During confined-water training, students develop skills they will apply and demonstrate mastery of in open water. As PADI Instructors, we look for the student to complete skills in a reasonably comfortable, fluid, repeatable manner as would be expected of a diver at that certification level. The process begins with individual skills. However, while diving we apply multiple skills together, so over the training progression, students learn to integrate the new skills. The minidive lets students carry out the steps of a dive in the same manner they would as certified divers. It gives them the context of how everything fits together and provides the opportunity to repeat skills within the context of a simulated dive. This prepares students better for their open water training, particularly Open Water Dive Four. Although only required in Confined Water Dive Five, you may integrate minidives earlier in your confined water training – and it’s a good idea if logistics and time permit.
Minidives build student confidence by allowing skill practice in context, such as making an ascent at the end of a dive or disassembling gear after the minidive. From an instructor’s perspective, minidives help you evaluate how well students understand the contextual aspects of diving techniques, as opposed to simply having the ability to repeat skills when signalled. Minidives should be fun. Student divers learn better, learn faster, face challenges with more enthusiasm and become comfort-able with diving quickly if they enjoy what they’re doing. Simple ideas motivate divers; start by explaining that they are simulating an open water dive. Add as much realism as you can, such as using similar entries and exits to those used in the local area or that you’ll have them use during open water training. If you will be diving from a boat, mark off an area of the pool to simulate the stern or water entry area of the boat for students to work within. Little things like introducing underwater games during minidives or having someone (not involved in training) shoot video of them during the dive builds enthusiasm. To help students refine their skills in context, you can, for example, make certain zones represent a sensitive bottom they must avoid contacting by controlling buoyancy and maintaining awareness.
Simulating and practicing such aspects of open water dives helps students anticipate what it will be like when they get to open water. PADI’s Guide to Teaching gives you a solid overview on how to conduct the minidive — in particular it explains how the students team up to plan the dive themselves (a practice run prior to Open Water Dive Four), how to use the PADI Skill Practice and Dive Planning Slate, and how you will interact and supervise. The minidive provides a perfect opportunity to introduce an underwater attention getting signal. Students hear the signal, make visual contact with you and can respond to your directions underwater. Learning this in confined water offers you more control of your students in open water.
Regarding time management, you may already use a skill circuit or other practice time during confined water training. In this case, you’ll see relatively little effect on your schedule. For those who don’t, you should only notice a minor increase in time because the minidive skills build on skills already mastered. For example, students have already demonstrated that they can swim without a mask, replace it and clear it before they would do so in the context of a minidive. Also, Confined Water Dive Five introduces relatively few new skills, affording more time for the minidive. Some PADI Members who conducted the course revision beta trials found that time spent during minidives is gained back in the open water, as students are more organized and prepared. If you need further information on the revised Open Water Diver Course, login to the PADI Pros Site and search under [Training Essentials, Curriculum, and Revised PADI Open Water Diver Course Information Page].