Learning and Teaching Involved in Training

Learning and Teaching Involved in Training


The Editor’s Opinion Page

“What is training?” is a question that is often asked and one that is difficult to answer, offhand. In its simplest definition training is learning. But the learning process requires an instructor and therefore, training could also be called teaching. Actually, training is a combination of learning and teaching—which still sounds fairly simple.

Prom here, however, things get more and more complex as we get into the principles of learning and teaching, and eventually the techniques of teaching. These principles and techniques unquestionably call for a skilled instructor (teacher) and a student (learner) who has sufficient interest to put out the time and effort to learn.

A good instructor knows that a successful training program—one in which a student learns and retains knowledge or skills—is based on three words: intensity, frequency and recency. Intensity is perhaps best exemplified by the child who burns his hand on a hot stove. The pain is so intense that, chances are, he will never deliberately touch a hot stove again for the rest of his life.

Frequency, of course, refers to drilling. And this is probably best exemplified by the neophyte typist who runs through a series of carefully designed lessons over and over again. At some point his fingers will achieve muscle memory to such a degree that each finger will unerringly strike its proper key.

Recency can be defined as review. Skills can be lost. The only way to hold them (once learned) is to exercise them at whatever intervals are deemed necessary.

The golfer who puts away his clubs in the fall after shooting an 85 often finds that on returning to the course in the spring he will shoot a 95 or worse. His skills have diminished over the winter months.

Finally, training is knowing what to teach, and how to teach it. What to teach derives from an analysis of a fireman’s occupation. It is an inventory of the many jobs a fireman must perform. The jobs are arranged in logical order and grouped in divisions of what he does, what he should know, sources of information and methods of instruction. This analysis also arranges the subject matter in an orderly systematic outline—a chart to steer by.

Knowing how to teach is the last element in this brief discussion on what is training. It is probably the most important, and would require much, much more space than we have here. Sufficient to say that no matter how good a natural born teacher is, a systematic study of this other occupation—teaching—will make for better instruction and a better fire department.

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