Print Page | Contact Us | Sign In | Join Now
Newsroom: Education Spotlight

Even After 35 Years, There's More to Learn

Friday, October 4, 2019   (0 Comments)
Share |

By Deborah Valentine Smith, B.A, L.M.T. (NY), Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA®-CI, AOBTA® President, Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressure® Authorized Teacher


Back in January 2018, I got an email from Cindy Banker, AOBTA® Education Director, about a project launched by the Alliance for Massage Therapy Educators (AFTME), which “was established to serve as an independent voice, advocate and resource for the community of massage schools and educators.” Several AOBTA® members and board members, at the instigation of Cari Johnson-Pelava, AOBTA® COSP Director, had attended the bi-annual conferences in 2015 and 2017 (more about the stellar conference we attended this July in an upcoming article) and were impressed and excited to meet a group of people who were committed to excellence in massage therapy education and who, most importantly, welcomed our perspective as Asian Bodywork Therapy educators. The conference was exciting and provided mounds of information useful to my practice, my teaching, and to the AOBTA® organization.


So when Cindy approached me about participating in an AFTME education project, I was all ears. Here’s their description of the broader project:


Within this broader mission, one of the organization's primary goals is to strengthen and improve the quality of massage education. To carry out this objective, the Alliance has embarked upon a long-term effort to address the critical need for teacher training, called the National Teacher Education Standards Project (abbreviated as TESP).


The project in which Cindy was inviting me to participate was the beta-testing group for evaluating teacher competencies using the newly developed standards.  In my 35+ years of teaching, I‘ve seen the full spectrum of teachers – from well-trained and experienced professionals to newbies just graduated from their own bodywork programs, with no training in teaching whatsoever.  The Jin Shin Do® Foundation for Bodymind Acupressure®, under the leadership of Iona Marsaa Teeguarden, Founder and Director of the Foundation, has had a teacher training program in place since 1982. I served on the faculty of the program several times through those years, and have been running the bi-annual teacher training program in the US since 2014. I was thrilled at the thought of working with a group of people who are actively addressing how to evaluate the competence of teachers, and by implication, how to teach them!


Cindy had been serving on the project for several years.  Her committee took the competencies which had been developed to evaluate teaching and created a portfolio review process for applications.  After that they developed a curriculum for teaching these competencies for teachers. This further developed the rubrics which would be used to evaluate and the competencies that would be demonstrated by an accomplished and well-trained teacher.


The goals are very ambitious:


We fully recognize that the breadth of competencies described in this document represent a level of understanding and capability that few teachers in our field have attained. This is not a cause for embarrassment or trepidation, but a call to everyone involved in massage education to be willing to engage in an ongoing process of professional development.


When Cindy called me, the TESP had completed the portfolio review application and had run one basic example of an application. This established a procedure for evaluating individual teachers based on the standards. A professional had been hired to oversee the next stage which was to beta-test the application process on real people. I was part of a team that reviewed the portfolios of six willing volunteers using the rubrics constructed from the original standards. In applying the rubrics, I was afforded the opportunity to become even more familiar with the standards and the “knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSAs), which form the basis for effective and successful teaching,”. These had been so thoroughly thought through and articulated within the portfolio review application it now provides an amazing learning tool as well as opportunity to become certified. What a gift!


This information is priceless, not only for schools and programs who are training teachers, but for individual teachers who want to continue to develop their effectiveness and professionalism.


The AFMTE has established 10 core competency standards, divided into four general categories. Each standard is further broken down into multiple specific KSAs. If you are a teacher, teacher-in-training, or aspiring teacher, give yourself the gift of scanning down through these standards. I can guarantee that there will be places where you will be drawn in and curious to discover more. You can download the entire document, complete with KSAs for each standard, AFMTE Core Competencies.


The Categories:

I.            The Learner and Learning

II.          Content

III.        Instructional Practice

IV.         Professional Responsibility




Teaching begins with the learner. To ensure that each learner acquires (or enhances) the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for the safe and effective practice of massage therapy, teachers must understand that learning and developmental patterns vary among individuals, that adults bring significant differences to the learning process, and that they need supportive, challenging and productive learning environments to thrive. Effective teachers have high expectations for their learners and implement educational experiences that support each learner in achieving his or her full potential. Teachers do this by combining a base of professional knowledge, including an understanding of how physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual and social development and integration occurs, with the recognition that adult learners are individuals who bring the rich history of their lives to the process. This includes family background, education, occupation, skills, attitudes, perspectives, talents and interests. Teachers collaborate with learners and colleagues to better understand their students and maximize their learning experiences. Teachers promote students' responsibility for their own learning process and work with them to ensure optimal learning outcomes at all stages of their career path.


