DEVELOPING LESSON PLANS, PART 1: WHAT DO WE NEED TO TEACH?

DEVELOPING LESSON PLANS, PART 1: WHAT DO WE NEED TO TEACH?

BY TIMOTHY J. FLANNERY

Planning is as important for successful instruction/training as it is for successful firefighting. Instructors must have plans for training emergency service professionals in the various tasks necessary to do their jobs. These plans should include goals and objectives that outline a logical path of instruction for students and provisions for assessing what they have learned.

Before training and learning can occur, the instructor must have in place a plan indicating the points at which instruction/ training will begin and end, what will be taught, and how the material will be presented. It also will tell the next instructor what had been covered and where the next course should begin, allowing for continuity in learning.

Learning is a dynamic process instructors are constantly improving by enhancing content, delivery, and design. For learning to take place, the curriculum must be well thought-out and designed so that it meets the needs of the organization and the students. Such a curriculum involves the following three processes: analyzing the training needs, designing the learning activities, and assessing the procedures for the instructional process.

ANALYZING THE TRAINING NEEDS

For learning to occur, instructors must understand their students` needs. This understanding is best accomplished by a thorough analysis that includes the following four components:

Assessment. Two questions must be asked: Where are we today? Where do we want to be in the future? The instructor must determine if any shortfalls in the organization must be addressed, which new skills must be taught to the firefighter to improve operations, and what is needed to improve or create motivation within the organization.

In determining organization and firefighter needs, the instructor also must take into account certain practical aspects such as the following:

— the cost of the training;

— training standard/certification compliance;

— whether the training is practical for the organization and the types of incidents to which it most commonly responds; and

— whether the training is administratively feasible or will consume more time and money than the benefits it will yield.

Needs analyses should determine the type of training needed: knowledge, skills, or attitude; the level of training needs: command, rank-and-file, or both; and what must be done to close the gap between what is being done now and what must be done in the future.

Identifying job competencies. What must be taught is determined at this phase. Among issues to be decided/prepared are the following:

— an explanation of the type of work to be done;

— the organizational setting within which the tasks will be performed:

* managerial functions such as planning and budgeting,

* supervisory functions such as leadership and fireground command,

* support activities such as training and fire prevention, and

* staff duties–truck or engine functions, for example;

— the complexity, importance, and manner in which the job is accomplished;

— selecting jobs in which training is needed, which can be determined by the jobs performed by most personnel within that particular organizational function;

— arranging the jobs from simple to more complex tasks–for example, having a firefighter identify various types of nozzles and then selecting a particular nozzle with which to apply water on a fire in a free-burning stage; and

— determining which related tasks are necessary to perform the operations within that given job, such as having the firefighter know how to connect the nozzle to the length of hose and then connect the hose to a pumper outlet so water can flow.

Determining learner characteristics. When developing a training course, the instructor must be continually aware of the audience and its characteristics so that the proper level of instruction and instructional aids will be used. Some audience characteristics to consider are academic/educational background, personal and social traits, learning abilities, learning style, previous experience or knowledge, and the students` attitude toward the subject matter and learning in general.

Determining levels of learning. The instructor must determine the depth of learning the subject matter will cover. Understanding the students and identifying their characteristics, as discussed above, help to determine the level of learning to be used and specific details in the lesson plans. Only one level of learning should be used for a particular lesson. Levels of learning normally are broken down as follows:

— Level 1: Basic. The foundation level of learning: Students acquire new information and develop new skills. The instructor presents new information, and the student is under direct supervision. Firefighter 1 is an example of this level course.

–Level 2: Intermediate. The student connects the knowledge learned in the basic level with knowledge gained through experience. Skills become more efficient. The instructor supervises less and now concentrates on why things happen as opposed to how to do things. A Firefighter 2 or Fire Officer 1 course is an example of this level of learning.

–Level 3: Advanced. The student functions with little or no supervision. The instructor serves more as a facilitator than a teacher. The student is guided toward independent study to gain knowledge. The information and actions processed by the student are based on the student`s personal desires, attitudes, and values. An example of this level course is the National Fire Academy`s Executive Fire Officer Program.

DESIGNING THE LESSON

The next steps are to develop clear and measurable objectives and the lesson plan. Objectives guide the instruction and evaluation processes. On the first day, the instructor should be prepared to do the following:

State the objectives of what is to be learned at the start of the class.

Make sure the objectives are specific and clear.

Teach according to the objectives.

Base evaluation on the objectives stated at the beginning of the class.

Give the objectives to the students in writing. Receiving the objectives helps students understand what is expected of them and motivates them to meet the objectives.

EVALUATING THE PROCESS

After determining what the students need to learn and developing the appropriate objectives and lesson plan to meet those needs, the instructor must develop a means for evaluating the entire process to determine if the lesson plan is on target. The evaluation should include the following components:

Are the job competencies appropriate for the need?

Are the students being taught the appropriate subject matter at the appropriate learning level?

Do the behavioral objectives reflect the needs process?

Does the lesson plan cover the objectives stated at the beginning of the class?

Can it be shown through some type of evaluation process that learning has actually occurred?

An instructor has the responsibility to effectively, efficiently, and safely train firefighters in the areas of fire protection needed to perform their jobs. To meet this responsibility, the instructor must have a plan that will lead to a logical course of action that will produce a well-trained firefighter. n

References

1. Fire Service Instructor, 5th ed. International Fire Service Training Association (Fire Protection Publications, Oklahoma State University: Stillwater, Okla., 1990).

2. Bachtler, Joseph R. Fire Service Instructor`s Training Guide, 2nd ed. (Fire Engineering Books: New York, N.Y., 1989).

3. Flannery, Timothy J. Developing Lesson Plans for the Fire Service Course Notes (Flannery Associates: North Brunswick, N.J., 1994).

TIMOTHY J. FLANNERY is a principal in Flannery Associates, a training and consulting firm. He has been active in the fire protection field for more than 20 years and formerly served as the director of the Middlesex County Fire Academy and as a senior instructor at the Bergen County Police and Fire Academy. He is a New Jersey state-certified fire instructor and fire official, a member of the New Jersey State Fire Commission`s Training and Education Advisory Council, and an adjunct instructor at Rutgers University. Flannery has a bachelor`s degree in fire administration and is working toward a master`s degree in fire protection management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

No posts to display