In the USPA Coach Certification Course, candidates learn a strategy for presenting material to their students called “backward chaining.” This method involves presenting concepts from the end result and working backward step by step, before putting the concepts together as a whole. Backward chaining works particularly well for teaching landing patterns, because skydivers naturally work backward (from where they want to land) when deciding on their landing approaches.
The following is an example lesson using backward chaining that is geared toward jumpers making their first solo canopy flights. (You may notice that it also uses another strategy taught in the coach course, the whole-part-whole method.) For this lesson you’ll simply need dry-erase markers to use on an aerial map of your DZ. The bullet-pointed sentences below represent questions you should ask your student that will require them to answer.
First, tell you student what he will be learning by saying something like, “Now we will address the landing pattern, that is, what tasks you perform when you are landing your canopy, specifically from 1,000 feet to the ground. By the end of this section, you will have correctly drawn out five landing patterns based on different wind conditions.”
On the aerial map, draw a normal landing pattern from 1,000 feet to the ground. Briefly note how to use the windsock for direction indication, the names for each leg (downwind, base and final) and the altitude at which each should begin, and designate the target. Resist the urge to go into a lot of detail. At first, students need only the big picture: what their goal is and what their end result needs to be (the first “whole” in whole-part-whole). Details (“part”) come during practice.
Now have your student actively participate using the marker and map:
After backward chaining each part from the end result (landing at the intended target) to the beginning (entering the pattern), ask the student to bring the parts together into a whole:
Then have the student backward chain a landing pattern with winds from the north using the same steps. Once he’s successfully done so, you can check his comprehension of the topic by asking:
At this point, review the material, compare the student’s goals to his performance and ask questions that require him to seek a deeper understanding of concept such as:
This lesson plan is effective, asks many questions of the student, gives a lot of guided practice and tests for higher levels of comprehension, all while taking up very little time.