What Kind Of Teacher Are You?


Big Question – there are clear definitions regarding teaching styles:

  • Formal – Authority
  • Demonstrator
  • Facilitator
  • Delegator

but within these categories are more refined descriptions – whether you fall into one or more of the groups with regard to style, you also need to think about your effectiveness.

Dreyfus & Dreyfus, brothers Stuart and Hubert, defined their model in 1980. They proposed that a student passes through 5 clear stages:

1 Novice

2 Advanced Beginner

3 Competent

4 Proficient

5 Expert


This is when we stick rigidly to the rules – we have no discretionary judgement.

Advanced Beginner

When there is a working knowledge but need for supervision. There is no ability to acknowledge complexity or confidently make decisions regarding outcome.


We have a sound working knowledge able to cope with complexity, now we can make decisions using judgement of the situation. However, we need time to analyse and plan, we may create formulated routine behaviors.


This is when we have a full understanding being able to achieve good results routinely, we are able to make decisions with confidence. We can prioritise actions.


Now we do not need rules or guidelines we can move between intuition and analysis easily. We can see what may be possible creating an environment to achieve excellence.We have a deep understanding of the practice.Looking at the outlines above you may want to consider where you fit into these categories.

We would all hope to be at least “competent”. The model was used initially with medicaltrainees, but I am sure you can see how it might help us consider our place on the scale,then where we may need to go to improve our personal standards.


Definition: the ability to understand something without the need for conscious reasoning.

It’s interesting to consider how they (Dreyfus brothers) used intuition as a measure of expertise. In your profession as a Pilates teacher, you may think there’s no room for “intuition” that fitness and health are all about science and facts. Thinking about intuitionwith regard to your work might seem a weaker option if we relate it to – instinct, sixth sense, a hunch or a feeling may be too vague for you to accept depending on your attitude, learning and or teaching style.

You may think your knowledge about the origins and insertions of muscles as well as education in anatomy and physiology will be enough to work effectively with clients to resolve problems they may have with certain movements that you teach.

It’s my personal opinion that we can become too technical in our approach to clients which can on occasion block our ability to “see” what’s happening in front of our eyes. If we’re only able to analyse on a purely clinical basis, we may miss a simple cue or change of posture that will help our client perform an exercise more easily.

When we allow ourselves not to over think a situation or try to complicate things with too much detail, a solution often presents itself. I much prefer a more simplistic view when working with clients. Of course a sound training and factual knowledge is needed as a foundation for our professionalism, but beyond that we need to be open to a more natural approach and try not to get too narrow in our thinking.

Communicate With Your Client

When we do not need to take total responsibility for a session we are teaching, when we allow the client enough space to have some input into the process, to know they can confidently take some responsibility for their movement patterns, we may be surprised by the insight they have into their own skill set. When the teacher is not bound by rigid rules, the client will feel included in the process.

Just Say Enough

Avoid the temptation to bombard clients with cues and information. They need time to process the salient points about the mechanics of a movement, especially if it is new to them. Find the most relevant information they need to perform an exercise well, then only when they are competent embellish it with refinements.

One of my favourite quotes by Albert Einstein:

“If you can’t explain it simply – you don’t understand it well enough”.

Often less is definitely more. As Pilates and exercise teachers we must constantly endeavor not to fall into robotic mode, we must be clear that we are teaching, not just acting out a class, covering the main points and following a set procedure each time.

As always if you have comments or questions about any of the above you can contact me at info@thepilatesconsultant.com

About the author:

Nuala Coombs Bio

I have been a student, teacher and teacher trainer in all aspects of fitness since 1979. As one of the founding directors of the Pilates Institute UK, I have been at the forefront of Pilates education and innovation helping to create the criteria for best practice with the method.

From 1999 through April 2008 I was course developer and facilitator for the Pilates Institute UK. During this time I travelled extensively delivering teacher training programmes and workshops together with presenting at international conventions.

In May 2008 I relocated to the South of France to develop my business, assisting teachers, student teachers as well as Pilates enthusiasts get the most from their Pilates practice by improving their personal technique. I also offer career development and guidance on any aspect of Pilates.

My dedicated Pilates studio in the village of La Garde Freinet, 20 minutes from St Tropez offers training and mentorship to student teachers as well as established Pilates teachers. The studio is a space for everyone whatever their level of ability – teachers, students as well as enthusiasts – all are welcome.

Contact me at Go2nuala@mac.com for details of workshops, retreats or personal training.