Learning Together

Since last summer I have spent three weekends in Denmark and held a course for instructors who want to learn more so that they can have courses based on the book “Retrieving for All Occasions”. These weekends have been great fun and I have also learnt a lot myself. When I teach instructors, I always have to think a little extra about how and why I do certain things. I also get new ideas, of course, and sometimes think, for example: “Oh, I used to do like that before, why have I stopped doing it?”.

Paxa supervises Karen, Aino, and Milles while they are doing plans, but Saga relaxes.
Paxa supervises Karen, Aino, and Milles while they are doing plans, but Saga relaxes.

This course for instructors has three different steps. The first step is that the students do our basic course. It is almost a little bit like fiction – when they take the course they are just like any other students and we don’t talk about how to teach at all, instead they just train their dogs as if they were normal students. They are, of course, very skilled dog instructors, so they are not very realistic students, 😉 but I force myself to pretend that they are like any other student.

After they have completed the basic course and done a couple of exercises, for example retrieving exercises, we take a break. Then we start to do step two. At this point we talk about what we did, what type of difficulties that can arise, what kind of challenges that Elsa’s and my students usually have, when we teach them these exercises, and we give them a lot of good advice to think about.

Then it’s time for step number three. Now we divide the students into small groups with three students in each. The people in the groups then have three different parts to play: instructor, student, and observer / timekeeper. “The instructor” then teaches the “pupil” during a couple of minutes. Then they take a short break so that the student can tell the others how it was to have that person as an instructor, and the instructor talks about how it was to teach, and the observer tells everybody what he or she saw. Then they do the same thing again. After that they change around so that they all can test the different parts in the small group.

Genius speculate.

This is a very fun and smart form of education and I love it – and the students do too. 🙂 They learn things on so many levels. I walk around and help them, talk about what I see, give them some guidelines when it comes to exercises and so on. It is a luxurious job, because I also learn a lot and discover small interesting details, when they do their exercises and can listen to thoughts that the group has about various exercises.

Language practice.

Last weekend, which was the last one of the three, – but I am very glad to say that they have asked me to come three more weekends, so the fun journey continues 😉 – we had some time before the course was over, so they got the opportunity to do a “test instruction”. I filmed Mette while she instructed Mille and the young dog Pippi in steadiness, and she did a great job.

Karen, Mille, Helle, Aino, Tina, Mette together with their four-legged assistants.

Mette clearly and explicitly gives her instructions. Nothing unnecessary. She sees small things that might need to be changed in Milles training and gently changes them so that they succeed very well with the exercise.

Mille clicks and rewards a lot in the beginning of the training. To give the dog a lot of information about what is the right thing to do helps, of course, the dog to learn faster, you can see that it is very clear to Pippi when her behavior is right. I especially like the way that Mille also clicks when she bends down to take the dummy which she just put down – it’s often a difficult distraction for a dog who is learning to be steady.

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