Trainers! It's Not About US

Telling isn't training. How do we change the focus from what we say to what they learn? How do we give them choice and power over their learning so they're more involved? Read on.


  1. Ask your learners to name the training. The power of naming is huge. In the Genesis story God brings all the other creatures to Adam and lets him name each one. The vast, unknowable expanse of creation becomes more known with each name Adam attaches. Naming creates ownership and investment.

    Letting your learners name the training can also generate more interest. Compare:

    Patrol Procedures to Enhance Officer Safety
    With
    What If You Went on Patrol and Never Came Home?
    Or
    Police Report Writing
    With
    What If a Defense Attorney Fed You Your Report Word by Word in Open Court?
    Or
    Cold Water Survival
    With
    Ten Tips for Staying Afloat When the Water's *&%#@% Freezing!

    Make the naming a competition, have the group vote on the best and give a prize to the winner.

  2. If there's going to be a post-test, get recruits or officers actively involved by giving a pre-test. I tell my learners that before we even begin the training I'm going to give them a pre-test. I make them put all writing or recording materials away and I ask them what a pre-test is.
    A test "before" learning?

    "That's right," I say. "And it's a learning tool. What might we both learn from a pre-test?"

    They eventually respond that they can learn what's going to be on the post-test and I can learn what they already know and what they still need to learn. These are good things for both of us to learn.

    Then I give the test they are going to take at the end of the instruction. I don't give them any of the answers. I just give them the questions and let them discuss possible answers.

    At regular intervals in the training, I have the learners discuss what pre-test questions have been answered and have them validate the answers as a group.

    Tests should be learning tools, not hide-the-ball games. Officers and recruits have a high interest in doing well on tests. Tap that learner motivation by letting them know up front what the learning objectives are and then providing them an opportunity to demonstrate their mastery during the learning process.

  3. Tell them the teaching a dog to whistle story. Ask them what it means.

    Tell them you need their active participation in and contribution to the training to create anything of value. (That's what was lacking from Buster.)

    Ask them what they want from the training. Have one of the participants write down the group's answers. (If a learner mentions something that won't be covered, explain why.) These are learning goals they have set themselves. That's active. That's choice.

    Now ask them what they see as your responsibility in this process. Have a participant list these. Take a deep breath. Commit publicly that you will do your best to meet your responsibilities.

    Then, ask them what they see as their responsibility. Have one of them write these down. Ask them to publicly commit themselves to their responsibilities in this learning-centered process.

  4. Throughout the training recognize learner contributions. Incorporate their questions and comments into the discussion. Take care to show you appreciate their contributions.
    • Yes!
    • Exactly!
    • Great!
    • Absolutely!
    • Good point.
    • Thank you.

    If a learner makes a point or asks a useful question during a break, share it with the group. Show as much interest in what the learners have to say as in what you say.

The greatest good.

Benjamin Disraeli, twice Prime Minister of England and a brilliant debater said,

The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.

That's what learner-centered training is all about.



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