Last week I wrote about the importance of the cycle of Study, Reflect, Implement, Assess and Repeat in relation to incorporating the research on how humans best learn and retain information. Once you incorporate the strategies to help people learn, retain and be able to recall and apply the material into what you teach you need to let the participants know that this will be different from their training experiences in the past.
If you teach inservice let them know that you will be doing things differently than you have in the past, and let them know why.
If you teach at the Academy let the recruits know that this training experience will likely be different from every other educational experience they have had. Unlike the high school, college and university courses they took it is not enough for them to pass the test at the end of each course. Yes, that is important so they can get certified and become law enforcement officers. Here however, the goal is way deeper than getting them to pass those tests at the end of each area of instruction. Here the goal is to help them be able to understand, learn, retain and be able to apply the information in the series of tests that will follow over the next 20 to 30 years of their career. Those tests will come in the form of the need to determine if they have the authority to detain or arrest an individual, to enter a home without a warrant, to search a vehicle, on the stand while testifying in court and in tense, uncreating and rapidly evolving events that will sometimes require the use of violence by the officer.
Some of these tests will be open book; they will have time to look up the information they need and to utilize a variety of resources to make the decision. In those cases they need to know how and where to access that information.
Some of those tests will be presented with little or no time to plan and prepare and the officer will have to respond instantly.
For some of those tests failure will result in the charges being thrown out in court. In other tests failure will mean the officer, or someone else has been seriously injured or killed.
Let them know that this is not a six month training process (or however long the training is). Let them know this is the the first six months of a 20 or 25 year learning experience. You will guide them through the first six months; the remainder will primarily be experiential and self directed learning. The more intentional they are throughout that process, the better they will continue to do on all those tests.
If you teach in a manner that creates an environment where they will actually learn and retain the information it will be different. At times they will struggle while experiencing desirable difficulties. At times it will be frustrating as the interleaving process will seem like you are jumping around before they master a skill or technique. That is good for them, they just may not know it.
You are working to overcome a lifetime of programming and training by the traditional educational system. Most have been trained in a linear fashion in block training. They have been programmed to ask, “What is on the test?” so they know what information to highlight, reread and cram before the test. Some of them have been programmed to write down verbatim everything that is on the PowerPoint slides because those slides have been the focal point of the teaching.
It is not simply a matter of telling them upfront that this experience will be different. You need to continually remind them of what you are doing and why. This will help alleviate some of the frustration. As you progress you can continually help guide them to connect the dots with everything they are learning.
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