Diving and diving education are rapidly evolving fields. Changes in teaching techniques, new equipment developments, and recently derived knowledge may outdate an instructor's knowledge base in only a few years. Several members have expressed concerns that not all instructors keep abreast of new developments, and may be "diving dinosaurs" in the most unkind sense of the words.
To see how the membership felt about the perceived need of maintaining our instructors' base knowledge, this issue's question regarding instructor recertification was posed.
Members favoring a formal retesting program stressed the following areas and reasons: (1) To maintain student safety, current CPR and First Aid certifications must be maintained. Teaching instructors should also be required to have a current physical exam, as well as complete an effective diver rescue. (2) To stay current with improvements and new developments in the industry, active instructors should take and pass a written examination on current standards and new information (perhaps the current instructor exam.) (3) To insure that all instructors are up to date, the retesting program should be attended every two to three years.
Several ideas on how such a program might be conducted were put forth. These generally fit into the following three categories: (1) Have instructors attend an ITC or weekend crossover type program. (2) Run mandatory Continuing Education workshops. (3) Send take‑home exams to instructors to insure they have been made aware of standards changes and new developments.
Many of the members who responded negatively to the idea of a retesting program did so not because they felt that it was necessarily a poor idea, but rather because they had reservations about the practicality of such a program. Specific objections included: (1) Instructors would leave NAUI for another organization which did not have retesting requirements. (2) Administrative headaches would make a program impractical, especially for our non‑U.S. members. (3) It would be difficult to make such a program equitable. (4) Instructors tend to specialize over time, thus a program constructed around teaching entry level courses might not be relevant to many instructors.
Nineteen responses were received, with members favoring a stronger recertification program outnumbering those against such by about two to one. However, a wide diversity of what elements a retesting program should contain were opined in the responses. Obviously, were a more stringent program to be implemented, the concrete requirements of that program would need further discussion and review. The individual views put forth by the responding members may be examined in further detail below.
QUESTION: "Should NAUI require a periodic retesting of the instructor skills of currently teaching instructors? If so, to what degree?"
A. Yes. If an instructor is teaching a full NAUI program, including Diver Rescue Techniques, then that instructor should be required to maintain current status in CPR and First Aid certification. Both of these are required teaching topics in many courses. Current certification in these areas, along with evaluation of rescue skills and accident management, is especially important for those teaching entry level classes. The degree of stress experienced by beginning students will greatly exceed that level felt by advanced students, and will cause more "rescue" type situations. An instructor must be able to deal with these, and should be evaluated by his/her peers as to this ability. If the industry is asking that students show some degree of current experience, including possibly recertification, then instructors ought to lead the way‑‑by requiring the same of themselves.
‑‑John "Seal" Smith, NAUI 5348; Irvine, CA (University Instructor, primarily teaches entry level courses. ITC staff experience.)
A. Yes. Instructors should be tested to see that they are meeting minimum industry and agency standards. This should be conducted every two years. The approach should be that instructors cannot "fail", but may be required to correct deficiencies or upgrade skills before being reapproved to conduct courses. Included should be open water teaching review, emergency procedures review, and a minimum knowledge examination (like the current instructor exam). A program like this would insure that instructors do not fall behind on improvements in equipment and teaching techniques in the community, and will help make the public comfortable with instructor credentials.
‑‑Jim Oakley, NAUI 5178L; Bellevue, WA (Past North Pacific Branch Manager, active diving instructor, NAUI ITC Director.)
A. Definitely yes‑‑it is needed because the industry is changing so fast, that instructors must be kept up to date. Mailings and voluntary readings do not achieve this goal usually. Instructors should be evaluated on their physical conditioning and their teaching ability, especially in regards to openwater student control.
‑‑Larry Bolnick, NAUI 6298; Glen Cove, NY (Dive store owner and active instructor. Recipient NAUI Outstanding Service Award.)
A. The primary problem is not with the quality of instructors, but rather that entry level training is so minimal. This minimal training ultimately produces a large population of mediocre divers, from which we must draw our new instructors. Were entry level standards to be made more stringent, we would find that our instructor population's skills would concurrently improve.
‑‑Walt Hendrick, Sr., NAUI 391; North Windham, CT (Diving consultant. Past NAUI National Training Director, recipient of NOGI and Charlie Brown awards. Taught all level courses from Introductory to ITC.)
A. Yes‑‑at a minimum, academics and rescue skills should be retested periodically. Academic retesting is necessary every five years because after instructors have passed their ITCs, their academic knowledge tends to degrade. This occurs because they crammed on knowledge to pass their ITC, or because in that length of time the field of diving knowledge changes to the degree that retesting is necessary. Rescue skills should be retested every two years. The seriousness of having the responsibility of adequately performing a rescue is critical to instructor competency.
‑‑Susan Lucas, NAUI 6306L; Richardson, TX (Private professional instructor, entry level courses to ITC Director. Very active in Dallas Chapter activities.)
