Teaching skills to new PADI divers

Student Centered

PADI encourage us to make our presentations “Student Centred” when teaching skills to new PADI divers

But?  Student Centred?

What does that even mean?

How do we do that?

First we’ll discover four powerful teaching strategies and then see how they can be applied to each of these steps of a teaching presentation.


Skill Practice

De Briefing

Let’s see how we can make our training a little more tailored to each individual student. 

Teaching skills to new PADI divers - Four powerful stratagies

To make our presentations more “Student Centred” we’re going to try to implement one or more of these techniques to make our training more fun, and more effective.

  1. Ownership
    Students need to be in control of WHAT they are learning, WHY they’re learning it and HOW they’ll learn it.
  2. Positive Coaching
    This isn’t simply “encouragement” It’s letting the students know what they’re good at, and how to improve performance.
  3. Allow People to Learn
    Give the students time and space to iron out small teething problems when faced with a new skill
  4. Empowerment
    Students will prove to themselves that they can accomplish skills without the need for an Instructor to decide for them.

How to teach skills to new PADI divers

So let’s go through each step and see how we can help new PADI students learn skills.

The Briefing (On a PADI IDC)

During a PADI IDC and Instructor Exam, Candidates are given a “score” on what they say in a briefing

1. WHAT – the skill is

2. WHY – the skill is being taught

3. HOW the skill will be performed (the steps of the skill)

4. HOW the lesson will be organised

5. HOW signals might be used during the lesson

A point is awarded for each of these points made.


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Student Centred?

Is this Student Centred in the real world? 

I don’t think so.
Maybe the more focused students might have some idea of what’s coming up.

But what about those with shorter attention spans? Those who’s minds are darting about all over the place?
Just because a PADI instructor has “said” something, doesn’t mean that the student has understood it. 

Anyway? is this enough? Is this enough to help students learn?

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PADI Skills in Confined Water

What more can be added to a briefing?

In order to make the session fun, challenging and satisfying, I think it important for PADI Instructors to generate a sense of:

  1. Self Belief
  2. Confidence
  3. Enthusiasm

Involve the Students with their briefing

Make the lesson a “team” effort. 


Instead of just telling the class what the next skill is, why not ask one of the class to read out the performance requirement from the instructor’s slate?

This prevents minds from wandering and gives more focus on what’s ahead.
Also ask the Students WHY they think they’re learning the skill.

As students answer, they’ll imagine themselves doing the skill.

This “mental rehearsal” visualisation technique is exactly the same process used by top sports coaches.

Positive Coaching

Every new skill is based on previous skills alerady learned. 
Mask, regulator and buoyancy skills progress from simple to more challenging 
Even CESA is basically a normal ascent on one breath. 
The students have already performed most parts of a new skill:


Do you think it more effective for the Instructor to “Tell” the student what they have already achieved? 
Do you think it more effective for the Student to tell the instructor HOW they performed the pre-learned part of the skill? 

For example:
When introducing Mask Removal and Replacement, each student will have already cleared their masks a few times. 
By asking them HOW they will clear water from their masks you’re once again triggering the visualisation process that re-enforces learning.
But not only that, you can use positive coaching to encourage Self Belief and Confidence by praising them for some specific steps as they tell you.

You simply then need to explain the new part of the skill. 

Prepare for your PADI IDC

Skill Practice Underwater


Your demonstration needs to be “clean”

By that I mean slow, it appears easy and all of your students can see clearly. 

However, it should be simply a demonstration of what the skill looks like. 
Resist all temptation to include “corrective” steps. These corrective steps only lead to confusion and are rarely needed. 
If later you feel that the student needs help in one particular area, you can prescriptively teach it by stressing a corrective solution. However this is very rarely needed. 

Teaching skills to new PADI divers

Actually, it’s NOT about teaching is it? 

It’s all about learning.

It’s about you giving them the space and time to get used to the new skill and allow them to play around until they have mastered it. (It doesn’t take long!)

Find out more about my online courses

Allow people to learn

Bear in mind that there is a lot going on in a students head. 
The student is not only performing the skill, but also trying to recall the sequence and steps of each and every skill. 

Allow them to work on the sequence first before they work on the technique of performing the skill. 

The more they swim around, the more comfortable they become with scuba diving. 

Only when they’re ready should they attempt to perform the skill. 
At first it’s unlikely that they perform a perfect example. 
Allow them more “goes” giving praise and hints where necessary.

Your job is to be a coach. Encouraging them to become more at ease with each new skill. 

Positive Coaching

Be sure to give specific praise to each student every time that they either correct a problem or even improve on their last attempt. 
Be there for them.


After the students have swum around for a while and performed the skill 4 or 5 times, you, your assistants and each student know that they have “cracked it!”
They don’t need to be told. They KNOW that they have accomplished something new. 
This feeling of accomplishment is enormous and generates even more enthusiasm.

De Briefing

This is where you stress their new found skills. You get to practice giving encouragement, and most of all prepare them for the future.


Ownership / Empowerment

By getting one of the students to read out the performance requirement again, you’re strengthening the feeling of ownership. 

The students can once again give their response to the question 
“Why did you learn that skill” You’ll be surprised at how much more relevant the skill is to them now they’ve mastered it. 


Positive Coaching

During the debrief, be sure to give huge praise to areas where the students improved along the way to mastery. 
By praising correct procedure in specific areas that started out as a weakness is very powerful indeed. 

Teaching skills to new PADI divers

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post and that it’s given you some new ideas on how to structure your pool sessions. 

If you’d like to find out more about my teaching methods please contact me to find out more about: 

1. My online courses

2. The next Coaching Academy workshop in the UK

3. Tailor made sessions for individuals or dive centres. 


Dive Theory

Every subject, every topic explained in a fun way. 100’s of questions. Mock exams.

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Pool & Class teaching

Briefings, De-briefings, Demonstrations.

The psychology of how people learn

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PADI Skills in Confined Water

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Almost as if you’re watching Steve Prior teaching a full IDC. Best value!

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Last modified: 10th January 2023
Author: Steve Prior