In a 2021 blog post titled The revolution in online learning Seth Godin addressed some issues that we need to pay attention to in all of our training, in person and online, in preservice academies and with in-service training:
Not education, learning.
Education is a model based on scarcity, compliance and accreditation. It trades time, attention and money for a piece of paper that promises value.
But we learn in ways that have little to do with how mass education is structured.
If you know how to walk, write, read, type, have a conversation, perform surgery or cook an egg, it’s probably because you practiced and explored and experienced, not because it was on a test.
Where is the focus of your training? Is it on education, focused on compliance and accreditation, or is it on learning, retention, understanding and the ability to apply what was learned in the real world?
Too many agencies and academies are still focused on education. They deliver the mandated training to ensure everyone checks the box to meet the minimum mandated training standards in their jurisdiction and satisfy the accrediting body. The questions we too often forget to ask are:
- Have the people who attended this training actually learned the material?
- What have they retained from the material that was taught?
- Do they actually understand the material and how to apply it in the real world out on the street?
The current model of education in many agencies is accompanied by the Person / Legal model of investigating human error. When an officer makes an error in the field, and there is a bad outcome, agencies are quick to blame the officer and say, “They were trained in ___________ and failed to follow their training.” This is often followed by the implementation of more policy, increased levels of oversight and restrictions, and sending the officer back for more training (education), or firing them.
It is common to hear from FTOs and front line supervisors complain that recruits coming out of the academy don’t know how to talk to people and won’t make a decision. Lets go back to the last line I shared from Seth Godin’s blog post, “If you know how to walk, write, read, type, have a conversation, perform surgery or cook an egg, it’s probably because you practiced and explored and experienced, not because it was on a test.”
If those are common concerns about recruits coming out of the academy then we should be looking at the academy and asking, “How much time is spent in the academy practicing, exploring and experiencing those skills?” Too often the answer is “little to none”. They went through an academy based on the education model and are accredited because they passed all the tests, but did they learn the actual skills necessary to function as a police officer? Did they learn how to make decisions and get continuous opportunities to practice those skills? Did they learn how to communicate with people other than yelling commands and saying, “Yes Sir, and No Sir.”? Did they have opportunities to practice those skills throughout training? Were they trained for critical thinking, or for compliance?
Law enforcement is a complex and demanding profession. The old education model does not prepare the men and women coming into the profession, or those already in the profession, to excel as law enforcement professionals. As trainers you need to shift the focus to learning and determine how best to engage people through effective training to facilitate learning, retention, understanding and the ability to apply the skills and knowledge. The consequences of sticking with the old education model are too high for us to continue down this path.
Winning Mind Training – Dedicated to serving the heroic men and women of law enforcement.
The Excellence in Training Academy – A membership site created for law enforcement trainers willing to invest in their ongoing professional development.
Dare to Be Great Leadership – Committed to helping aspiring and frontline leaders on their leadership journey through a weekly leadership blog and the online Dare to Be Great workshop.