Standard 1: Learner Development and Well-being

Teachers recognize that patterns of learning and development vary individually within and across the physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual and social aspects. Teachers design and implement developmentally appropriate and challenging learning experiences and maintains a focus on the progress of learners.


Standard 2: Learning Differences and Integrative Approaches

Teachers use understanding of individual differences and cultural factors to ensure inclusive learning environments that enable learners to meet their full potential, and recognize the interconnected nature of human experience to provide adult learners with rich opportunities for personal growth and integration.


Standard 3: Learning Environments

Teachers work with learners to create environments that support individual and collaborative learning, and that encourage positive social interaction, active engagement in learning and self-motivation.



Teachers must have a deep and flexible understanding of their subject area(s) and be able to draw upon content knowledge as they work with adult learners to take in new material and gain competence in theory, methodology and practical application of that material in client-centered practice settings. Teachers make content accessible to learners by using multiple means of communication, including digital media and information technology. They integrate cross-disciplinary skills (including critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and experiential awareness) to help learners achieve the educational objectives of the particular training program, workshop or seminar. Finally, teachers make content knowledge relevant to the practice of massage therapy.


Standard 4: Content Knowledge

Teachers understand the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of the subject(s) they teach. They create learning experiences that make these aspects of the subject accessible and meaningful for learners to assure competency in the content.


Standard 5: Application of Content

Teachers understand how to connect theory and methodology and use differing perspectives to engage learners in critical thinking and creativity. They understand how to build the comprehensive skills needed for the practice of massage therapy.



Effective instructional practice requires that teachers understand and integrate planning, instructional strategies and assessment in coordinated and engaging ways. Beginning with their endpoint or goal, teachers first identify student learning objectives and content standards and align assessments to those objectives. Planning focuses on using a variety of instructional strategies to address diverse ways of learning and to incorporate new technologies to maximize and individualize learning.


Standard 6: Planning for Instruction

Teachers plan instruction that supports every student in meeting well-defined learning objectives by

drawing upon knowledge of subject, curriculum, andragogy and pedagogy. They also draw upon knowledge of learners and the body-centered nature of massage therapy education.


Standard 7: Instructional Strategies and Delivery

Teachers understand and use a variety of instructional strategies to motivate learners to develop a

comprehensive understanding of theory and methodology, and to build skills to apply the knowledge in meaningful and effective ways.


Standard 8: Observation and Assessment

Teachers understand and use multiple methods of assessment to engage and receive feedback from learners in their own growth, to observe and evaluate learner progress, and to guide the teacher’s and learner’s decision making.



The teacher's primary responsibility is to establish safe and productive learning environments. To do this well, teachers must engage in meaningful professional development and self-renewal by regularly examining their role through study, introspection and collaboration. This cycle of ongoing self-improvement is enhanced by collegial support, collaboration and administrative support. Such active engagement results in the discovery and implementation of improved teaching and learning, as well as greater career satisfaction and longevity. Teachers also contribute to improving instructional practices that meet learners' needs and accomplish institutional mission and goals. Teachers benefit from and participate in collaboration with the community of educators and health care professionals. They demonstrate leadership by modeling ethical behavior and contributing to positive changes in instructional practice.


Standard 9: Professional Development and Ethical Conduct

Teachers participate in ongoing learning activities, engage in self-reflection, and receive input from others on the performance of their duties to increase their knowledge and skills. They bring a high level of ethical awareness to their work with learners and colleagues, and maintain a healthy balance in their professional life.


Standard 10: Collaboration

Teachers participate in activities that advance the art and science of massage therapy through collaboration with colleagues and other education and health care professionals.


Deborah Valentine Smith, B.A, L.M.T. (NY), Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA®-CI, AOBTA® President, Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressure® Authorized Teacher


Deborah began her study of Asian Bodywork Therapy with Wataru Ohashi in 1975, graduated from the Swedish Institute in 1982, and has been studying with Iona Marsaa Teeguarden, founder of Jin Shin Do® since 1979. She has taught in several massage and bodywork schools and currently runs the JSD Teacher Training Program in the US. She teaches the full JSD 250 hour curriculum, courses she has developed on the TendinoMuscular Meridians, and an online integrated 100-hour Anatomy and Physiology course for ABTs.


She is the author of many articles in publications including A Complete Guide to Acupressure by Iona Marsaa Teeguarden, Massage Magazine, Massage Today, The Shiatsu Society Journal (UK), AOBTA®’s Pulse, Acupuncture Today, and The North American Journal of Oriental Medicine. She is passionate about sharing the depth and beauty of bodywork that is gentle, powerful and easy to perform, yet offers a deep, healing experience of self-awareness and empowerment to the recipient.

391 Wilmington Pike
Suite #3, Box 260
Glen Mills, PA 19342



Copyright AOBTA® | All Rights Reserved | Terms of Use