Friday, February 24, 2012

General or Specific?

As a kyu rank, I remember being in a class of 15-20 people. The class instructor was leading the group through drills, kata and basics. He would often pause and offer pointers to the class. The instructor would tell the group to “check your stance”, “bend your knees” or “fix your hand position”. After each suggestion, students would check their technique and make corrections as needed. This pattern went on for a few minutes until he stopped the group.

The class instructor announced he would no longer make general comments to the class rather he would make specific comments to individuals.

His explanation...

Not all the students were checking their techniques.
Students in the correct position were making faulty corrections.
Students in the incorrect position were not making corrections.
Blanket statements were taking up a lot of class time.

The reaction from the class was divided. Some students did not like being singled out and felt “picked on”. I was included in the other group of students who appreciated the corrections.

It has been seventeen years but I still remember the class and the lesson learned. As a class instructor, I prefer to offer specific comments to individuals. The suggestions and corrections are offered as an opportunity to help students learn and improve.

What is your experience? General or specific?

A big welcome to the new followers of this blog! 


Ariel said...

As a student, I really don't like general correction. I want to KNOW if I'm the one making the mistake and how, then I can go about fixing my mistake. There's a degree of uncertainty that comes up when a blanket statement is made and you're trying to figure out if this applies to you or not.

When I am teaching, I try to stick with individualized corrections because I know how I feel about them, but I know that I will make blanket statements occasionally.

Michele Apsokardu said...

You are right about the uncertainty a general comment can cause.

Thanks for commenting Ariel and good luck on your upcoming black belt test!

Journeyman said...

I think there's still a place for general comments such as "Make sure you're in a proper stance" or "Keep your hands up" - things like that.

In a large class, it can be challenging to give individual corrections to everyone (if needed). I've always appreciated specific feedback but I can understand some newer students may not like it as much. Then again, individual attention can be scaled to the level of experience. You can also praise someone who's getting the basics as you pass by.

I'm still thinking about your last post "You can't make someone". I've had those "ah ha!" moments myself where a mystery has solved itself, sometimes on my own, sometimes with my teacher, and sometimes with another instructor or student. I've recently done some study on learning styles (for adults, mainly). Different people learn differently at different times in their lives. It's a puzzle. Having a flexible teaching style helps.

I will agree with you that if you decide not to learn something, there's not much you can do. I've switched off on various things during my journey and have been as bull headed as anyone. I'm now trying to open back up my mind to some of these things. Everyone has their kama...

Good posts.

Rick said...

I'm kind of a dope.

For me, I like to be shown specifically what it is I'm doing incorrectly so I can correct it.

SueC said...

I feel that as we tend to make individual mistakes we benefit best from individual correction. I think most people learn to overcome their sensibilities to criticism and generally welcome the feedback and individual attention it brings. That's not to say that some general feedback isn't useful as well.

You've written some very interesting posts recently Michele, thank you.

Michele Apsokardu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michele Apsokardu said...

Thank you for your comments!

Journeyman: Interesting comment on adults and learning. When I was learning the bo kata Tokumini Nokun Ichi, my instructor decided to teach me Tokumini Nokun Ni for a tournament. The kata are very similar. I ended up learning the second kata before the first one. It is hard to explain but it was as if Tokumini Nokun Ichi was pushed out of my brain and replaced by Ni. A puzzle...

Rick: :)

Sue: Thanks for your kind words. The dojo dynamic has changed slightly due to several new students in the dojo. I am enjoying the challenge!