary knowledge transfer takes place and the second IT is aware of any gaps or concerns in the PA’s training. When complete, the two supervising IT’s will consult and determine whether to recommend a certification to Paddle Canada.
  8. If successful, certification will be issued and apprenticeship completed.

2) Common IT Training Program

One of the more common complaints we get from Instructor Trainers themselves is that there is no acknowledgement of prior IT training or experience when they pursue IT certification in another Paddle Canada discipline.

For example if a candidate is an both an Advanced Moving Water Canoe Instructor Trainer as well as a Sea Kayak Level-3 Instructor for instance, that person is required to start at the bottom again to become a Sea Kayak IT. It doesn’t make any sense that within our organization we ignore other internal training and experience and force candidates to retrain for what is essentially a very similar skill set (instructor development).

As part of a modernization project, we are proposing a major change to the way that instructor trainers are developed to make it easier to transfer that training to our other disciplines.

Currently, IT development is left up to each PDC to create and maintain the program and standards. While this works well for members who are only interested in certification from one discipline, it ends up being a barrier for those who are multi-discipline certified.

We propose that we merge the individual IT training programs into one, independent system.

The advantages to going to this model include:

  • a standardized training program across all disciplines,
  • a simplified program that is easier to manage,
  • a reduction in the number of mentorships required that are often repetitive and redundant,
  • common policies and learning outcomes across all disciplines,
  • acknowledgement of other discipline certification making it significantly less complicated to get IT certification in other disciplines.

The proposed new outline is below. The new system would consist of two formal training levels which would be obtained via mentorship. For the sake of this proposal we’ve named them Instructor Trainer Syllabus A and B.

We feel that the current 3 or 4 levels of Instructor Trainer development through mentorship is too many leading to repetition and not enough differentiation between consecutive mentorships to justify the difference. At the same time, a single level of instructor trainer development is too few in that it would either be too advanced for lower levels or too basic for our higher levels.

Each level, A and B, will have a defined level-appropriate curriculum, and will require the apprentice to assist in at least two courses. The apprentice will act as a helpful assistant during the first course, and as the lead instructor during the second course. The mentor may require the apprentice assist on additional courses.

Having two mentorship training syllabus allows us to focus-in on the specific skills necessary to train instructors at those levels. For example, level A could focus on how to train new instructors in directive style of instruction while the focus of level B could focus on the much more subtle or advanced styles of instruction including student directed instruction, learning through failure, coaching, etc.

The chart below is an initial attempt at categorizing the levels into A&B. Please note that syllabus A&B shown below are not new certification levels but rather they are specific training curriculum that would be used for mentorship at those levels.

Proposed Instructor Trainer redevelopment org chart.

Under this proposal, a candidate would move up the IT certification ladder through a combination of mentorship, instructor courses and teaching experience.

IT Mentorship Case Study

Lets look at a case study where instructor candidate, Tracey, initially wants to become a Basic Kayak Instructor Trainer but her goal is to eventually become a Sea Kayak Level-3 Instructor Trainer.

Sea kayak org chart for it redevelopment

Basic Kayak Instructor Trainer

  1. To become a Basic Kayak Instructor Trainer, Tracey will first complete the required prerequisites to register for a Level-1 Instructor course. Tracey passes and obtains her Level-1 Instructor certification.
  2. Tracey then completes the initial prerequisites and minimum teaching requirements as outlined in the manual for be a Basic Kayak Instructor Trainer.
  3. Tracey applies for apprenticeship to the Sea Kayak Program Development Committee.
  4. Tracey is approved and goes through the mentorship process using the training outlined as part of Instructor Trainer Syllabus A.
  5. The process is complete and Tracey is pleased. Tracey is now a Basic Kayak Instructor Trainer.

Level-1 Instructor Trainer

Tracey’s next goal is to work towards achieving her Sea Kayak Level-1 Instructor Trainer certification. To complete that she first needs to complete the listed prerequisites but because she has already completed the Syllabus A training, she is not required to go through the mentorship process again. She just needs to apply to the SK PDC providing evidence of all the required prerequisites and apply for Level-1 Instructor Trainer status. If approved then she will receive the certification.

