Saturday, March 21, 2015

How Do We Teach What We Do?

I wrote on this blog about my Green Belt Test, and how one effect of it was a major revision of curriculum and how much material was required.  My teacher rewrote it at the time, but we were not participants in that process, and he didn't distribute that version to us in written form, as he was still figuring it out.

I think I've said before we were his "guinea pigs" as far as curriculum structure goes, right?
Although he wouldn't teach us this sort of thing - off balance, left side wide open... image found here.
Just as we were promoted us to Brown Belt, our teacher decided to do another major revision, this time with our direct participation.  We also, for the first time, wrote it up with the intent that it should be distributed to students directly.  You know, with pictures, lineage, history of the art, and glossary.

It's fancy.

We even punch with our pinkies out, due to being fancy.
(no, no we don't, not really, that'd be awful and stupid - image found here)
We created a Junior Arnis curriculum that was somewhat derivative of the adult curriculum (mainly in that it removed the knife work and added in stick sparring) for our new Junior program not too long after that, and that's what we've been living with for the past three years or so.

Going through the process of building a curriculum - somewhat from scratch - the last time we did it was really illuminating.  Our school teaches a blend of Kombatan and Modern Arnis, and the Kombatan elements are heaviest in the lower levels.  Blending the two is not too difficult, and we're certainly not the only school that does that.  But thinking out the progression and how all the skills and techniques fit together... that's hard.

My teacher has recently revised our Junior Arnis program curriculum after the experience we've had with it (and discussions with people he trusts), and now he is looking at revising the adult curriculum to "match". 

The new "JMA" curriculum has a lot less content. and he's added in a few things that are good that we dropped during the last revision by necessity, as we didn't want to end up with a huge amount of content, like it was when we tested for Green.

You can build a curriculum several ways, I think...

One is the "narrow, deep channel" approach: less content known incredibly well.  This will result in a Black Belt that might not know a ton of things, but what she knows, she can do with incredible skill, due to repetition and a deeper understanding of what she's been taught.

Another is the "wide, shallow pond" approach:  lots of content but less deep understanding.  This will result in a Black Belt who knows a lot of stuff, but he may not be able to execute all of it with high skill, due to less time spent on repetition and deep study.

And sometimes we take a metaphor too far.

And then, you'd end up somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, which is where I bet most of us aim to be.

We'll see how the new revised Hidden Sword curriculum comes out - I think it will be a narrower, deeper channel than it is now.  The process is really educational in any case.

I'd like to hear about your curriculum challenges, either in design and execution, and the things you've learned either in the creation or in the "trial" period.  Do you use someone else's curriculum to the letter (due to belonging to a martial arts federation of some sort) or do you have your own?  Do you tweak things, and how often!

Let me know in the comments!