Confined Water Briefings

How to give ownership to your students

Confined Water Briefings

Confined Water briefings can create a powerful ownership of learning.

PADI Instructors can help students truly engage in their own development when learning new skills.

When instructors involve their students, and make  briefings interactive, powerful psychological benefits help learning.

Students are more likely to pay attention and be motivated and engaged. 

They are more likely to gain confidence and feel more capable of performing the skills and achieve success.

Ownership of learning

People learn quicker and easier, when they take ownership of their own learning.

They constantly seek out different ways that suit them when learning a new skill.

They view learning as an active process, not something that happens passively.

Over the past six years there have been numerous articles written about ownership of learning. 
Some people call it Personal Learning.

Learning is an active process that requires engagement.

Learning is not a spectator sport

When it comes to learning, we often think of it as something that happens to us.

We go to school, we listen to our teachers, and we absorb the information that they impart.

When it comes to a new skill, hands-on learning is the best way to truly learn.  It’s about enthusiasm and working out how it works in the real world.

When students take ownership of their learning, they are more likely to process the information.

They are also more likely to be able to apply it in real-world situations.

It starts with the confined water briefing

The "old" way of briefing a skill

We’ve all seen it at some stage!

The PADI Instructor, who stands waist deep in confined water, surrounded by students. 

Glazed eyes

The bored students patiently stand with eyes glazed and their minds wandering.

Duty bound, the instructor, reads the performance requirement from the slate then continues with the usual pattern of instructions.

After ticking off:
Objective, Value, How and When, Signals and Organisation, 

The Instructor finishes by asking,
“Any questions?”

The usual reply is a small shake of the head, or simply a mumbled


“Let’s go then!” Says the Instructor enthusiastically.

What is the problem with this method?

The student is reliant on the instructor to explain things in a way that they understand.

Students interpret instructions in their own individual unique way. 

Which might not be the way the instructor intended. 

It’s almost impossible to make training Student Centred.

The student feels that the instructor is solely in charge of their learning. 
Their feelings don’t count.

The instructor cannot be sure that each student has a clear idea of the lesson ahead.

It’s very difficult for the instructor to “read” each student to judge where deeper attention might be needed. 

Students might feel a little anxious because they don’t have a clear vision.

Why some instructors still teach this way

I fully understand why many PADI Instructors still teach this way.

For some it’s because that’s the way that they were taught throughout their diving life. 

They haven’t met many instructors that interact with their students during confined water briefings. 

First impressions count for a lot, and if their previous instructors briefed skills in this way, it becomes more of a habit. 


In the past, PADI Examiners at the IE have prevented Candidates from interacting during confined water briefings.

A PADI Examiner needs to hear words directly from candidates mouths to be able to evaluate them.

They can’t “score” candidates on stating objectives or values etc. when the “students” are doing most of the work! 

This of course led to all new instructors being taught to make briefings “one way traffic”.

Normal practice

New instructors naturally go on to teach their new students in the same way that they practiced on their PADI IDC. 

It becomes normal practice for instructors to only give instructions. 

Particularly if other instructors in their dive center teach in the same way. 

Some instructors are scared or unable to change.

There are some instructors who feel more comfortable when they say exactly the same words in their briefings.

Every time they teach it, regardless of their audience.

Whatever the reasons, it’s human nature for instructors to simply follow an established pattern without analysing its effect.

What does it mean to have ownership?

In simple terms it means that students make themselves responsible for their learning. 

Their enthusiasm makes them accountable not only for what they are learning, but also how they learn.

How to give ownership during a confined water briefing

There are many things that you can do to include students into their own learning. 

Let’s go through some of the components of a skill briefing and see how we can inject enthusiasm into our lessons.

Peformance Requirement

One of the easiest, is to get one of your students to read the performance requirement off your slate.

Instead of telling them the performance requirement, let one of them read it out loud to the other students. 

Get them to take turns. Choose a different student for each skill. 

You’ll be amazed at how enthusiastic they can be to be the one to read out the skill. 

One advantage of this is that the students will hear a different voice. 

A change of emphasis with the spoken word. 

They’re likely to pay close attention to their peers. 

The value of the skill

A really powerful way to encourage the students to get involved is by asking them why they think that the skill is important.

There are a few psychological  reasons why this is really helpful. 