Level-2 Instructor Trainer

Now that Tracey has achieved her Level-1 Instructor Trainer, she wants to work towards her next goal of Level-2 Instructor Trainer. To complete the goal, Tracey will to repeat similar steps as outlined below:

  1. Tracey will first attain the prerequisites to become a Level-3 Instructor.
  2. She will register for and attain her Level-3 Instructor certification.
  3. Tracey will complete the prerequisites and minimum teaching requirements as outlined in the manual for a Level-2 Instructor Trainer.
  4. Completed she will then apply to the SK PDC for IT apprenticeship.
  5. Tracey is approved and completes the mentorship required using the training outlined as part of Instructor Trainer Syllabus B.
  6. The process is complete and Tracey is even happier. She is now a Level-2 Instructor Trainer.

Level-3 Instructor Trainer

As with Tracey’s first group of IT training (Basic and Level-1 IT’s), if Tracey got certified as a Level-4 Instructor, and completed the prerequisites, she could apply to the SK PDC and be granted Level-3 IT status as it is part of the same group of Instructor Trainer Syllabus B which she has already completed.

Advantages and improvements

Under the current system the training outlined above would require a candidate to complete four separate instructor trainer mentorships with each consisting of assisting on at least two courses (total 8+). Under this proposed system Tracey would mentor a maximum of twice by assisting on a total of four courses (2 in Syllabus A and 2 in Syllabus B). It would cut down on the amount of extra training by 1/2.

Another advantage to this new system is that it will make it considerably easier for cross discipline IT certification. For example if Tracey became a Basic Kayak Instructor Trainer via the Instructor Trainer Syllabus A training, she would be eligible to apply (when prerequisites are also complete) to the SUP PDC to also become a Basic SUP Instructor Trainer since the Syllabus A training is already complete.

3) Other proposed changes

We also have several other recommendations to increase the quality and professionalism of the IT training stream:

  • Develop a standardized syllabus across all disciplines that clearly outlines exactly what is required during an apprenticeship as well as minimum hours of training and consultation. This will provide much needed guidance for IT’s as well as standardize the training process across Canada.

    Examples of items covered could include:

    • list of topics to be covered/discussed before the first course teaching together,
    • expected length of training and consultation between supervising IT and apprentice,
    • clear learning outcomes for the apprentice.
  • If done correctly, mentorships take time and is a serious long-term commitment. Because of the extensive time commitment we feel that it’s unfair to expect IT’s to volunteer their time to this task. We need to create a culture where it is acceptable to charge for the service. After all, since skills or instructor development is a paid service, IT training should be as well. We also strongly feel that if somebody still wants to volunteer their time that should be perfectly acceptable.
  • We need to work harder on developing a culture of participation for IT’s. The training materials should clearly state the expectation that all IT’s are to make themselves available for mentorship at least once over the course of four years.
  • Often Instructor Trainers are willing to take on an apprentice but are unable to find a candidate who is available at the time of the sanctioned course. To help bridge this gap, we need to develop both an Instructor Trainer-for-hire list as well as a list of candidates looking for mentors list. This will allow the two groups to efficiently connect.

IT Redevelopment Work Plan

We are proposing the following timeline:

Date Task
February, 2016 Initial high-level agreement by the Board, PCC and all PDC’s on the proposed vision and changes.
March, 2016 Initial update to membership explaining the project, challenges to current system and proposed vision/changes to the system to address them. This is the first call for feedback by the membership.
September, 2016 to February, 2017

PCC reviews membership feedback and starts the detailed process and policies to implement the vision.

PCC will complete a needs assessment so changes to the database can get incorporated to the database redevelopment project.

March, 2017 Second progress update to membership. Unveiling of detailed changes to IT development. Second request for feedback.
September, 2017 to December, 2017

Complete final polishing of policies, and development of communications package explaining changes.

Update of program manuals.

Final board approval.

January, 2017 Changes to the program go live.

Request for Feedback

The Program Coordination Committee is keen to hear your thoughts and feedback on either the proposals outlined above, or other ways to improve the Instructor Trainer development process.

Please submit your ideas in writing by August 31, 2016 via the online form.