Failing to listen

In all of our classes we use several assessment tools. We use them for all sorts of things, to measure progress, test objectives and gauge skill level.

They help us in so many ways to speak with authority on a variety of subjects. We have been doing this for a long time and have collected a metric boat load of data. That data is pretty telling and if you actually listen to it, it makes life pretty easy. That listening part also includes myself. At this last class we ran folks through our usual assessment tools. The class was a mixed bag of skill level and the first drill showed the majority were right on the cusp for the class level.

We can adjust our classes pretty easily, from a straight up Intermediate Level 2 to a mix of a Basic/Intermediate 1.5 to an Intermediate/Advance 2.5. There are a few drills that if folks do well on the first skills assessment we can choose to review or skip ahead. In this case I went against my better judgment and all the past data and opted to skip the drills.

The drills in question are what we call preparatory marksmanship drills. These drills isolate the specific tasks as they apply to marksmanship, everything from sight management to trigger management. We use partners and divide the labor to help eliminate common shooter errors. I have found these drills to be invaluable at highlighting so many common mistakes and once addressed the student’s success rate soars.

When we have stuck to the plan regarding a class right on the cusp it has paid off. I saw how it can be costly when we don’t. Students were no longer progressing, in fact they were regressing. I called timeout, applied the obligatory ass chewing and then we went back to the basics. Once we worked through the first few stages of the drills I could see how much skipping was a mistake. Students that were doing alright made huge jumps in their performance. Students that were struggling came online and starting making improvements and the students who flat out were hitting dirt started putting rounds on paper.

Often times at an intermediate class we try to treat it like an intermediate. We expect that students who sign up truly do have intermediate skills so we can hit the curriculum as designed. I don’t mind when we have a few who may have overestimated their skills, they can catch up pretty easily if they follow the program. It’s when the majority of the class are really struggling that it can be very frustrating. The instructor cadre gets frustrated, the students gets frustrated and progress grinds to halt.

It really doesn’t do anyone much good if we try to advance for the sake of checking the box. Sometimes, it is far better to adjust on the fly, remediation if necessary and then hit the ground running. That’s exactly what we did and it paid off big time. Next time, listen to the data dummy.

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