Command Post: Riding the Right-Front Seat: Sharing Your Knowledge

Let me begin by making a simple, but direct comment: If you are going to lead people, you must be able to train people. Everybody in positions of leadership, regardless of rank, must be able to share their knowledge and experience with the people who have...

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  • Self-Actualization: Performing beyond what is required
  • Esteem: Recognized by peers. Praising in front of peers
  • Social and Belonging: Being accepted by others determines classroom behavior
  • Safety and Security: Adequate knowledge base to belong in class
  • Physiological: Pleasing classroom environment


Like many other parts of individual human behavior, these needs are progressive in nature; that is, we may not move to a higher level until the needs at the lowest level are fulfilled. It is hard to be an active class participant when you are hungry or thirsty. Further, it is difficult to reach a high level of self-esteem when you are not accepted by your fellow students. As the leader and teacher, it is up to you to see that these environmental needs are met.

Experts in education say learning is most likely to occur under conditions of focused attention and deliberate effort. 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 ensure that conditions exist that let this change in behavior occur. To accomplish this, you must understand what motivates people, then create an environment in which those motivational opportunities exist. In other words, you must create a departmental mindset wherein education and knowledge are valued commodities.

Many fire chiefs and administrators are scared of knowledge. They do not want you to know more than they do. They hold the sharing of information to a minimum because an enlightened fire department is a threat to their weak hold on power. Needless to say, they are not effective leaders. Be aware of the difficulties of working in an environment like this, but 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, time-consuming and least effective is our old friend trial and error. Put this method on the back burner. It can kill and maim its practitioners.

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 may 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.


Three ways to learn

The three basic ways in which learning occurs are:

  • Cognitive
  • Psychomotor
  • Affective

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 of technical information lectures.

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.

That part of learning about which we know the least is the Affective domain. This is the touchy feeling part of learning that deals with our attitudes and feelings as they impact on our ability to gain knowledge. Our development as individuals bears directly on our learning capability and capacity. As we discuss this domain of learning, you will begin to see just why it is such an imprecise area of expertise.

The levels of Affective learning are sequential in nature, building one on the other. They move from basic awareness of something to making it a part of their chosen attitudes. They then do their job in the newly learned way.