“You haven’t taught until they have learned.” is a quote from John Wooden, the title of a book by Swen Nater and Ronald Gallimore (based on the quote from Wooden), and one of the Three Guiding Principles of The Excellence in Training philosophy. It also serves as a challenge for all trainers.
It is easy to blame the recruit or participant in your training when they cannot recall information that you have allegedly “taught” during your training. While it is true that as a trainer you cannot make people learn, it is also true that it is your responsibility to teach and facilitate in a manner that is most conducive to understanding, learning, retention, and the ability to recall and apply the information covered in training. When the participants have not retained the information and cannot recall or apply the material then instead of blaming them take a step back and ask yourself, “What piece of this do I own and what can I do to change the way my training is designed and delivered in order to actually facilitate learning.
And please stop blaming “the new generation”. You have a responsibility to the people in your training, regardless of what generational box someone decided they arbitrarily fit into. The reality is that when you were new, the trainers were complaining about you so get over it and focus on the design and delivery of your training. Has your continually evolved or are you still delivering training in the same manner as when you went through the pre-service academy?
I was concerned by a recent post on LinkedIn (complete with photos) by a Regional Police Academy Director regarding their current recruit class. Apparently the last instructor of the day apparently finished teaching a Constitutional Law class 15 minutes early and rather than release the recruits one of the Staff Instructors came in and told the class that if any of them could go up to the dry erase board and write out the state chapter and section which outlines when officers can use physical force and when it is prohibited, they could leave early. No one could do it, so he asked if they could list all the circumstances when state law said they could use physical force and when physical force was prohibited. Apparently, they were close, but did not get the entire correct answer. His last offer for them to get out early was for at least one of them to give him the federal cite for civil rights claims of excessive force. One student came up with the correct answer and the class ended up being dismissed on time. The last comment by the Academy Director in the post was “But we took this as a victory nonetheless.”
I am ok with keeping people until the scheduled end of the day, and I am ok with a pop quiz at the end of the day to have the students engage in active / effortful retrieval of previously covered material as a way to strength learning. I am, however, not sure that this is an effective method of doing that if the goal was to facilitate learning for the entire class. If this material was previously covered in class, I am concerned that the Director would consider it a ‘win’ when no one knew the answer to the first question, collectively they knew part of the answer to the second question, and one recruit knew the answer to the third question. To me would be a red flag regarding the design and delivery of the training material. Based on the philosophy, “You have not taught until they have learned.” you could not say that you have “taught” the material covered in the three questions.
I was also concerned by the fact that this was determined to be worthy of a post on LinkedIn and by the fact that numerous people liked and celebrated this post. What exactly is there to celebrate other than the recruits did get out on time and fortunately it appears they were not punished with PT for not knowing the answers. I also curious as to why there were photos. I am not sure why you would have someone taking pictures of this, but that is the least of my concerns.
As trainers we have a responsibility to design and deliver training in a manner that facilitates understanding, learning, retention, and the ability to recall and apply that learning in the real world following the training. The philosophy, “You have not taught until they have learned.” can serve as a constant challenge to all of us. This does not absolve the participants from their responsibility in the learning process. It does however challenge us to stop blaming the participants in training if they “don’t get it” and look in the mirror.
I don’t think anyone has all the answers as to THE most effective way to design and deliver training. I know I certainly don’t. There is a vast body of wisdom from experienced trainers who are continually running experiments to determine what works for them, which can help us on this journey if we can find a way to access that wisdom. There is also a vast body of research, which can serve to ground and inform your training if you are willing to spend the time digging into and dissecting the research.
Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep experimenting. Keep striving to improve yourself and your training and always remember the challenge from Coach John Wooden, “You haven’t taught until they have learned.”
Winning Mind Training – Providing practical training to law enforcement professionals in the areas of instructor development, Performance Enhancement Imagery, leadership and mindset.