First off, it gets their mind working. 

They’ve seen the video clips and completed knowledge reviews.

So they’ve seen or read some of the values that are in PADI materials. 
This simple exercise helps to “join the dots”.

But it’s much more than this. 

It’s impossible for them to tell you why the skill is important, without imagining performing the skill. 
Even if they’ve never done the skill before.

The power of visualisation

Getting them to visualise performing the skill in this way is very beneficial to learning.
It is a very similar technique that all top sports coaches use to improve performance. 

There is another advantage of them telling you the value, rather than you telling them. 

They are more likely to give a value that is meaningful to them! 

PADI IDC skill cirucit

It’s also possible that the answers will give the instructor a better insight into the thoughts of students.

Ask them as an “Open Question”. 
In other words, don’t pick out people, just ask, “Who can tell me why you should learn this skill? 

Why do you think it’s important for you?”

Don’t worry if shy students don’t answer. 

It’s not important. 

They will still have imagined performing the skill and gone through the same thought process.

They will be intrigued as to the answers other students give. 

How to do the skill

The next part of the briefing is usually to let the students know the steps of the skill.

Again, this so much better if you involve the students. 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but EVERY new skill that a diver learns is based on a skill that they have already performed. 

It applies to every course, but for now, let’s take a look at some skills from the Open Water Diver course.


The obvious examples are based on Masks or Regulators. 

Mask skills follow a sequence: 
Partial mask flood
Full mask flood
Remove/replace mask
Breathe without a mask
Swim without a mask

Regulators likewise:
Regulator clear
Regulator recovery
Alternate air source use
Alternate air source ascent

With all of the skills above, every student has already completed most of the skill.

It makes sense for the students to tell the instructor how they will perform that part of the skill.

For example.
If the skill is Remove/replace mask. 
After reading the performance requirement and talking about the value. 
Remind the students that they have aleady cleared a full mask.

There is absolutely NO need to tell them how to put water in their mask. 
Instead ask them how they will do it!

As they describe to you pulling the mask skirt to let water in, they can’t help but visualise doing it, and remember what it feels like. 

All of this is helping their performance. 

More visualisation techniques

By the time that they actually perform the skill underwater, their sub-conscious will have performed the skill a few times before. 

This is classic visualisation techniques that top sports coaches use. 

The confined water briefing is truly preparing them for performing the skill.

Again, ask them how they will clear the mask. 

They should tell you that they’ll breathe out through their nose. 

If their description is good, then you can praise them for how well they did the skill before. 

If they miss anything out, you can gently fill in any missing gaps.

Between you and them, you can cover the whole skill. 
They can tell you how they will perform the bits of the skill that they have done before.

You can tell them how to perform the new bits of the skill. 

In fact, when you think about it, the only new thing they are learning is the difference between what they have done before and the new performace requirement they’re learning now. 

Other skills.

We’ve spoken about Mask skills and Regulator skills, and the way that they progress and develop. 

Other skills are also extensions of skills already learned. 


When it comes to learning CESA in confined water, the student has already mastered several sub parts of the skill. 
1. They have already surfaced at 18 metres per minute.
2. They looked up during that skill, and held their LPI high.

The students can explain how they will perform these steps to the instructor. 

The instructor can explain that this time they do the exercise horizontally for 9 metres on one breath and make a sound. 

Loose Cylinder band

The students are familiar with assembling their equipment. 

They know that the cylinder band needs to be tight. 
They’ve done it before.
They can tell the instructor how they will do that. 

The instructor simply tells them the steps needed to be done underwater.

I explain this more in the article about teaching skills to new divers.


It’s usual for an instructor to tell the students what signals will be used underwater. 

It’s far more effective if the instructor asks the class what signal they would prefer if needed. 
Again, this stimulates the visualisation process, and strengthens the preparedness of the student. 

Confined Water Teaching

With practice, PADI Instructors can work on their confined water briefings. 

If you’ve not used these methods before, you’ll be amazed at how fast, and how enthusiastically your students will learn. 

Take a look here to find out how to deliver confined water debriefings 

How can you be a better PADI Professional?

Sign up now for my online PADI IDC Preparation Course. 
It’s full of new ideas about how to TEACH both theory and skills. 
Lots more information here: 

Last modified: 10th January 2023
Author: Steve Prior