by Ann-Margreth Frei

Reprinted with premission from :The Professional Skater Magazine
March / April 1997 – pp. 13- 14.
©1997 by Professional Skaters Association

Learning styles or perceptual modes of learning represent one of the most effective tools we have for diagnosing how our students learn. They allow us to adjust our delivery and create clear lines of communication that are essential to the learning process. By taking a big chunk out of the trial and error process of teaching, the end result is a greater satisfaction for the teacher and a real sense of accomplishment for the students.

V.A.K. = Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic

Senses play an important part in learning to skate. When we teach, the more we cater to all senses rather than just one or two, the more deeply we will anchor the skill we are trying to teach.

Everyone tends to learn more dominantly in one of the three modes; visually, auditorily or kinesthetically. What is your learning sense? Interestingly enough, if you are dominant visually, y9u may tend to teach primarily to that sense. It is important to remember that our students may be dominant in another learning sense which we will need to cater to in order to be most effective.

Statistics indicate that:

29% of students are visual learners

23% are auditory learners

34% are kinesthetic learners and

14% are mixed learners

The visual learners will see, imitate and be able to mimic instantly. Clear demonstrations or modeling other skaters is helpful to them. They will say “I see what you mean,” or”l don’t get the picture, show me what you want me to do.” The visual learners need a clear image of what they are going to accomplish from both the “big picture” and detailed perspectives. When explaining, create word pictures that help the students visualize the movements. They like to watch, visualize themselves doing the same movement and then try it. Solicit feedback for understanding relative to the student’s clarity of the image you have created.

The auditory learners need explanations and all the data. They are more matter of fact and methodical. They need to think things through so they have a clear and logical understanding of the movement pattern that they are attempting. They might say “that rings a bell,” “yes I hear you,” or “I understand.” Building a detailed framework is essential because it creates a logical, progressive and orderly sequence for developing, combining and applying skills. They are very aware of sound so make them hear the scratching of their stroking or the smoothness of good skating. Checking for understanding on a cognitive (knowledge gained) level needs to be done often to ensure that the students really understand.

The kinesthetic learners need to feel the movements and get their feet wet. They will say things like “that jump felt good,” or “it’s not comfortable, I feel awkward doing this.” Take a single focus and then explore all around it to help the students develop accurate feelings and sensations associated with the correct movement. Have the students verbalize their internal state after performing so they can increase their kinesthetic (feeling) awareness. Use language and explanations that are “feeling” specific (e.g. feel the ball of your foot in the spin).

You may need to help your students become aware of their senses. They might need to learn to feel parts of their bodies, to learn to watch your demonstrations and learn to listen to the sounds of their blades (and you will)!

Practice presenting pieces of your lesson from every angle, then from all the angles.

  1. This is what it looks like. Do a demonstration in segments or completely. (Use another student to demonstrate if you can’t demonstrate.)
  2. Explain the skill technically in details and if suitable mention the sound of it. “Did you hear the scratching on your take off or the skidding?”
  3. Tell or ask your students what it feels like. “Can you feel the tension in your leg as you lock the knee of your free leg?”

Try to guess what people’s dominant sense is. Did one student have the light bulb turn on when they had to feel something or another when you demonstrated clearly or took the time to give a good metaphor? Make a list of metaphors to help draw on your students senses and past experiences. A metaphor “is like.” It looks like a V. It feels like spreading butter on toast. It sounds like a gust of wind.

Statistics show the retention percentage through sensory perceptions:

30% is retained by seeing only

11% is retained by hearing only

50% is retained by seeing and hearing

70% is retained by seeding, hearing and doing

90% is retained by seeing, hearing, verbalizing and doing.


Ann-Margreth Frei has published a very popular and wonderful 3-volume set on ice skating instruction. Check it out in the Ice Skating World Pro Shop.

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