Making Training Great Again

Fire service instructors are the first line of defense against LODD and injury.  Each training session developed and delivered must be on point and make the most of available time while providing the most amount of retention.  Legacy methods of instruction are those that todays instructors were trained on during their early years on the job, and in many cases, are not as effective today as they were then.  The student has changed just as much as the profession has.  If today’s instructor does not learn ways to use modern instructional techniques and resources, many lost opportunities and disconnections from the student will happen.

When PowerPoint first hit the fire service, it replaced overhead transparencies and poster sized visuals in the fire station classroom.  Instructors then had few computer skills, lacked the technical savvy to produce visual aids that engaged the student and during the legacy years, the cost of the technology was a major limiting factor.  Even if an instructor could make a PowerPoint presentation, their skills in using it to guide discussions and instruction were not there.  The modern instructor might have suffered through those developmental years and know that they are taking their position in a teaching role, know first-hand how they don’t want their sessions to appear and be delivered.  Again, history is a great teacher if we can apply the lesson.

I often think of the student in the legacy years as ones who received their formal elementary and secondary education being lectured to for lengthy periods of time and then had equal parts of application in the form of class exercises and homework.  As education and student has evolved, the modern classroom features short class periods, a front-loaded delivery (on-line resources available before the class starts) and in many cases a shorter attention span in both the student and teacher.  The fire station classroom mimicked these models as well.  Today there is a very strong movement to self-study, self-delivered education that must be available 24/7 for the student.  With competing demands for time, involvement in many activities outside the fire service, our new skill sets require much more than just your standard oral communication skills and the critical eye of a hands-on instructor.

Making Training Great Again charges the participant to look at how training has evolved over the last decade and to take that critical eye to how they instruct.  Making training a looked forward to part of the day is the mission and challenge.  Paid, part-time, volunteer and all types of departments struggle with the same challenge.  Research exists that show that shorter duration, exercise driven training can yield better results that are retained and can be used after the session is over.  Adult learning and especially fire service learning is different than how children learn.  Your students have many life and fire service experiences and given the successes they have had in a specific skill application or procedure, may (will) be resistant to learning and applying a new method. 

Highlighting the major focus points of the class, you’ll see examples of effective short-duration training delivery and how technology can enhance your skill abilities.  You want to be successful in each class you instruct and that can be a hard thing to measure sometimes.  It’s one thing to deliver a rock star level drill hitting all your objectives/outcomes and receiving positive feedback from the group.  The real measure is how much and what is retained by them.  In a profession that carries high risk for the members and the expectation of the customer is so high, you must make every training great.  The first challenge is always the initial drill or class, the second challenge is to make the skill or subject one that the participant will want to repeat and practice.  Skills and knowledge erode so quickly and when called upon after not being used, will certainly take longer and may contain critical errors.  Many things we do need to be trained and drilled on, then repetitive practice will keep those skills fresh and “2am ready”.  That means when you are pressed into action in a life and death situation, you can execute skills by habit

Here are some short focus driven take-aways from this class.

  • Modern instruction techniques

o   Blended classrooms

o   Front loaded learning

o   Flipped classrooms

o   Outcome based learning

  • Make it quick and make it stick
  • You can’t remember until you learn, you can’t learn until you apply
  • Show them what right looks like
  • Training models

o   What it is, why it’s important, and where they will use it or do it

o   Show Tell Do

  • Execute skills by habit

Great training engages the learner throughout and after the process.  You are making an investment into the future by doing so, keeping your firefighters safe and ready to make a difference.  You train them not only for themselves, but for their family who want them to come home.  They are all counting on you for that. 

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