Co-Instruction: Shadow Teaching Balance


Work Placement (WP) is all about creating real-life context for- and applying- what you learn in Course Delivery sessions and from your own study (Self-Directed Learning) of the course content. At Pilates ITC, we believe that learning how to teach the Method of Pilates without physical context and experience, unlocks only a shadow (pun intended!) of your true teaching potential!

Spend the time. Do the work. Get the skills. Become a Pilates Instructor. Boom!

You have to feel it, see it and touch it to make sense of it and how you can, in turn, communicate that experience with others. (That’s why we also promote Self-Mastery as part of the learning process!)

While there is no one “right” way to complete your Teaching hours: the purpose of the exercise is simple (and your Educators will agree!) – invest in the learning-to-teach process, no shortcuts. Attitude is everything!

Spend the time. Do the work. Get the skills. Become a Pilates Instructor. Boom!

Students have the option to complete Teaching WP in the form of Self-Arranged Teaching practice (working with friends/family/other Students) or in Co-Instruction (CI); with the option of adding Teaching Clinics (TC) in along the way to workshop skills and expedite hours.

How you complete your Teaching hours, the ratio of Self-Arranged to Co-Instruction to Teaching Clinics, comes down to how you learn best (learning style).

Visual-, auditory-, reading/writing-, kinaesthetic-learners and every combination of, will have a preferred approach to learning new, practical skills.

Pilates ITC Courses and Pathways have a foundation of kinaesthetic learning by the very nature of the Method and how we deliver our Courses! So, for that reason, we recommend Students prioritise Self-Arranged Teaching practice.

Why? Because nothing can compare with or better prepare you for the real world than practicing on real people! (And then practicing some more!)

What is Co-Instruction (CI)? In a nutshell, it is “job shadowing” an Instructor: an opportunity for Students to be an active* participant in a live, group class or Studio session.

*But, there are boundaries and needs to consider!

The biggest thing you should remember:

The client experience comes first – always.

Students are a guest in this environment.

The idea of CI is to get Students closer to the action than what’s possible in Observation (where you are a fly-on-the-wall). We want you closer, but without affecting the Instructor’s delivery-, the flow-, and or the clients’ enjoyment of the class/session they’ve paid to attend.

It isn’t nearly as tricky to navigate as it sounds! Co-Instruction can be a super rewarding learning experience, simply follow these four, handy tips to get you on your way:

1. Defer to the Pros.

The Instructor taking the Group Class/Studio session is there to help you – correct. But the clients are more important. Harsh, but true.

You can set yourself up for success (and hone your professional conduct and communication skills in the process!) by doing two simple things before the session starts:

Introduce yourself and ask your Instructor:

  • “How can I help you today?” / “What do you need me to do?”
  • “Is there anything special about this group/client I should observe/consider/be aware of?”

Some Instructors are happy to give Students tasks/direction during CI (often Pilates ITC Educators or more experienced Instructors), but others will not.

Have the discussion before the class so everyone is on the same page going in.

2. Read the room.

This is a BIG skill. Learning to watch, understand and respond appropriately to the client is the difference between a good and a great Instructor. After all, it’s all about and for them (the client)!

Co-Instruction is the perfect setting to work on this. Consider how behavioural or personality indicators can tell you what the client needs or wants, or does not want or need. As you move around the room be mindful of:

  • General temperament.
    • Shy/quiet/withdrawn (often does not want to be touched!)
    • Energetic/chatty/confident (hands-on? Bring it on!)
  • Mood indicators.
    • Are they smiling, sad/crying, frowning, making eye-contact, shallow/heavy breathing, visibly tense?
    • Can you adjust your approach to make them more comfortable?
  • Are they enjoying the class? (See: mood indicators.)
  • Are they understanding the Instructor’s direction?
    • Can you offer help in a way that is ok for the client and doesn’t disrupt the flow of the class?
  • Are they following the Instructor’s direction?
    • If not, why? Is it skill/ability based? Can you offer help?
    • Or is it defiance? (See: enjoyment.)
  • Do they need help?
    • Can you offer help in a way that is ok for the client and doesn’t disrupt the flow of the class?
  • Are they in pain?
    • Can you offer variation in a way that is safe, ok for the client and doesn’t disrupt the flow of the class?

3. Just ask!

You will see many++ opportunities to help during Co-Instruction and you’ll likely feel eager to apply your knowledge. But, be measured about it! Take a beat, don’t rush in.

Over- or constant correction or prompting can make clients feel singled out, smothered or defeated. Some clients want to figure it out on their own, in their own time. Others, just don’t want to know if they’re wrong – they don’t care about technique! (And that’s fine, this is their time after all.)

Keep it simple – just ask them:

  • “Can I help you with this one?”
  • “This is tricky, let me show you on me/watch me…”
  • “Do you mind if I put my hands on you/touch here/place my hand here to show you…?”

Tip: keep your correction ratio low. After the session, make note of the corrections you saw but did not act on so you can practice on your own time, or next time you observe it during CI.

4. You're doing great!

Some CI Group Classes or Studio sessions will have less opportunity for Student participation than others.

In that event, never underestimate the power of well-timed, meaningful, positive reinforcement! Be the clients’ biggest supporter!

“Looking really nice, [client name].”

“Great effort!”

“You can do it!”

“Looking strong.”

“Great technique/lovely alignment.”

Or simply: “Good! Well done!

Being a Pilates Instructor isn’t all about repertoire and repetitions and programming: it’s also about connection! The feel-good, warm and fuzzy bit.

A kind word has the power to transform a client’s experience with Pilates and you! It initiates connection. Builds trust. (Then when you next Co-Instruct their class, they might let you come and help them some more!)

At the end of the day, Co-Instruction will tell you a lot about yourself and give you plenty to consider about what it takes to run a Class or Studio session.

It will also equip you with valuable skills for relationship building in a professional environment – which will make you a great employee, Instructor and colleague one day!

At the end of a CI session, reflect and consider:

  • Teaching skills to improve/practice.
  • Repertoire/variations/assists to improve/practice.
  • Cues I liked.
  • What makes me uncomfortable about teaching? (and how can I get comfortable?)
  • What did I like about the way that Instructor delivered that class/Studio session? (Style, tone, interaction with clients etc.)
  • Inspiration: one “inspo” take away.

For more “do’s and don’ts” on Co-Instruction, refer to your Learning Guide under Work Placement: here we have listed all the considerations, tips and tricks for maxing out your CI time.