Let me be clear about a few things up front:
- I have limited formal education. Except for a couple of certificates from university programs my formal education is a high school diploma.
- I have no formal training in research or research methodologies.
- I have never conducted scientific research.
- My knowledge and understanding of training come from decades of reading, listening, interviewing, making mistakes, attending training courses and conferences, make more (but different) mistakes, asking questions of a lot of highly educated people, asking questions of a lot of very experienced people, making new mistakes, coaching youth sports and 33 years of being a law enforcement trainer.
I am in complete agreement that our training, and our training methodologies need to be evidence based and research informed. I do, however, feel there is a third element that is often missing and that is Practically Applied. There are numerous questions we need to ask, and seek to answer regarding research and I will put them into three buckets: What? So what? Now what?
The research findings begin to answer the “What?” questions.
- What research has been done specific to the elements of training and human performance you are interested in?
- What does the research and evidence show related to that area of performance?
- What was the context (lab vs. real world) of the research?
- What was the environment it was done in?
- What was the sample size?
- What other research confirms or refutes these findings?
The next group of questions are “So What?” questions because data without insight is of limited use:
- So what does that mean in non-academic terms?
- So what does that mean in the real world outside of controlled lab conditions?
- So what does that mean, in practical terms, to training and to trainers?
The last group of questions fall into the “Now What?” category:
- Now what do we do with this information?
- Now what, if anything, do we change in the content, delivery or sequencing of our training based on the data?
- Now what do we need to do to help other trainers, our officers, our administration, and our communities understand the implications and applications of the research?
You likely have more questions, and better questions than what I have listed here.
It may take a lot of work on your part to gain an understanding what the research says in non-academic terms, what it means, and then determine how it can be applied, if it in fact can be applied, to the real world. I will keep coming back to the term “in the real world” because the lab is not the street. It is extremely difficult for researchers to replicate the complexity, volatility, ambiguity, chaos, stress and consequences of the real world in a lab setting.
In a previous blog post I shared the following quote from Wisława Szymborska, recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature, “Any knowledge that doesn’t lead to new questions quickly dies out: it fails to maintain the temperature required for sustaining life.” We all need to keep asking questions to gain a better understanding of the practical application for the research, then seek to find ways to share that understanding.
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