A. I am strongly in favor of verifiable continuing instructor education. With the changes in technology, legal developments, and medical evolution, this type of continuing education is necessary. We are professionals‑‑if we do not insure that our members maintain their professional status, governmental agencies are likely to do so for us. If we already have the mechanism in place, then odds are that the governmental agencies will just adopt our programs as they are.
‑‑Richard Fernandez, NAUI 6741L; Miami Shores, FL (Instructor at Barry University, teaches primarily entry level courses and as staff at ITCs. Member, NAUI Board of Directors.)
A. I feel that it is important for instructors to remain active in the scuba diving community. I do not believe that the involvement must include periodic retesting. Many scuba instructors, not only of NAUI but of other agencies also, have extremely diversified interests. It is quite possible that these interests become very specialized for any given instructor. Of the large NAUI membership, I believe that only a small percentage is involved in entry level instruction. Given that assumption, I do not think that testing of entry level instructional skills would be of any value to the large majority of the membership.
‑‑Joe Prosser, NAUI 7592; Miami, FL (Private professional instructor, teaching primarily Cavern and Cave Diver courses. Member of the National Speleological Society Cave Diving Section Board of Directors.)
A. I cannot believe we have never required any strong reviews for instructor recertification. Had we at our inception began this program, then the entire industry would have followed. The problem with instituting recertification now is that the instructors who could not pass would leave NAUI for another agency. However, I have seen too many instructors who are out of shape, teach ineffectively, or otherwise are not fit to remain as current teaching instructors. I believe any instructor who is conducting openwater teaching activities should have to attend a strong recertification program.
Recertification would also bolster our own beliefs and image ‑‑ "The Quality Difference" and "Safety Thru Education." We are a quality association, and can successfully compete on that basis.
A recertification course should include the 880‑yard swim from the Assistant Instructor skills to insure the physical condition of the instructor, a reevaluation of an openwater rescue, and retaking the current written instructor's exam.
‑‑Lyn Nelson, NAUI 3931L; Santa Monica, CA (Owner, marketing firm. Current NAUI Board of Directors member. Past NAUI Canada Executive Director. Taught Basic through Advanced courses, ITCs.)
A. If we retest, the concept of retesting should be compared to how retesting is done at other institutions. If someone falls out of active teaching status, they must staff part of an ITC or crossover to renew active status. High school or college instructors must go through annual continuing education‑‑we should and do have similar requirements. The Mid‑America Branch has had in‑service continuing education workshops for five years, which match this concept. The only requirement which should be added are annual physicals.
‑‑Bob Sheridan, NAUI 2992; Chicago, IL and Ft. Lauderdale, FL (Owner of Anchor International Dive Shop, Past Mid‑America Branch Manager, recipient NAUI Outstanding Service Award. Taught all level courses up to and including ITCs.)
A. Idealistically, instructor retesting is a healthy concept. Realistically, the administrative nightmare it would create for instructors, instructor trainers, and NAUI outweigh the advantages. I do not feel we need a program of this type at the present time given our other priorities.
‑‑Judith Jennet, NAUI 5365; Anaehoomalu, HI (Owner of Captain Nemo's Ocean Sports. Teaches primarily leadership level and specialized Openwater I courses. Author of Snorkel Diving for Young People.)
A. Concerning the retesting or recertifying of scuba instructors, I am not in favor of written or swimming test for instructors. I do not think testing instructors will accomplish anything more than "cramming" for these exams.
Instead, I would prefer to see mandatory professional involvement on the part of each instructor every three years. Instructors would be required to either staff or participate in NAUI ITCs or a similar workshop. Attending ICUEs might also count for recertification. In either case, the instructor could have the Course Director sign a standard form which would be submitted to headquarters with the renewal form.
‑‑Tom Griffiths, PhD, NAUI 6448; State College, PA (Director of Aquatics, Penn State University. Instructor for 15 years primarily in colleges, entry level to ITCs taught.)
A. Retesting to maintain certification is not new to me. In medicine we are required to maintain proficiency through continuing medical education, and in many cases recertification at regular intervals through formal testing. I feel monitored participation in continuing education for diving instructors to insure the input of up to date information is not unreasonable. Participation in ITCs is an excellent academic review for the teaching instructor, keeps one current on new information, and allows the teaching instructor to participate in practical skills. I do not feel we need to go as far as requiring recertification with formal retesting, providing an instructor participates regularly in formal training situations and participates in continuing education programs.
‑‑Jack Cheasty, NAUI 6171; Fort Bragg, NC (Physician's Assistant 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Diving Supervisor for the Multinational Force and Observation Sinai Peninsula, where he trained about 400 divers last year.)
A. The concept of retesting has merit. However, I do not believe any instructor association can develop a fully equitable and appropriate retest system. But, if they could, they could not administer it without placing burdens on quality instructors.
‑‑Bill High, NAUI 175; Seattle, WA (President, Professional Scuba Inspectors. Past President, NAUI, past North Pacific Branch Manager. Recipient of several NAUI Outstanding Service Awards.)
