Training Breaks that Seal Gaps

Brain science shows that "chunking up" your training with breaks boosts learning and recall. This is true of classroom and tactical training. What kinds of breaks? Read on.


Last month

In We Interrupt This Training - To Bring You Brain-Compatible Learning (linked in below) we looked at some interesting science that is helping trainers design their instruction so it is brain-compatible.

Brain science has shown that we best remember:

  • The beginning and ending part of any block of information AND
  • Things that stand out because they're colorful, surprising, different or emotionally engaging.

Most training engages the left-side of the brain: the side that is logical, linear, handles spatial stuff, and organizes data. If we can engage our learners emotionally - which colorful, surprising or FUN things do - we

BAM! Kick it up a notch!

We engage the right-side of the brain, as well. According to the left-side of my brain, having two sides engaged is better than having just one.

This science supports not just making sure you break up a long block of instruction to create more beginnings and endings but that you build into each of those sub-blocks colorful, surprising, or right-brained breaks that boost learning around them.

Such structure would have a 3-hour block of instruction looking like our top photo to the right.

This design has lots of beginnings and endings and emotionally engaging interruptions around which learning and recall is heightened.

So let's look at some FAST, CHEAP, EASY and FUN (which engages the right-side of the brain) breaks in training. But before we do, let me answer the question,

What if my training is tactical?

I am not an expert in tactical stuff - on the giving or receiving end. I do have some modest firearms training, including some week long courses that had tactical simulations. That training added to my awe of law enforcement officers. I truly don't know how you do it. I was exhausted at the end of each day. The only comparable experience I've had was flying a small airplane back and forth between Alaska and Arizona a number of times. Again, at each day's end I was exhausted.

Both activities were incredibly high interest to me and required intense mental, emotional and physical concentration. I was on high alert for hours at a time (especially in the single engine plane in marginal visibility in the mountains with moderate turbulence). I imagine law enforcement tactical training to be even more demanding.

My point is that brain-comparable training breaks aren't just for classroom instruction. They may be even more critical for more stressful, albeit high interest and physically involved training.

Brain science shows overwhelmingly that people learn better in a relaxed, safe environment. Tactical scenario-based training is usually far from that, but you can chunk the high stress intensity with brain-compatible learning breaks.

Breaks that seal learning.

Black jack. Ever asked for a volunteer, for questions, for comments - and gotten silence and immobility? This will have learners competing to participate. You'll need one or more decks of cards, depending on how large the group and how active the day. Each learner receives a playing card at the beginning of the training that is kept face down. Learners who answer questions, volunteer, or ask constructive questions, receive another card face up. At any point in the training, the instructor can call for a show of card hands. Prizes can be awarded to winning hands or to Black Jack hands only; or the hands can be tallied throughout the training with one or more prizes awarded at the end. (see 101 Games for Trainers, web link below.)

Cartoon captions.

Find cartoons related to your topic. It's easy. I googled free cartoons on firearms and found a site (Image Envision, web link below) with over 150 royalty free cartoons. And that's just one web site. I picked the one shown, 2nd graphic top right with a police officer dangling a pair of handcuffs.

Show the cartoon and have small groups or individual learners come up with captions. For example:

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