Passing the torch to the next generation of law enforcement trainers is a critical task, for it is they who will ensure our profession’s continuing vitality, relevance and professionalism. Here are seven elements to enable basic instructor training meets those lofty goals.
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The best compliment instructors can receive is they are passionate about their topics. It is impossible to teach someone to be passionate about a topic. Future instructors should teach subjects important to them.
Allow instructor candidates to present training topics that excite them. If they are indifferent to the topic, the students will be too.
2. Goals and objectives
Law enforcement instructors are trainers. They are results-oriented and seek to adjust behavior. Goals are the changes in behavior the instructor seeks to instill in students. Performance objectives are checklists to achieve goals.
Performance objectives are among the hardest elements to teach instructor candidates to develop. Instructors should have students state the goal and then list the steps to achieve the goal.
Performance objectives have three parts: the task, the condition and the standard.
- The task is what must be performed to demonstrate the change in behavior.
- The condition is what must be present when the task is being performed.
- The standard is the law, general order, or other factors governing the completion of the goal.
The student should list each part of the performance objective and then combine the task, the condition and the standard to create the performance objective. Goals and objectives must always be student-oriented; we are measuring a change in behavior in the students, not the instructor. Use measurable verbs like demonstrate, list, complete and administer when creating performance objectives.
Performance objectives serve several functions:
- They force the instructor to plan how the course will be conducted.
- They allow others to review class contents and offer suggestions.
- They are the blueprint that allows any qualified instructor to present the material.
Allot appropriate time for this topic. It helps to write example goals and objectives with the students and allow time to practice writing goals and objectives as a group. After they are comfortable as a group writing goals and objectives, have them create goals and objectives on their own. Finally, have the students draft the goals and objectives for the training course they will present at the end of training.
3. Lesson plans
The ability to create detailed lesson plans is crucial. The test of a good lesson plan is any qualified instructor can present the material on the lesson plan without help from the instructor who wrote it.
Lesson plans can help limit potential vicarious liability for the trainer. Thoroughly document all training instructions, exercises, demonstrations and other elements so the instructor can accurately recall what was covered during the training and how it was covered. Attach handouts and other training aids to the lesson plan. Always include a revision date on the lesson plan because laws, experience, best practices and general orders change. Periodic review serves two practical purposes: it keeps the material up to date and prevents the instructor from becoming stale. Changes made to lesson plans should be made well in advance of a class and the changes should be re-submitted for approval.
While formats may vary, they must contain all the critical information. Give examples of different lesson plans and have the instructor candidates create practice lesson plans during the class. Feedback ensures the students gain valuable experience creating these training building blocks.
4. Different teaching methods
There are numerous instruction methods and students learn differently. Teach the instructor candidates to conduct training through various methods so they can teach more students. For example, have them use PowerPoint, handouts and use of a whiteboard while instructing. Require them to use different instructional techniques during their final presentation.
5. Maintenance of training records
The best training is worthless without the maintenance of training records. Lesson plans, course schedules, coversheets, attendance rosters and student evaluations are training records. Instructors must know how to create and retain these documents. Demonstrate best practices for storing this data such as keeping backup records if the data is maintained electronically.
Ensure the instructor candidates teach during the class whenever possible. They should also be creating lesson plans, goals, objectives and handouts. Have instructor candidates create training packets mimicking the course materials submitted to obtain approval for training (the state, local, regional, or federal academy at which the training is being conducted).
Provide a critique after each teaching practical and have them critique themselves. Stress the positive while giving the instructor candidates tips on how they can improve their performance.
Flexibility is an attribute of a good instructor. Seasoned instructors must often adjust training schedules, course material and/or other aspects of training.
Teach them how to work around the loss of electronic audio/visual aids, disturbances in the classroom, and the various other issues that can occur. You cannot prepare them for every contingency so they must learn to anticipate and overcome challenges.
These elements are the cornerstones of law enforcement training. Exceptional training ensures future generations of law enforcement officers maintain high levels of expertise and professionalism in a complicated environment.