One of the greatest joys in the fire service is providing service to citizens during their individual crises—restoring some degree of normalcy after a fire or emergency medical issue. The second greatest elation is sharing knowledge and training with current and aspiring firefighters—a staple of the fire service that takes place daily in both the classroom and on the drill ground around the globe. Fire service professionals at all levels take significant pride in all of the above described activities!
On the training and education side, the ability to satisfy learning through demonstrations and sharing information is both an art and a science. One of the principle tools used to affect learning is the four-step method of instructional delivery. This process (four-step method of instruction) is used to relate the material that is in the lesson plan with the learner. The steps include preparation, presentation, application, and evaluation.
Using this linear approach, the instructor begins with preparation (step one). During this step, preparation focuses not only on the needs and requirements of the learner: It also requires a great deal of needed actions on the part of the instructor.
Prior to a teaching or demonstration/skills activity, the instructor must familiarize him/herself with the material, review the cognitive and psychomotor objectives, ensure the objectives are covered in the lesson outline and skill sheet(s), verify material resources are present and operational, and is able to perform the psychomotor skill using a skill sheet as a guide. Using basic concepts centered around student-centered learning, the instructor should review the lesson plan with the learner(s) prior to its delivery.
The aforementioned practice, borrowed from the student-centered learning concept, is impactful on many levels. By allowing the learner to have some involvement in the development of the lesson plan prior to content delivery, it places him/her at the forefront of their learning experience. Instead of the instructor being the sole voice, the student is now too part of the “why—how—what” of the learning experience. At the company and battalion level, ask firefighters what they want to learn, how they want to learn, while you explain the why and importance of the subject matter.
Using concepts from student-centered learning in concert with the four-step method of instructional delivery is not about abdicating authority from the instructor/company officer—it is about you taking on responsibilities in line with that of a consultant prior to and during the learning experience. Whether the activity is in a formal or informal setting, the end goal is to ensure that relevant learning has taken place.