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Standards and Philosophy
Whether we are outcome or process driven, it is important to know what principles and ideals drive the PMTS.org Instructor Accreditation. Attainable, objective standards that demonstrate relevance in the ski teaching environment are the expressed goals for PMTS.org teaching and accreditation.
It isn’t unusual to hear questions raised about whether the exam requirements and standards are the same across the nation. Drawing from my experience as an examiner for PSIA Rocky Mountain and as an ex-Demo Team member, with many training trips to the Central division, I can clearly state that they are not the same. The idea here isn’t to point the finger at any single division or their certification process, but to address the truth openly. The reality of the issue is, how can a Rocky Mountain instructor possibly be compared to a Central or Intermountain certified equivalent? The mountains are different, the requirements of teaching terrain are different and the time spent on snow by an instructor weighs heavily in favor of the full-time, Rocky Mountain skier.
Even within a division, the quality and capability requirements for instructors differ in the regions within the division. Rocky Mountain instructors who are certified on the Front Range in the early season and instructors certified at Telluride in the spring are often not required to demonstrate the same skill levels, but end up with the same certification level. In addition, every examiner has his/her idea of the standards for the conditions on a given day. You may be much more comfortable at a full certification exam at Copper in December on hard snow, with small bumps and limited terrain, than in the black level bumps at Telluride after a full winter of snow. I understand from instructors that picking the location and time can play a large role in your success rate for certification. So, given these situations, the instructor begins to feel that playing the exam time and location card favorably will swing the odds in favor of succeeding. I have some difficulty accepting and tolerating this kind of game playing. I envision a system that establishes objective standards for training and examination, not a system that leaves open so much room for ambiguity that the final decisions are left to the biases of individual examiners in any given situation. If it were possible to measure performance standards objectively in the PSIA system there wouldn’t be a need to play the strategic "outguess the examiner and exam schedule" game. Every exam should yield fair, consistent results. In fact, if the standards were measurable you could know your outcome before the exam. This can be done if training and examining were provided and measured with the same criteria.
When I was director of training at Winter Park we had a one-hundred-percent pass rate at PSIA exams. We simply did not send to exams instructors who didn’t meet the training staff’s standards. Our standards at Winter Park to attend certification had more objectives - measurable, efficient mechanics or movements - but fit beautifully into the PSIA certification requirements. We were successful because our training goals were to produce and improve our ski school, not to pass exams. I favor a motivation that says "I want to be a better instructor" and if achieving a higher level of certification goes with that motivation, all the better. Importantly, can we with the PMTS.org accreditation process encourage instructors to be motivated to become better ski instructors, not just to achieve a certain level?
When we designed the PMTS Direct Parallel accreditation we were aware that certain inconsistencies existed in the traditional certification process. We formulated the testing process and requirements to minimize inconsistency between divisions, regions, examiners, snow, and terrain. Perhaps more importantly, we also wanted to change the philosophy of accreditation. We noticed how negative and stressful the traditional certification experience had become, and how instructors frustratedly pursued certification without clear improvements in their ability to teach skiing. In an effort to create a completely new exam philosophy with the PMTS Direct Parallel accreditation, we put the emphasis on education by allowing the examiners to give feedback during the process. This gives the examiner and candidate time to develop common ground in knowing the standards for PMTS teaching and skiing. As well, the accreditation then becomes a means by which the instructor improves his/her teaching ability.
We feel that teaching ability, delivery skills, and understanding are more important than skiing ability. PMTS accreditation is therefore seventy percent weighted toward teaching, rather then valuing skiing above all. The response from candidates about the format has been very positive. Regardless of how fair an accreditation process is, failure to achieve the first or next level is always a disappointment. With PMTS accreditation, even the unsuccessful candidates leave knowing exactly where they stand in regard to their teaching and skiing. It is evident to them where they have to improve to be successful the next time out.
Take Pride in PMTS Accreditation
The PMTS Accreditation system is structured to encourage, motivate and support instructors. It is designed to create substantial, attainable, merit-worthy standards. PMTS Accredited instructors can take pride in their professional level. They can be confident in their knowledge, to the point where they can stand up in a polite, encouraging, yet unflappable way when they have the opportunity to contribute valuable, substantive information in the presence of any instructor or examiner, from any other system in the world. Stand up and feel proud of your skiing knowledge. Skiers will recognize you for your teaching ability and the new standard of teaching you present. To the ski industry and other instructors, you have demonstrated that you have made the extra effort to become more educated. Your students will appreciate and recognize the difference a PMTS instructor makes. You demonstrate a necessary and increased dedication to skiing with your PMTS accreditation.