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Teaching the "why" when training along with the "how."

During my twenty plus years I have attended many courses and conferences from many different instructors.  And over the last few years I have become an instructor myself and have taught several classes.  As an instrutctor I find that I pay as much attention to how another instructor conveys the message as I do the material itself.  I am always looking for a way to improve my knowledge and skills as a firefighter and instructor.  As I was watching  TV, one of my favorite shows, Holmes on Homes was on and discussing the concept and basis of the show.  The star of the show Mike Holmes was discussing that even as a child he wanted to know why things were done and not just how to do them and he does the same thing with his show.  This concept of teaching seems terribly simple and I realized that the instructors I considered good did exactly that, they added the extra information to make the connection between how something is done and why we need to do it.

I have noticed that some instructors tend to focus more on the technique of how to do something, especially in recruit training.  The focus is on how to make a direct attack, combination attack or indirect attack on the fire.  But all too often the discussion of when to use a certain attack; and more importantly when NOT to use a certain attack is extremely quick or it is not discussed at all.

So is there any special tricks that you use to make the "why" stick with the students? For example:  I've heard someone mention that used a baked potatoe while still hot, droped inside the wall of an acquired structure to demonstrate using a TIC to find hot spots in walls.

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I agree with you 100%! If we want our firefighters to be smart, we must teach the why.  I have been including this topic in my FDIC presentation for the past 12 years, and I often get asked this question.  I strongly believe that several things must occur if the firefighter / officer is to obtain the necessary “why” from his / her training experience.

  • Training must be personal and reach the student on a personal level so that there is ownership of the material.
  • The instructor must have sufficient knowledge and real world experience to make the connection between the why and the how.  Fire service instructors are notorious for seeing or reading something, and then taking it back to their department and presenting it as if they are the authority, when in reality they have a very elementary understanding of the subject. You can’t expect the student to obtain the why if the instructor doesn’t know the why.  It is much easier to see something and reproduce it for show and then just say “because I said so” for the why.  For example, I will never just send out my OV for Suburban Departments class to those that ask.  You MUST understand the “why” of the duties of the OV or someone will get seriously hurt.  I don’t want someone running through the course and saying “okay now we have an OV, and can do VES”….
  • There must be immediate feedback of events in order to create experiences.  Without this timely feedback, the mental markers are not created and the finer points of the concept are not fully understood.
  • Finally I believe you need to create a mental map to truly gain understanding.  You must be able to lead the student through the learning process, but also be able to incorporate real world experiences.  I developed the 6R’s of Learning and Experiences as part of our mentoring process to help maximize training and the development of experiences. The 6R’s model looks like.

 

 

Hope this helps

Yes, I was taking an Instructor Orientation Workshop for Fundamentals of Firefighting (it is an OSHA level firefighting course that covers about 60% of Firefighter I) and as the Instructor went around the room having everyone introduce themselves, I was surprised that the experience level of the class was 2-5 years except for me with 15+ years.  I know that we need instructors and it is a basic class but I do not think that I had enough real world experience to teach a firefighting class when I was only 3 or 4 years into the service.  It seems that most of their experience would be from just taking classes and conducting training in "burn buildings" and not real structures.  I do not work with them so they may all be excellent instructors but I know that I would not have felt comfortable teaching at that point in my career.

I like the graphic of the 6 R's to help show what the process should be. 
 
Scott Thompson said:

I agree with you 100%! If we want our firefighters to be smart, we must teach the why.  I have been including this topic in my FDIC presentation for the past 12 years, and I often get asked this question.  I strongly believe that several things must occur if the firefighter / officer is to obtain the necessary “why” from his / her training experience.

  • Training must be personal and reach the student on a personal level so that there is ownership of the material.
  • The instructor must have sufficient knowledge and real world experience to make the connection between the why and the how.  Fire service instructors are notorious for seeing or reading something, and then taking it back to their department and presenting it as if they are the authority, when in reality they have a very elementary understanding of the subject. You can’t expect the student to obtain the why if the instructor doesn’t know the why.  It is much easier to see something and reproduce it for show and then just say “because I said so” for the why.  For example, I will never just send out my OV for Suburban Departments class to those that ask.  You MUST understand the “why” of the duties of the OV or someone will get seriously hurt.  I don’t want someone running through the course and saying “okay now we have an OV, and can do VES”….
  • There must be immediate feedback of events in order to create experiences.  Without this timely feedback, the mental markers are not created and the finer points of the concept are not fully understood.
  • Finally I believe you need to create a mental map to truly gain understanding.  You must be able to lead the student through the learning process, but also be able to incorporate real world experiences.  I developed the 6R’s of Learning and Experiences as part of our mentoring process to help maximize training and the development of experiences. The 6R’s model looks like.

 

 

Hope this helps

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