As we seek to advance and improve the policing profession one question that continues to surface is, “What pedagogical model, or theory of teaching, coaching and learning is most effective for police training?”
In a recent interview for The Excellence in Training Academy with Chris Cushion PhD. we discussed the range of pedagogical models and coaching philosophies trainers can utilize to conduct effective training for police officers. Chris is a Professor of Coaching & Pedagogy and a Coach Educator at Loughborough University School of Sports Exercise and Health Sciences in the UK, and currently the Head of Coaching at England Netball. Chris is an experienced martial arts practitioner and instructor and co-authored the book Sport Coaching Concepts: A framework for coaching practice. He has done research regarding police training in the UK and continues to work with police trainers to enhance the delivery of police training in the UK. Before Chris offered suggestions on enhancing the training delivery and methodologies, he first went through the training as a student.
In addition to debunking some of the myths about Direct Instruction as a pedagogical model, Chris also explained that all the pedagogical models and philosophies on training, teaching, coaching, and learning are simply theories. While some of those theories are better supported by research than others, they are all still theories. One of the key takeaways from our discussion was the need to step away from dogmatic arguments about which model or philosophy is “best” and look to the concepts and principles utilized in each of those models to help facilitate learning. When you do that, you may be surprised to discover that there are more similarities underpinning all the theories than there are differences.
Rather than getting locked into one model, and the accompanying set of specific, and sometimes confusing, terminology we need to focus on research informed principles of teaching that will help deliver training in a manner most likely to result in understanding, learning, retention, and the ability for the learners to recall and apply what was taught. Those principles include a wide range of teaching methods. As Andy Galpin PhD. says regarding physical training and conditioning, “The principles are few, the methods are many.”
This all goes back to the philosophy that the goal for trainers, and training, is to help the men and women we train to become dextrous, adaptive, decision makers. Training humans is not one size fits all. Training people for the complexities of the policing profession is exceptionally challenging and requires a variety of approaches. There is no one path, system, or model to accomplish this goal. There are, however, research informed principles and concepts that we can utilize to guide us on this journey.
“One sign you haven’t done enough reading is if you find yourself agreeing with whatever book you read last. At first, it’s easy to be swayed by any reasonable argument. Once you’ve read a lot, you can see that even the best arguments have limitations.”
I am the first to admit that I have been guilty of jumping on a band wagon based on the last book I read, the last course I took, or the last interview I did. This usually tempers as I continue to read, listen, and learn. As a trainer it is important to read, listen, and study broadly, as well as deeply. Read the research, not just the flashy headline but the entire research paper. If you are like me you might have to read the paper a few times. Seek out and listen to interviews where the researchers discuss their research and the potential applications for it. Reach out to one or more of the researchers to ask probing questions and seek clarification and understanding. Not all of them will respond, but many of them will. Do your homework before the conversation with them so you make the most of the opportunity. Keep the questions, “So what?” and “Now what?” in mind as you seek to find the potential applications of the research, if there are any, to police training.
This requires a deep level of personal and professional commitment on your part as much of this work may have to be done on your own time, and I know you all have busy lives. Be consistent. Do a little, a lot. Read non-fiction books, articles, and papers for at least 10 minutes every day. Find a group of brother and sister trainers who are also committed to continual, incremental growth and regularly exchange ideas and have discussions about what you are learning, always seeking to identify the underlying research informed principles. Find people who are willing to disagree and ask and answer hard questions. Be sure to listen deeply to the answers and make those discussions a safe place to disagree.
Reach out to people from different backgrounds, experiences, styles of teaching, and beliefs about teaching and have an open-minded discussion to identify strengths, weaknesses, and potential gaps with each style. Also seek to identify similarities in principles and concepts. While the language and terminology may differ, the underlying principles and concepts are often similar, or the same. When you step away from the dogma of system, style, philosophy, or model you may discover you have more in common than you thought.
Have strong beliefs, loosely held. Be curious. Be open minded. Seek principles and concepts. Keep in mind that it is not about you, it is about the men and women you have the privilege and honor to train and what is best for their learning, growth, and development so they can perform at the highest levels in the complex and demanding world they function in as police professionals.
Winning Mind Training – Providing practical training to law enforcement professionals in the areas of instructor development, Performance Enhancement Imagery, leadership and mindset.