The training program in any fire department is the backbone of its service. There should be an officer to oversee the entire program for consistency and instructors to carry out the many different parts of the training. The question must be asked, if your people are not adequately trained, how can you expect them to function properly in the field?
This leads us to accountability; Webster’s dictionary defines accountability as an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. No matter what class you are providing, there must be some type of accountability. The reason is very simple: what you teach may mean the difference between life and death for the people you train or for the people they are trying to help.
How many times have you sat in class and wondered what planet is this instructor from? Hopefully not many but all of us have been there at one time or another. As instructors, we should try to eliminate these thoughts by meeting formal standards.
All learning should be student-centered. The instructor is responsible for the information transferred to the student. In order to maintain quality and accountability, the four-step method of instruction will make teaching and learning more pleasant.
- Preparation. No one sets out to fail. Anytime one takes on a job, he or she prepares to be successful. The only way you can teach someone else is simply to be well prepared and ready to transfer the information. Instructors interested in professional development can obtain it through seminars, continuing education, trade journals and manufacturers.
- Presentation. All the planning and preparation in the world combined is not worth much if the instructor presents the material without enthusiasm and a positive attitude. The instructor controls the learning environment and the success of the student. You show me an instructor who presents his or her training with a less than positive attitude, and I will show you a class of students that will have a difficult time learning. The general appearance of the instructor is important. Remember, you are setting an example of how to act as you teach.
- Application. This step provides the student with the opportunity to apply what has been taught. We retain 90 percent of what we say while we are doing something; so with that information, we should never leave out this step. This will also give confidence to your students. They will see they can carry out what they have learned.
- Evaluation. This could be the hardest part but maybe the most important: self-evaluation and evaluating the student. Evaluation must take place to ascertain the comprehension of the student. This will also help the instructor to see if his or her teaching style and information is working.
In summary, if we accept responsibility for our teaching methods, the learning environment will be much more enjoyable and conducive to learning.
William F. Jefferies is Chief of the Hopkinsville, KY, Fire Department