State of Nature

“State of nature as the main index to assessing and respecting individual restrictions, and to identifying the most appropriate formal precise pedagogical action to be applied at each stage of the learning process”

One motivation to this project has been, indeed, our opinion as physical education teachers that the well prepared teacher will be better positioned in regard to the learning process once he/she manages to intellectualize, as much as possible, his/her role in class.

Teaching models we observed demand instructors to escort beginners wherever they go during lessons, especially in the water. Such models seem to be based on the satisfaction of an expectation which we assume to originate from a misconceived idea of the real meaning of the sport, the actual demands it requires and the time it will take for a beginner to be actually safely surfing on his/her own. In this model, not only students’ motor patterns may be highly subjected to distortion, but also a very exhaustive physical routine is imposed to instructors, depriving them from the ability to focus desired levels of attention and energy onto observation and analysis of students’ performance, and probably compromising the longevity of their careers in the teaching of the sport.

Our method aims at taking students on a journey throughout the entire learning process, not directly interfering and rather using the state of nature of their training condition as the overall safety device in the process, so each one’s knowledge evolves at their own pace. We do not intend to rush the learning process, as we understand side effects may take place if steps in the process are skipped. (Note: we understand students’ state of nature as the particular condition they present, before pedagogical intervention, once exposed to the surfing environment.)

Students will evolve their fitness and motor repertoire levels as they engage in the proposed practical activities. Designed for the achievement of specific didactical purposes through physical means, those practical activities will play an important role in both students’ intellectual and physical surfing education.

By not receiving external physical assistance, students will be constantly aware of their real limits. Safety will be provided by assessing those limitations and developing specific strategies to equalize environmental difficulty levels in terms of students’ possibilities.

Each time students are presented with a new content of study, assessment of specific individual limitations should take place by having them experiment with a simplified version of the motor tasks involved in the practice of the referred content, estimating performance accordingly to a predetermined set of evaluation parameters.

Progress will be slow, but consistent. Taking environmental taming theory into perspective, traditional surfing schools’ teaching model seems to suffer from an anachronism in the ordering of its teaching contents. Observation of instructors’ daily routine suggests they spend a significant amount of energy on the management of a series of environmental hazards which come into play when students are exposed to the various class activities, especially on the earliest stages of the learning. In our opinion, students’ physiognomy upon activity performance demonstrates unawareness to some, if not to most of those hazardous factors.

We deem that the safety procedures instructors practice are consequential to a questionable pedagogical perspective on which the ordering of the teaching-learning process is based. The model start-up leads to a peculiar course of measures which, in an educational context can be interpreted as pedagogical actions. From a mathematical approach, though, it is conceivable that the described dynamic represents a predicted set of restoring forces merely evoked to bring a system state back to equilibrium in response to a given external disturbance.

We presume it is possible that the current pedagogical approach underestimates the environmental taming precondition which the surfing scenario imposes to those willing to acquire intimacy until the point on which dealing with environmental obstacles becomes no longer a source of concern but, in turn, an opportunity to evolve. Current model’s low sensitivity to the need for environmental familiarization may result from the significant emphasis which is placed on surfboard maritime interaction from day one. By directing students’ learning process through a course of experiences first based on environmental taming, it is our main safety pedagogical strategy to provide what we refer to as “nest enlargement-effect”. We consider each main natural component in the starting scenario ‒ giving first consideration to its static-low dynamic components (sidewalk, sand, rocks, woods, wind and calmer shallower waters) ‒ and break them up into simple different ways to help emerge the various general/specific demands surfing will eventually require from students. Students should first progress in the study of each component in an isolated fashion ‒ to maximize activity attention and energy canalization onto focusing of motor physiological stimulation ‒ so later composition of those components may follow with as minimum attention and energy deviation from components’ coordination as possible. (Note: didactically speaking, we shall refer to a multicomponent-coordinative composition activity as a “situation study” wherein main goal resides in enhancing coordination of components to a level where environmental disturbance over attention focusing and energy canalization becomes minimal.)

We assume a maritime educational lifesaving perspective so didactical practicing in the earlier teaching units leads to gradual awareness acquirement of the diverse environmental hazards, and also to the refinement of underlying maritime swimming skills and safety procedures, promoting environmental familiarization along with general refinement of fitness levels and motor repertoire.

As students develop an environmental intimacy foundation, pedagogical actions may naturally shift to more specific surfing-related issues, redirecting didactical focus to more dynamic-unstable-surfing related natural components and situations. Wave analysis/interaction gains emphasis and maritime swimming develops into bodysurfing. Later on, surfboard handling, analysis, manipulation and interaction are introduced, followed by student/surfboard-wave interaction and surfing transversal themes.

Therefore, pedagogical progression in our model is considered in a three-dimensional perspective: (i) general-to-specific motor physiological stimulation; (ii) static-to-dynamic environment exploration; (iii) component-to-situation environment exploration.

“Nest enlargement-effect” means each didactical activity needs to be designed not only in accordance to pedagogical guidelines, but also considering the above mentioned three-dimensional perspective upon assessment of students’ specific restrictions to the referred activity, to elicit estimation of the exercise difficulty threshold around which performance should target. Threshold maintenance is to be provided and sustained through environmental intervenient factors management. This allows pedagogical planning to admit activity engaging regardless of surfing conditions, enriching the environmental familiarization process.

Environmental management requires, in a starting scenario, well defined-narrow boundaries to activity range delimitation. As students become more familiarized with the surrounding possibilities, strictness can be gradually decreased. With no external interference, students have the chance to observe themselves, comprehending their real strengths and weaknesses, and searching for ‒ through instructors’ orientation ‒ possible solutions to overcoming the various situations they will experiment with. As the learning progresses, safety boundaries should proportionally deteriorate.

By the end of the course, we intend that students may have become aware of the learning process to follow in order to refine surfing performance, as well as of the requirements it demands and the realistic risk it represents, having developed a critical look over all the potential hazards involved, aware of the skills and tactics to manage in order to minimize those main intervenient dangers. Most important, students will have learned never to underestimate the ocean power, no matter how well may they have performed in the course.

That is, considering learning results may drastically vary among students ‒ due to various natural individual restrictions such as genetics, precedent motor repertoire, sports practice background, fitness levels and socioeconomical cultural factors, for example ‒, our method is designed to work as the foundation of one’s ability to keep on practicing and evolving, on an unsupervised conscious basis, in the sport of surfing after an introductory formal learning period.

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