Teaching Styles in Equestrian Coaching

Think about this for a moment! You may know mystical teachings of jesus or why you coach but have you considered how you coach.As a coach you can use a variety of teaching styles in your lessons with students. You could be more familiar with the words coaching or instructional styles or even facilitative methods or approaches depending on your discipline and training. Many equestrian coaches use a more direct style of teaching in their lessons where the coach gives commands or demonstrates and the students follow their cues.

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Think of one of your lessons where you say: Whole ride, trot and the whole ride trots on or you say: Everyone, come in here and everyone comes in together to the designated place. These are typical examples where you as the coach are making all or almost all of the decisions and taking responsibility for the students’ learning in the lesson.

Another similar style of teaching allows the students to take a little more responsibility in making decisions by practising for a set time on their own or working with a partner. Does this type of teaching style sound familiar? By taking more responsibility and making more of the decisions, students can also assess their own performance against set criteria or choose the level of difficulty to participate.

If you use words such as Command, Practice, Reciprocal, Self-check or Inclusion when you talk about your teaching style/s in coaching, you are most likely using teaching styles that encourage students to reproduce existing knowledge, replicate models, recall information and practice skills. If, for example, you are teaching your students how to brush their horse correctly, pick out their feet safely, or ride through a showjumping grid several times, you are most likely using these teaching styles.

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Other teaching styles that you may use in your lessons will seek to shift that decision-making responsibility even further from the coach to the student. These styles are Guided Discovery, Convergent Discovery, Divergent Discovery, Learner-Designed, Learner-Initiated or Self-Teaching where the student is more likely to discover new knowledge for themselves. If, for example, your students are exploring new ways to communicate with their horse then it is more likely that you are using these teaching styles.

In these articles, the student makes more decisions to be responsible for their own learning in the lessons. Be careful though when thinking about the teaching style/s that you are using – sometimes names are used in a general sense that do not always accurately describe what happens. For example, coaches sometimes say they use Guided Discovery with a group of students. It is more likely that Guided Discovery is used as a teaching style with one student rather than a group.

Generally speaking, Guided Discovery calls for the coach to ask a series of questions so that the student can discover the answer. It is difficult for all students to achieve individual learning at the same rate as others when in a group. Depending on how they are learning, some students will want to ask different questions to other students when discovering the answer.

The eleven teaching styles of Command, Practice, Reciprocal, Self-check, Inclusion, Guided Discovery, Convergent Discovery, Divergent Discovery, Learner-Designed, Learner-Initiated and Self-Teaching (labelled A-K) are found along a continuum known as the Spectrum of Teaching Styles. Because there could be an infinite number of teaching styles, these eleven are known as landmark teaching styles.

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The Spectrum of Teaching Styles, developed by MuskaMosston, and over time refined during a collaboration with Sara Ashworth (2008) is a unified theory about teaching and learning behaviour that is a comprehensive framework for understanding the teaching/learning process. The Spectrum is built on the idea that teaching behaviour is a chain of decision-making and that every deliberate act of teaching is a result of a previous decision.

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