As the fire service has evolved, we have had to adapt from our original conception of just putting out fires. In today’s fire service, we must be jacks of all trades! We are medical professionals, hazmat guru’s, technical rescue specialists, among many other things. With all of these different disciplines there is an abundance of knowledge that we have had to acquire/learn.
How did we learn these skills? Some have gone through a basic entry level program, whether that be a Firefighter I & II class or a rookie school of some sort, some may have learned on the job and others learned through a culmination of both. Once we learn these skills it becomes our sole responsibility to implement them to efficiently do our job and then pass it on to better those around us. No one started in this job knowing everything and someone had to teach them, so let’s look at a proven way of teaching a new skill called the Teaching EDGE method.
The Teaching EDGE method was designed by the Boy Scouts of America for teaching new skills. This acronym is laid out in the Boy Scout Handbook on page 38 of the 13th edition:
Explain - The teacher carefully explains the skill, showing all the steps and keeping in mind that the learner is probably seeing this for the first time. Go slowly, make your actions deliberate, and use descriptive language, but don’t stop to show the intricacies in detail yet.
Demonstrate - After explaining the skill, you will demonstrate it. Break down each element, showing the step-by- step process and explaining the details of how each step is done and why. Here is where you allow the learner to ask questions, but not yet where they take the reins by themselves.
Guide - Now, guide the learner as they make their first few attempts at the skill. Be sure to let them be completely hands-on, and don’t worry if they make mistakes. Just tell them how to fix it, or start again from the beginning. Keep at it, and be careful not to lose patience. This stage may take the longest but remember how you were when you were learning!
Enable - Lastly, the teacher enables the learner by allowing them to see that they can do it themselves. If they are able to do the skill at this stage, then they have effectively learned.
NOTE: If at any point the learner is struggling through a phase, you may go back to a previous phase and make sure they fully understood what the teacher was saying.
To demonstrate how to use this method, let’s pretend that we are teaching someone to tie a square knot for the first time.
Step 1: Explain the square knot.
• The square knot is a knot used to tie two ends of a rope together of equal size diameter.
Step 2: Demonstrate the square knot.
• While holding two pieces of rope show the learner how you take them, and place one end left over right and then right over left. (This step makes more sense seeing it in person)
Step 3: Guide the learner through tying the knot.
• Give them the rope and allow them to try and tie it. If they mess up, correct them but be patient!
Step 4: Enable the learner while they tie the knot.
• Have them do it on their own, without any help.
Whether you play a formal role in training at your department or you are just teaching a skill around the fire house, you can use this method to effectively teach a skill to someone that has never seen it before. The future of our fire service depends on skills being passed down and effectively taught to incoming firefighters.
I will leave you with this thought: What Will Be Your Legacy? What are you doing to leave the fire service better than you found it? One of the best ways to leave your legacy is to make those around you better and teach them all that you know. By doing this, you are only adding value to your crew, your department, and your legacy of how you will be remembered!
Tommy Goran is an Engineer with the Columbia (MO) Fire Department and a rescue specialist serving on Missouri Task Force 1. He is the founder of Flashover Leadership, a member of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors, and an Advocate for SafetyNet of Missouri. Tommy co authored an article titled "TACTical Leadership" in the Nov '17 issue of Fire Rescue Magazine. He has appeared on multiple webinars and podcasts to include: Barnboss & Friends Webinar, Trial by Fire Webinar, The Firefigther Podcast, and Engine House Training Company Podcast