Learning and Instruction

Today I attended an outdoor first aid refresher course, which is the regular course required every two years to retain an existing outdoor first aid certificate. This instance of the course was run by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, an organisation dedicated to encouraging safe practices outdoors. Members of the MSC help to design and to teach courses on a variety of topics, of which First Aid is only one.

Anyone can sign up to an MSC course, as long as the course pre-requisites are met. For those generally interested in outdoor safety, however, the MSC encourages people to join as instructors. Presently throughout New Zealand the MSC has and handful of paid staff, but its main strength is in over 1000 volunteer instructors. Researching best practices, designing and running the courses and comprehensive training material helps to spread the knowledge further among the outdoor community, but encouraging people to train to be instructors also helps to reinforce and embed what skills are learned. It’s a really cool philosophy and culture in which people continue to use the skills by learning to teach the skills.

I’m not a member of the MSC, and so far I’ve only taken advantage of the First Aid courses on offer because I wanted an outdoor first aid certificate. Until now I’ve focused mostly on being involved in and learning general skills through people in my local club (the WTMC), which sometimes runs its own courses albeit often latching into expertise of instructors who come via the MSC. Clubs are a good way to meet like-minded people and learn from them and see a variety of ways of approaching problems, but they certainly aren’t for everyone, and so an alternative for people who want to learn about outdoor safety and useful skills without joining a club is to get more involved in the MSC. Having seen a hint of how it seems to work, it’s tempting to try and be more involved in the future.

Something that seemed apparent, although I’m not saying this as someone with a lot of experience in the MSC, was that in the original two-day course a couple of years back there were a higher proportion of people attending in similar situations to me. There was a combination of people who’d never had any first aid experience before, people who might have been to a course ages before but didn’t remember much and wanted to do it properly again, and a few members of the MSC itself who were just keen to get started. The refresher course was quite different, in that it seemed as if the majority of people attending were much more qualified and confident from the beginning. With a few exceptions (definitely including me), the culture in the refresher course was more of people wanting to keep their certificate active as part of their personal skills development, rather than just learn about first aid. I think at least half of the people attending were direct members of the Mountain Safety Council, and many also knew each other through the MSC.

I was an odd person out in the group of fifteen, given how I’ve been somewhat lazy in keeping my skills fresh, and without having checked much of what I learned two years before, I felt rusty in areas where others were simply confirming their expertise. It’s neat that the MSC instills this kind of culture in its members. Rather than just learning from the instructor, I learned a lot from everyone present, often people wanting to discuss things and suggest ideas.

So thanks to Bridget (our instructor) and Jane (the admin person behind the scenes), and everyone else involved, including those who attended, in creating and running and being involved in such a great and useful course.

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