"As an expert it's your job to bridge the gap between your content and their world."
Darren is a former World Champion of Public Speaking and in that one statement he captures a critical element of your job as a trainer - Bridge the Gap and Connect the Dots.
You need to bridge the gap between what you are teaching and the realities of their world and their job. You need to connect the dots between the knowledge, theory, skills and tactics and the realities they face in the field. You need to connect the dots between what you are teaching and the other elements of training.
How do you do that?
Ask questions. Questions about their past experiences, their current challenges and the obstacles they see getting in the way. Ask questions to engage them in the conversation and find out how they imagine applying the information. Questions are an important strategy to help teach critical thinking and decision making.
Encourage the participants in your class to ask questions. They should feel safe to ask questions to seek clarification and a deeper understanding of the material. Training needs to be a safe place for the learners to ask questions. When they do ask questions however, seek to use questions to guide them to the discovery of the answer. In doing so you will help them to learn critical thinking skills.
Tell stories. Not war stories for the sake of telling storing and filling time; tell stories that have relevance. Tell stories of situations where you or someone else applied the principles and concepts. Include the struggles, obstacles, failures, triumphs and lessons learned in the stories. Stories are how we have learned throughout history. There is great power in stories if they are relevant and told well.
Communicate in simple, positive language. This does not mean you treat your officers like simpletons. It means you are aware of the "Curse of Knowledge" and understand that your job is not to show them how smart you are, it is to enhance their competence and confidence to perform their job at the highest level by understanding and being able to apply what you are teaching.
Avoid acronyms. If you are going to use them then explain what they mean. Too often trainers assume everyone knows what you are talking about and some people are embarrassed to ask.
Tie in the science and the research in a way that it makes sense so they can understand the application of the research. There is a strong emphasis now on evidenced based teaching and evidenced based policing. You need to continually ask yourself, "How do I know what I think I know?" The great news is that there is more science and research available now then at any time before. Find the research. Study the research. Reach out to the researchers for clarification and to gain a deeper understanding. Share the research in a manner that bridges the gap and connects the dots to their experiences, their training and their world.
Be the Bridge. Connect the Dots.
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