In many Basic Academies there is an evaluation of the training done at the end of the Academy where the recruits have the opportunity to evaluate the training they received. I believe the purpose behind this is to give the recruits the opportunity to provide feedback on the training and the trainers, ideally so it can be used to enhance training in the future.
My belief is that this type of evaluation has extremely limited value for a number of reasons:
- You are asking the recruits to reflect on four to six months of intense training in one evaluation.
- By the time the trainers get the information it can be 7 or 8 months old and has little value.
- The evaluation does not have the ability to change the training experience for the recruits participating in the evaluation.
- If the training sucked they likely prefer the next class have to endure the same suck.
- As a recruit I know whether or not I enjoyed the training experience, but I have no sense if the training actually prepared me for the street.
One very dedicated and very frustrated trainer from a large academy who participated in the five day Excellence in Training course last year explained to me that he was doing all the things we talked about during the five days. The recruits however, at the end of the Academy gave him horrible reviews. Many of those same recruits however, reached out after they had been on the street and told him that they now understood why he taught the way he did and thanked him for helping them to not only pass the Academy, but to learn and retain the information he had taught. His agency however, told him that if his “End of The Academy Evaluations” did not improve, he was going to be kicked out of the Academy. He was now faced with a choice to either continue to do what was best for the recruits and the agency and get removed from training, or compromise his values and principles, teach to the test, get good evaluations, potentially set the recruits and the agency up for problems long term and get to stay in training. I suspect he is now back working the street; a great loss for their instructional staff.
What might be more beneficial for the recruits, the training staff and the agency is to find a way to do short evaluations at the end of every week. This would allow the feedback to be recent and the training staff to make small changes to the training to enhance the learning experience.
If you implement an evidenced based training approach using the principles of Desirable Difficulties, Interleaving, Spaced Practice and Effortful Retrieval be prepared that it will be frustrating for many of the students (and instructors). That frustration may be reflected in their evaluations so you need to look at the feedback in context. The key is to continually remind everyone to “trust the process” and remind the recruits that the training is designed to enhance their learning, retention and the ability to recall and apply what they are learning over the long haul, not just to get them to pass the immediate test.
Agencies should then consider doing another evaluation at the end of the FTO / PTO phase to get feedback on how the Academy training prepared them for the street and if the training and feedback from their FTOs / PTOs was congruent with what the Academy staff are teaching. There should then be another evaluation at the end of their probation to get feedback from the recruits on how the Academy training in combination with the FTO / PTO training prepared them to do the job on their own.
As the training being provided to new officers continues to evolve we need to make sure we are also evolving the way in which we evaluate the training.
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