What Instructors Don’t Know

Recently I had to complete a government (State level) mandated training program, including a firearms qualification, to reapply for a license. Like most such programs, it had little to no value.

If there’s a good instructor, students may pick up a nugget or two. Perhaps there are some important regulatory changes, a new product on the market, some innovative best practices, or some new industry issues to learn about.  However, in terms of functional training value, there is none.  It’s a box check for the lawyers, nothing more.

It got me thinking (again) about how prevalent this is in our industry.  It’s a rare person (and never a credible one) who will claim that any of these programs (such as the “concealed carry” course) have real value with respect to teaching shooting (or other) skills.

We all know they don’t.

Looking beyond the mandated courses, to many of the more popular structures in the industry, especially one- and two-day classes, proficiency for most students drops off so fast after course completion that it’s frightening (sometimes literally when a supposedly “advanced” student shows up in a class that actually requires functional shooting and gun handling skills).

In the military and in law enforcement it’s even worse—because somebody (namely taxpayers) is not only paying the students to be there, we’re also paying the instructors to teach them and funding the whole enterprise.  We don’t do this for fun, we do it with an expectation that they will develop a high level of skill to use in our best interests as public servants.

But they don’t—don’t learn effectively that is.

Meaning no disrespect to the many thousands of highly skilled military and law enforcement professionals out there, most of them aren’t—specifically in the “armed” part of their armed profession.

In fact, excepting perhaps a few elite units, if somebody in these professions is highly skilled in the “armed” part of their job, it’s usually because they really give a crap and have built a skillset on their own time, usually with their own money, while using resources from almost entirely outside their organization.

Which begs the question, why? 

It’s coming up on 2019.  We’re several generations past literally putting men on the moon. Why are we still unable to teach people to make decent decisions and shoot a handgun halfway decently?

It doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult, does it?

It shouldn’t be. But the simple truth is that our methods of training are fundamentally misaligned with human cognitive architecture and function. 

An even simpler way to say it is that training programs just don’t work very well, not because the instructors don’t know how to shoot or what to teach, but because they don’t know how to structure training so that the average student can effectively learn.

Limited resources are an issue too, but we would argue that this isn’t even the fundamental problem.  More resources can always make a positive difference; however, fixing the basic structure of how training is designed and delivered has a lot more potential to be impactful—at a fraction of the cost.

What instructors don’t know can (and often does) hurt their students’ potential.

Whether you are a student or an instructor, avoid this outcome by learning how the brain learns—then ensuring that any training is structured to match.

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"Easily one of the more important books of our time when it comes to preparing police, military and armed civilians for armed lethal combat."
-Kenneth Murray
Author, Training at the Speed of Life
Co-Founder of Simunition