Becoming a Better Instructor


Six students standing on the edge of a cliff looking over a mountain pond surrounded by trees in full autumn foliage.

How does one become a better instructor and what skills contribute to your adventure and outdoor education competences as an instructor?

Fung Lee

Planning and Organizing

I came to Humak to become a better instructor, and the best way to do that is to watch other instructors working. During our trip to Ylläs, I noticed plenty of techniques the instructor used to facilitate our learning. For example, the instructors have different levels of activities ready for individuals, so they are better challenged. Not in a one size fits all approach.

I am not very good with bicycles, so I chose to participate in a hike where I could practice my map reading and orienteering skills. The prior planning and organizing from the instructors kept us engaged throughout the trip. They gradually prepared us for the four-day hike which was the main part of our trip.

Building Up For the Big Moment

I learned the truckers’ hitch knot during our trip. The knot has numerous variations but the general idea is using a loop to create a pulley system. That gives users a mechanical advantage when trying to pull hard on the rope. Our version uses a simple slip knot as the loop and it can be easily untied. It is good to use in outdoor adventures, to hold things in place and can be dismantled in a hurry. We used it to tie our tarp to the tree.

In order to teach us how to do this knot, and many other things of course, the instructors brought us on a day-hike where we set up our tent and tarp after lunch. The instructors showed us how it works by doing it one time and then another in a slower motion, using clear and easy to remember ques, such as making a loop, grabbing the working end through the loop. Then we were sent off to do it in our tent group, I practiced the knot multiple times, getting extra information from my more experienced tent mate.

The knot in itself isn’t difficult, but if we were sitting in a classroom learning this through a PowerPoint it sure wouldn’t be easy. Because without understanding the reason behind it, it is tough to be interested in how to do it. By showing us why we need the knot outside, it helped us focus on the learning more. From the knot to setting up tent, from map reading to using our compass, these couple of days prepared those like me, who are not experienced in multi-day hikes, for the upcoming trip.

A group of students in outdoor gear gathered around their instructors who are teaching how to set up a tent. Surrounded by autumnal Lapland scenery.
The instructors teaching us the tent set-up. Photo: Rupak Maharjan

Feedback Matters

When we were working in our tent groups, we were always having self-reflection breaks or giving feedback to our peers. If things are working, great and if they are not, why? Good learning can happen when feedback or reflection is available.

The instructors asked great questions during reflection sessions to let us have dialogue to facilitate learning. Sometimes we could keep the answer to ourselves and other times we had to participate in a group discussion. I found the group discussion a powerful method as I get to listen to what others think about the same topic and thus develop my own thinking.

There is a term called “The illusion of explanatory depth”, which is us believing we know more about the world than we actually do. Most of the time we only recognize our limited understanding when asked to explain something to others. I find myself learning the most in group discussions when I am actively thinking about my ideas and trying to explain it to other people.

Experiencing Silence

One of the most remarkable moments came from our hike to Hannukuru. We had a silent hike for the last part of our day. It felt very refreshing but I didn’t know why. It was when our teacher asked everyone to describe what our experience was when it finally hit me. She gave examples such as sights, hearing, sensory, feeling. Listening to others describing their own experience, I found out I was paying a lot of attention to what I could hear and see. That was something I hadn’t done in a long time and that’s why the activity made me feel refreshed.

It has been a very knowledgeable year, and I am looking forward to what the instructors have for us in the spring semester.

A hiker with a blue racksack walks away from the camera on a mountain path surrounded by a forest of trees in autumn foliage.
Silent hike to Hannukuru. Photo: Fung Lee

Last modified: January 17, 2022