APPLICATIONS OF FIRE RESEARCH If Adam Wheeler had attended Paul Antonellis' class concerning Applications of Fire Research, the former Harvard student might not be embroiled in a criminal indictment alleging among other misdeeds the use of another's work in applying for the prestigious Rhodes and...
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APPLICATIONS OF FIRE RESEARCH
If Adam Wheeler had attended Paul Antonellis' class concerning Applications of Fire Research, the former Harvard student might not be embroiled in a criminal indictment alleging among other misdeeds the use of another's work in applying for the prestigious Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships. Perhaps not.
Yet Antonellis is confident those who have attended the research class, which is one of six recently named core courses for the National Fire Academy's (NFA) Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) baccalaureate program, are well grounded in not only the procedures for research, but what constitutes plagiarism.
Why is this course valuable for current and future fire administrators? "First and foremost, it hones our skills on how to conduct proper research. This takes a blend of the academic field and puts it right into the fire service and emphasizes how to conduct proper research," says Antonellis, a former fire chief and current professor at Empire State College in New York.
"I've been teaching the course for six years," Antonellis says. "When we put the first version together in 2005, I was the team leader. The course went through a number of revisions and reviews to make sure the content was correct, the learning objectives were met and the level of learning was at an undergraduate level."
According to USFA, the course, "examines the basic principles of research and methodology for analyzing current fire-related research. (It) also provides a framework for conducting and evaluating independent research in the following areas: fire dynamics, fire test standards and codes, fire safety, fire modeling, structural fire safety, life safety, firefighter health and safety, automatic detection and suppression, transportation fire hazards, risk analysis and loss control, fire service applied research and new trends in fire-related research."
Antonellis says he finds a challenge in teaching this course to a newer generation weaned on the Internet and the copy-and-paste buttons of the personal computer.
"Pretty much across the board, at the end of the course there is a realization of how much is involved in conducting research," Antonellis says. "It is very different than sitting at the computer and using Google or Wikipedia to research. In the academic world, that isn't classified as solid research. We also work on getting research into 'their own words' and how it might support or dispel a theory that the student has. At the end of the course, I often hear that students didn't realize research was so in-depth, with so many levels. Research can be compared to building a house - if you don't have a solid foundation to build upon, the house is going to crumble. Students realize they need a plan and good articulated questions. One course outcome for students is asking if their research is useful. With computers it is easy to spit out a lot of data and measurable items and at the end of the day we have piles and piles of information; but is it useful?"
The course, as well as several of the other core courses, uses the extensive Fire Protection Handbook (National Fire Protection Association), Volumes I and II. The other text is Practical Research: Planning and Design by Paul D. Leedy and Jeanne E. Ormrod.
Gary Kistner, who chairs the FESHE baccalaureate committee and whose members spearhead the adoption of the core curriculum, saw the need to adopt a series of courses that better suits today's transient workforce.
"The thought was because we have so many programs and so many people moving from school to school, or area to area, added to a lot of different schools in the same area, we formulated a curriculum so everyone gets the same background courses that we felt were common throughout the fire service," Kistner says. "From that point, students can choose elective courses which allow them to specialize in an area such as arson or management."