first time to post here. I'm a music (recorder & traverso aka baroque flute) and Alexander technique (see: stat.org.uk) teacher, so this discussion on teaching caught my eye.
I occasionally lead an aikido class as well. Just took my ikkyu test couple of months ago.
As I see it there are a few different things you need to learn to learn in an aikido class, some more critical than others. For instance, you need to learn how to watch a demonstration of a technique and to make enough sense of it to be able to practice _something_. I tell people to first watch the footwork, and if they can't remember the whole technique, to try and remember the first movement and to practice that first. Plus when people start to see the patterns of basic tai sabaki (irimi, tenkan etc. ) and how the techniques consist of combinations of those, that helps with remembering the techniques as well. I think people pick up this kind of strategies from each other and the more senior students, too.
As to making people more aware of what they are doing, which I think is critical to really improving, I don't think there's anything as effective as direct feedback. "Can you feel that you're tensing your arm as you turn? Try again. Yep, still doing it. Once more. That was different, did you notice?" It takes time in the beginning, but after a while people start to observe themselves more carefully and then it's easier.
I think it's also important to get people to really stop and take time and slow down to give themselves a chance to see and feel and taste and hear what is going on. I think a short simple meditation in the beginning of class helps with that. Sometimes, when someone keeps doing the same mistake over and over again, I ask them to stop completely and to make a clear decision about what they are going to do next. That almost always helps.
As you can see, I'm not fond of indirect methods of teaching.
The most difficult thing I find, probably because I'm not that experienced yet, is how to show people what a technique really means. I find people tend to skip parts of techniques and to forget important details, or put themselves in a dangerous position relative to uke for example, and I think it's because they are doing technique on a surface level without understanding what they are doing. Or sometimes even caring... Still I think it's the same story: direct feedback, and getting people to be aware of uke's balance and their own and the relationship between the two etc.
well, my two eurocents worth, off to the park to train now (dojo is closed in August)