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Experts in the field tell us that learning is most likely to occur under conditions of focused attention and deliberate effort. What this means to you is that when people are motivated to learn, for reasons that are very important to them, they will learn. The stronger the force of the motivation, the greater the level of learning.
As a leader interested in sharing knowledge, it is your duty to insure that conditions exist that allow this change in behavior to occur. To accomplish this, you must understand what motivates people. Then it is critical for you to create an environment wherein those motivational opportunities exist. In other words, you must create a departmental mindset wherein education and knowledge are valued commodities.
Bear in mind that a great many fire chiefs and administrators are still scared of knowledge. As practitioners of the Ancient Art of Mushroom Management, they hold information to a minimum. An enlightened fire department is a threat to their weak hold on power. Needless to say, these are not effective leaders. Be aware of the difficulties of working in an environment like this. Trust me when I say that it is tough. Do not let this stop your personal drive for learning excellence.
To assist you in your development of a learning environment, you must understand the various types of learning that can occur. Perhaps the most expensive and least effective is our old friend, trial and error. It can be expensive, time consuming and unsafe. Put this method on the back burner. It can kill and maim its practitioners.
The three basic ways in which learning occurs are:
It is in the cognitive domain you find your most commonly understood method of learning. Here you are dealing with recall or recognition of knowledge and the development of intellectual abilities and skills. You will find that the delivery of information in the cognitive domain is handled through the medium technical information lectures.
According to Fire Service Instructor, there are six stages of cognitive learning:
- Knowledge - Recalling and recognizing information.
- Comprehension - Understanding the meaning of information.
- Application - Using information learned in specific situations.
- Analysis - Breaking information into parts to understand the whole.
- Synthesis - Integrating the parts to invent a new whole.
- Evaluation - Using standards and criteria to judge the value of information.
By understanding how people learn, you can develop a more effective approach to teaching. You can create bite-sized pieces of learning that can be easily digested by your students. Some of these might involve discovering new information, facts and ways of doing things.
Once your students know about these things, and can explain them, you can help them translate these facts into new and related situations. The ability to transfer knowledge to new situations is a good sign that relatively permanent learning has happened.
Psychomotor, or skill, learning is the range of learning used by those of us who train fire and emergency service workers. This type of learning encompasses those competencies needed to actually maneuver an implement or make a bodily move to do something. I am talking about the combination of brain and brawn to get a job done.
According Fire Service Instructor, the concept of psychomotor refers to the skills involving the senses and the brain as well as the muscles. You can easily see how critical this type of learning is to a physically demanding field like firefighting. How many of you have spoken time and again about how firefighting is such a labor-intensive field? If you are to succeed in this aspect of our business, you must understand how we blend the mind and the body to perform firefighting tasks.
According to Fire Service Instructor, just as in the cognitive domain, each psychomotor level is progressive, building one upon the other. These levels are listed as follows:
- Observation - Witnessing a motor activity.
- Imitation - Copying a motor activity step-by-step.
- Adaptation - Modifying or personalizing a motor activity.
- Performance - Perfecting the activity until the steps become habitual.
- Perfection - Improving performance until it is flawless and artful.