A. I am in favor of a periodic check up on instructors. This is desirable for the association and for the public it serves. It also serves the instructor, to know that he or she has competent colleagues.
I do have the following concerns about a retesting program: (1) I believe we should select a small committee with a fair representation of the membership. (2) We need to guard against a group of physical training instructors setting standards that are unreasonable and offensive. (3) Specialty instruction versus openwater SCUBA instruction should be considered. (4) Consideration for regional requirements should be made. For example, a Northwest instructor should test in a drysuit or full wetsuit in their area, and not requalify in the Cayman Islands. (5) Consideration should be made for differences in classroom settings, ie. university versus resort instruction.
Also to be considered are the administration that will be required, the additional revenue that must be generated, and the ever increasing bureaucracy that seems to grow and grow and grow.... Diving instructors, by and large, usually pay for the priviledge of serving the sport. Let's not make the price too high or the system too complex. Most importantly, let's not replace the desire to remain professionally competent with a mandate.
‑‑Spence Campbell, NAUI A‑20; Renton, WA (Private professional instructor and diving consultant, past NAUI Board of Directors candidate and Chapter Leader, past General Manager of the Ocean Corporation.)
A. Absolutely! I would suggest a requalification program‑‑ possibly a "weekend brush‑up"‑‑every two years or so to ensure that instructor skills are current...particularly diver rescue and accident management. What a small price to pay for our students to get that "Quality Difference!"
‑‑Dustin Clesi, NAUI 8975; Tampa, FL (Teaches as a private professional and dive store instructor. Particular specialty is cave diving instruction.)
A. No. The renewal process already establishes minimum requirements to maintain skills and knowledge. Adding a very difficult to administer program to a worldwide membership is just too difficult.
However, a series of continuing education seminars should be available and incentives should be provided to make it very desirable for an instructor to upgrade or renew skills and knowledge.
As a separate case, all ITC Directors should be required to attend periodic update seminars and training to insure they are passing on state of the art data to our candidates.
‑‑Harry Ellis, NAUI 4330L; Honolulu, HI (Current NAUI West Pacific Branch Manager and Regional Service Representative. Has taught all levels of courses to ITCs.)
A. Absolutely. Instructors should be able to pass the current instructor exam (which should include new equipment developments, no bubble tables, and other state of the art information, controversial or not), current Assistant Instructor swim skills, and maintain current CPR and First Aid certifications. Annual recertification should be conducted as a half day program, and should be administered by more than one evaluator, including someone from headquarters or a Chapter Leader/Branch Manager. This type of program is especially important because people's lives are dependent on our ready response.
‑‑Pat Van Mullem, NAUI 5168L; San Jose, CA (Dive store owner. Past ITC Director. Recipient NAUI Outstanding Service Award.)
A. Yes. A written, take home, open book test should be administered periodically. Included should be questions about standards, dining knowledge, and rescue practices. This would insure that the instructor keeps up with updates in standards and dive rescue methods.
‑‑Joanie Wright, NAUI 7501; Islamorada, Florida Keys, FL (Operator, Lady Cyana Divers. Resort courses to ITC staff.)
A. Definitely. I feel most of the instructors now are of lower quality than in the past because of the currently existing "instructor mills." Periodic retesting of instructors would keep the skills of individuals to a high level and guarantee the ability for them to provide well trained, safe divers.
Testing should be done every two to three years. It is in this time span that people appear to settle into potentially unsafe diving or teaching procedures.
Retesting should include: basic update on new developments and diving information in the diving industry, a general review of openwater and confined water instructional skills, and a classroom lecture for evaluation purposes.
‑‑Karl Huggins, NAUI 5900, Ann Arbor, MI (University instructor, teaches primarily entry level courses.)
[NOTE: The views contained in this column are opinions held by the individual members referenced, and are not those of NAUI or the editors of NDA News.]
Questions for the next issues:
For the May/June issue: "Should NAUI require photo ID certification cards? Why/why not?"
For the July/August issue: "Should electronic dive table computers be used in lieu of traditional dive tables? If so, which ones? If not, why not? If you do not know‑‑what should NAUI teach students about these devices?"
All members are encouraged to respond. This column is for you, the membership, to develop. Answers should be kept fairly brief, preferably no more than two or three paragraphs. Responses to each question will be collated by the editor, condensed if necessary, and printed in this section. New questions may also be posed for discussion. Questions should be concise, and should stimulate a wide cross‑section of the membership. Include with your responses or questions the following information: your name, address, NAUI membership number, dive‑related employment, past diving accomplishments, and a review of your dive teaching experience. Send your materials to Jeffrey Bozanic, c/o NDA News, P.O. Box 14650, Montclair, CA, 91763‑1150.
Compiled and Edited by Jeffrey Bozanic, NAUI 5334L
NDA News, Mar/Apr 1988, pp. 25-27.
NAUI Members' Forum #4
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