Too often trainers are looking for THE way, THE system, THE drills or exercises, or THE pedagogical model for training. The problem is that there is no “The Way” or “One Way” to teach or train. I heard a quote in one of the many podcast interviews on coaching, teaching, and learning I have listened to that said, “Everything works some of the time, but nothing works all of the time.” If I could remember the source, I would give them credit. This is in line with the Bruce Lee philosophy of adapting what is useful, discarding what is not and adding what is uniquely your own.
Rather than thinking there is one way or one system, or thinking you are ever done enhancing and evolving your training, think of yourself as a citizen scientist, and think of training as a series of experiments. I am not suggesting that you go off half-cocked or do things that are dangerous or not well thought out. I am talking about running small experiments built off the question from Robert Cooper PhD, “Where might the smallest change make the biggest difference?” Based on what you learn from each small experiment you can iterate, improve, and repeat. The hypothesis that drives each experiment can be informed by both the research and by forward-thinking practitioners.
While there is a vast amount of research related to theories of learning, teaching, and coaching, skill acquisition, human factors, anatomy, physiology, psychology, sociology, and many other related fields, very little of it has been done specifically with police training. Because of the limitations of conducting research very little of the research is done in applied, real world settings. That does not mean you ignore the research. You can let it inform your hypothesis and training experiments. I encourage you to read the research, listen to interviews with the researchers and consider reaching out to some of the researchers and if possible, have a conversation about the potential applications of their findings to your training. My experience from conducting over 450 interviews for The Excellence in Training Academy is that most researchers are very willing to have conversations about their work.
During an interview with Tim Ferris for the Huberman Lab Podcast Andrew Huberman asked Ferris how he always managed to be ahead of the curve on his ideas. Ferris said, “I look at what the practitioners are doing. The practitioners are going to be ahead of the papers………… If what the coaches are doing holds up, eventually it will make its way into the peer reviewed papers, but there is going to be a lag time of at least 3 to 5 years.” Having been involved in delivering police training for 34 years, I completely agree with that statement, as did Andrew Huberman who is a researcher and a professor of Ophthalmology and Neurobiology at the Stanford School of Medicine where he runs his own lab.
Why do I bring this up? Because in today’s world we hear a lot about ‘evidence based’, when maybe we should be talking about evidence / research informed, and because we too often forget to look at what the forward-thinking trainers are doing, and often have been doing for years. That is one of the many benefits of being a member of ILEETA, the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, and if possible, attending the annual conference. Being an ILEETA member affords you the opportunity to learn from and interact with fellow trainers through a variety of ways to exchange ideas and gain new insights for running training experiments in your agency or academy.
To be a credible scientist, you need to have strong beliefs, loosely held, and be willing to change your beliefs in the face of more compelling evidence. This means that it is ok to say, “I used to believe X, but now, based on this body of research, combined with the results of these training experiments, I now believe Y.”
Have a look at your training while reflecting on Robert Cooper’s question, “Where might the smallest change make the biggest difference?” and identify where you can run your next experiment. Seek opportunities to share your findings with fellow trainers so we can all learn and grow.
Winning Mind Training – Providing practical training to law enforcement professionals in the areas of instructor development, Performance Enhancement Imagery, leadership and mindset.