Barriers to Learning

As an instructor I am curious how the adult learns new skills/tasks. I find it interesting for one, but it is important to be able to transfer the knowledge I have in order support learning.

The adult learner

There are many ways people learn, but that is not the real issue. The real issue is a barrier that prevents a student from learning. There are all types of barriers, from lack of motivation to lack of interest and what I have noticed over the years is the importance behind the “why” in training. I don’t get too wrapped up these days about specifics of how I teach. Don’t get me wrong, there is a hell of lot of time in the organization and management of our curriculum. What I find more important is helping the student to understand why they are doing something or more importantly why the need to do something differently.

Ready to learn

Students will learn best when they are ready to learn. When there is a clearly defined need to learn something their appetite to learning is big and barriers to learning less effective at hindering the learning process. It is important to impart on the student they why or purpose to learning. When all things are equal, a student who is ready to learn because they have a need will outperform the student who lacks the motivation to learn. There are somethings as an instructor I just cannot manage; which is all the baggage a student may bring to the class. Things like personal issues, work related problems or worries outside the range. All I can do is try to focus them on the why, give them purpose to learning.

The light bulb moment

I work very hard to express the why in all of our classes and in our last Close Quarters Battle class we saw some great examples of the proverbial light bulb moment. I believe the light bulb goes off not when the student figures out the skill or task, but when they understand the why. For example, their is a priority of work we teach to allow students to process all the dangers and critical tasks during internal movement. You cannot get so worried about DEF when you have yet to deal with ABC. There is a lot of momentum working against me at times with many other techniques clouding the students mind so I have to be able to explain the why even more so in these cases.

Prime directives

One of the ways I go about this process is keeping the student focused on two prime directives; mission success and team safety. When faced with a critical decision where a student could employ the less optimum technique I often watch them closely. I know this is a critical situation so I’m looking to see how they process the information. That tells me almost exactly what they are thinking because they are doing what they are thinking. I can then point out how their actions failed to ensure mission success or endangered themselves or their teammates to an unnecessary risk. Boom! Knowledge bombs were going off big time then and learning was taking place. You could see the difference not solely in the application of the optimal skill, but the decision making process leading to the  optimal skill.

Understanding the why is critical to any adult learning situation, but so many instructors fail at this juncture. There is no such thing as bad students, only bad instructors.

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