The Group Fitness Model

Recently I joined a gym and musing over which of the group fitness classes might offer the right blend of, let’s say, discomfort and comfort, or to say it another way, sweat and not dying, I settled on a spin class. I’d done them before a few times and remembered liking it and being challenged at the same time.

This time, however, I had another experience.

As we settled in and got a comfortable rhythm, I noticed that the instructor prepared us mentally for what was coming up in the next few minutes. She’d give us specific tips and points of data to look for: “you should be at 60 rpm” and “take it up 3 gears.” The workout routine peaked and subsided, peaked and subsided. Just when I was feeling icky, she’d have us bring the tension of the exercise bike’s gears back down. When I was coasting, she’d make it more challenging. We were all spinning, next to each other, at different tensions and rpm’s, but each being challenged at our own level and in our own way. We were able to adjust whether we needed to sit or stand on the bike, though at times she spelled out where we should be for the optimal effect. She could watch your leg speed and observe your level of effort and coach you personally, or incorporate generalized feedback to the class while looking at you to let you know adjustments you should make.

Though this physical experience was just like the other spin classes I had been to, I had a different cognitive experience.

Where is the spin class equivalent for improving teaching and learning?

In terms of tribes — following and learning from like-minded people on Twitter, for example — it’s far too easy (how hard is it to “heart” or RT someone’s tweet?) and far from challenging. If you want to hide, you simply ignore your PLN.

In terms of troops — we work side by side but there is no time set aside to push ourselves and be coached into a more challenging zone where we get feedback from an instructor.

We need something like group fitness classes in the teaching and learning arena, where you step into a coachable zone expecting to get your cognitive heart rate up, ready for and scared of the challenge, with a group of people who are going through the same yet personalized experience. It’s time bound and rigorous. It draws on the high intensity interval exercise principles. It uses keen feedback and data points to move participants into manageable levels of pressure and learning.

How does the group fitness model fit with professional learning opportunities? I say it’s different than earning a master’s or doctorate degree, though some people are drawn to that type of challenge. I say it’s different than presenting at a conference, though you may get challenging feedback from participants. I say it’s different than attending district-led or consultant-led professional learning sessions, which are often passive and one-size-fits-all. Maybe it’s most similar to an EdCamp? What are your thoughts?

How can the components of the group fitness model be incorporated into our professional learning experiences for a more challenging and satisfying outcome?