August Tips from the PADI Asia Pacific Quality Management Team

In 2018 the PADI Asia Pacific Quality Management team continues to bring you tips from PADI staff in the field on how to maintain and improve safety in your professional diving activities. This month we heard from Michelle Brunton, Manager Quality and Risk Management – PADI Asia Pacific.

The link between Mastery and Risk Management

How many times should a person practice a skill before you sign the training record to say they have mastered it? The level of performance they need to attain is called Mastery and is defined on Page 24 of the PADI Instructor Manual:

….mastery is defined as performing the skill so it meets the stated performance requirements in a reasonably comfortable, fluid, repeatable manner as would be expected of a diver at that certification level”.

For some students it may take little practice, for others it may take a lot more – learning is an individual journey. Most people do not learn a new motor skill on the first go.

Managing to do a skill once is not mastery and does not necessarily indicate the skill has been acquired. Is the student comfortable enough with skills such as the emergency weightdrop skill that they would do it automatically at the surface in an emergency situation? Would they inflate their BCD on the surface as well?

One aspect of learning a motorskill is described in the ‘Commitment to Excellence’ section of the PADI Instructor manual “When teaching, repetition is important for mastery and long term skill retention”.

Repetition is built into the PADI programme for good reason. To ensure divers are competent and comfortable once certified to conduct their own dives in an environment similar to the one they were trained in.

If we certify a person as having achieved mastery and in a couple of days they are unable to repeat those skills in a reasonable fluid and comfortable fashion – did they really achieve mastery? If they then have an accident, questions could be asked about the judgement the instructor used to determine they had mastered the skill.

When a diver walks in to a dive store with an Open Water certification it is reasonable for the store to expect that they have achieved a certain level of skill. Sure – they are not likely to be as skilled as a diver with 50 dives, but they should be able to complete the basic skills from the Open Water course to comfortably dive in similar conditions to those in which they were trained. Problems arise when divers book in for dives and then it becomes clear that they have not mastered the expected skills. This can expose the diver and the dive store to an unreasonable level of risk.

1. Practice makes perfect

So what can we do when a student does not master a skill at the same time as the others in their course. Keep practising if the student has time, or provide a referral if the student has to continue their travels.

2. Session breaks

Rests between sessions are important for learning and for the retention of learning. While skills are acquired during in session activity they are consolidated during rest periods.

3. Learning agreements

Have a clear learning agreement in place so that everyone understands what will happen if a student does not achieve mastery and cannot be certified within the agreed timeframe. You can access an example learning agreement on the PADI Pros’ Site under Forms and Applications – Sample learning agreement.

The agreement clearly states the responsibilities of both the student and the dive centre and the policy if additional sessions are required. Clearly communicated training agreements can prevent customer complaints in the future when a student does not get certified within the original timeframe.

To sum up

Our ultimate goal as dive instructors is to teach people how to safely and comfortably enjoy this phenomenal water planet we live on. By ensuring student divers have mastered the skills of whichever training level we are teaching at the time we have met our basic responsibilities as teachers.

Michelle Brunton, Manager Quality and Risk Management – PADI Asia Pacific.


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