How to Create Empowered Learners; Not Just Competent Practitioners

A good teacher doesn’t just impart information to their students, they empower their students to be excellent learners. In my classes, I’m thinking not just about how I can increase my students' ability with a given technique in that moment, but what I can give them that will help them meaningfully practice, implement, and build from that technique after.

Here are some of the guidelines I follow:

Make your students responsible for their own learning

You can do the teaching, but they have to do the learning. The more you can impart the responsibility and the ability for students to understand and maximize their own learning the faster they will advance. I explicitly give this responsibility to my students. I want my students to be active hungry, devourers of information, independent of me, not simply passive sponges.

Teach your students to build their own drills

At least 50% of a student’s training time should be outside of class. Give your students not just the drills from class but the tools to advance them and vary them.

Empower students to control their own difficulty level

Even if you have a levelled program in your school or group, you will invariably have students who need, or want, to work at different levels. Good drills can be scaled for difficulty. Give your students a view of how to scale up and scale down and teach them how to make wise choices in difficulty for their own learning.

Encourage students to adapt in-class drills to their needs

Alternating in sets of 1 isn’t working for you? Ask your partner to alternate with you in sets of 5. The complex drill is getting overwhelming? Ask your partner to do the simpler version. Didn’t quite get something from earlier in class? Take a moment to go back. Yes, you want your students to stay on topic, but allowing room for student agency within your lesson plan maximizes individual learning and frees you up to provide much more meaningful guidance.

Have priorities, but not secrets

Give your students the full picture of your art and then help direct them to the learning that is best for their long-term practice. If a student of mine wants to know the counter to a given technique, I show them, and invite them to explore it. Then, I guide them toward what I feel is the best priority for their learning. I’m completely transparent with my reasoning and my art. Your students should be learning from you because of what you offer, not what you control.

In all these things, be mindful that if your goal is being a partner in your student’s learning, you’ll be more powerful as a facilitator than you will as a despot or bureaucrat.

From October 17th to 21st, I will be leading the Fall Academie Duello HEMA Instructor Intensive. This is a week-long immersive learning experience in our system for Rapier and Longsword, followed by an 8 month mentorship program.

This program has received rave reviews each time that we have run it. It will set you on the path to:

  • Being an excellent and knowledgeable instructor and practitioner.
  • Getting the best results out of yourself and others.
  • Creating an engaging, safe, professional, and effective learning environment.
  • Maximizing learning, retention, and applied practice (from drill to combat).
  • Mastering a martial system based in historical sources and developed over the past 20 years by myself and the testing of more than 10,000 students at Academie Duello.

The program combines:

  • Intensive in-person instruction. In the first 50 hours we will take you through the foundation of both rapier and longsword technique and pedagogy. The goal is to give you a solid basis for further learning after the intensive has concluded.
  • Teacher training. To help you guide others in your own study group or school through our tested delivery methods, developed through years of experience at Academie Duello.
  • Regular support for 8 months after the intensive. Through online meetings, forums, and access to a community of peers and the instructor team.
  • Remote technical review, advice, and testing delivered through video review plus written quizzes and resources.
  • A structured study program. We will be providing you and your study group with weekly training plans and class outlines linked to matching video content. This will help you learn in an effective way and stay on track.
  • Opportunities for satellite practitioners to certify in both our martial and instructional programs.

We only allow 12 participants in each intake. Courses fill up quick. Registration opens on August 14th at 10am. Look for the registration link and more information on our Instructor Program Page.

If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Devon Boorman is the Co-Founder and Director of Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay, which has been active in Vancouver, Canada since 2004. Devon’s expertise centres on the Italian swordplay tradition including the arts of the Renaissance Italian rapier, sidesword, and longsword, as well as knife and unarmed techniques.
Read more from Devon Boorman.