In part one of this article we explored facets of performance coaching and a technique known as chunking. In this part we will explore three Accelerated Learning (AL) techniques. AL techniques are about creating teaching and learning pathways. It begins with a mindset and premise that each person is capable of learning. It recognises that individuals have limiting beliefs about themselves, their abilities, and learning in general which can be a hindrance to their learning potential. Considering there are many AL principles and techniques, I will explain three that I have found to be very useful in my time as an instructor.
Rehearsals and practice
The significance and impact of new learning can only be truly realised when students are afforded ample time to process and internalise the information. On the Subject One Corporal-Army S1CA, trainees are guided through a two-step process, first receiving a theory lesson on lesson delivery, and subsequently witnessing a demonstration executed by skilled instructors. This deliberate reprocessing stage grants them the opportunity to assimilate the material more effectively. By taking notes, verbally repeating the lesson, and visually observing the ideal demonstration, they engage in meaningful repetitions that transform the information from their working memory to lasting, long-term storage.
A crucial element contributing to their skill development lies in the guided and solo practice and repetition of motor skills associated with lesson delivery. Providing our students with sufficient time and appropriate tools, we empower them to bolster their competency. Repetition is a powerful technique to refine and enhance their abilities, and as instructors we must inspire and encourage our students to seize every available moment to get their reps in. Crucially, we aim to instil the perception that repetition is not a tedious obligation but rather an enjoyable challenge, igniting their passion for improvement.
As instructors, our proficiency extends beyond simply imparting knowledge; it lies in understanding the theoretical underpinnings and scientific basis of these techniques. This depth of understanding enables us to effectively coach and mentor our trainees, offering alternative explanations and innovative approaches to information delivery. Drawing upon our expertise, we can adeptly guide them on their learning journey, propelling their growth and skill.
These rehearsals and practice sessions not only lay a strong foundation for their instructional capabilities but also bear relevance to their future endeavours, such as pre-patrol rehearsals and rehearsals of concept drills. Ultimately, it is in teaching that we deepen our own understanding, making the adage "to learn it more deeply, teach it" an integral aspect of our instructional philosophy.
A mental strategy often employed by elite athletes, visualisation holds great implications for skill development and performance excellence. An illustrative example of this phenomenon can be witnessed in the Red Bull cliff divers, where, at the precipice of the platform, they engage in visualisation exercises, preparing themselves mentally before executing their daring leaps. This process is evident as they stand with their eyes closed, subtly mimicking the hand movements essential for their mid-air spins and twists. Comparable instances of visualisation can be observed in skydivers and Formula One race car drivers, underscoring its prevalence across various disciplines.
Through mental repetitions, visualisation reinforces and fortifies the neural pathways within the brain, effectively simulating the act of practice without physical execution. As such, it constitutes a form of ‘dry practice’ that contributes significantly to the competence of skills and the ability to perform them with remarkable precision on demand.
Students can harness the power of visualisation outside their working hours, especially when anticipating lesson assessments. By vividly imagining themselves delivering lessons, even without the tools or weapons to practice with, they create a virtual practice environment in their minds. Such mental rehearsals not only reinforce their instructional abilities but also alleviate anxiety associated with assessments, delivering instruction and public speaking. Visualising themselves executing error-free and poised lessons fosters a sense of confidence and assurance, effectively mitigating nerves and allowing them to perform at their best.
Positive self-talk is a powerful coaching tool I consistently employ throughout the course. One significant obstacle that often impedes student performance is the negative self-talk loop, a cycle of self-doubt and lack of confidence. To address this challenge, I utilise a self-efficacy survey – a valuable instrument that offers qualitative data on students' perceived beliefs and confidence in the knowledge and skills being taught.
In my experience, students' self-efficacy tends to be initially quite low, which provides valuable insights to tailor my coaching techniques to individual trainees, focusing on specific aspects of the course where they may have lower confidence. A recurring pattern is that students often harbor negative perceptions regarding their abilities to carry out tasks, master skills, or even learn effectively – particularly when it comes to operations in the field environment. This is where the power of positive self-talk comes into play.
I prioritise coaching my students to embrace affirmative language when describing their abilities, especially in the moments leading up to assessments. By instilling positive self-talk, we foster a deep sense of self-belief in their capabilities to execute tasks to the best of their abilities, fuelled by unwavering confidence in the knowledge and skills they have acquired. This transformation in their mindset cultivates a strong foundation for success, empowering them to approach assessments with newfound assurance and self-assurance.
By skilfully employing positive self-talk, I help my students reframe their psyche, redirecting their thoughts away from self-doubt and towards a mindset of self-belief and competency. As a result, they are better equipped to tap into their potential and perform at their peak, unshackled by the burden of negative self-perceptions.
To be an effective coach you must watch the students closely, be action-orientated, and be honest. Be unnervingly honest. You must have the ability to explain things differently i.e., explaining the reason for learning in a physical, tactical, practical, psychological, and scientific manner. To achieve this, you must have the subject matter knowledge on the topic. It takes a significant amount of effort to develop the future of Army’s non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and junior leaders.
Do not waste your time. Prepare your coaching and instructional techniques to help your trainees on their journeys to becoming world class leaders. In embracing coaching, and with experience, you develop the ability to fluctuate readily between mentor, teacher, and leader creating a psychologically safe environment for subordinates.
In combining coaching with accelerated learning methodologies we foster a passion for continuous improvement and instil a joy of learning. We lay the groundwork for their success as competent and confident NCOs in the future. By engaging in deliberate mental rehearsals, they can sharpen their skills, enhance their performance, and approach assessments with a sense of calm assurance.
Embracing this powerful mental strategy empowers individuals to unlock their full potential and achieve excellence in their instructional endeavours. Positive self-talk proves to be an invaluable tool in boosting students' self-efficacy and fostering a growth-oriented mindset. As an instructor, I recognise the profound impact of guiding students towards affirmative language and beliefs, instilling in them the unwavering conviction they possess the abilities to excel and succeed.
Through this transformative coaching approach, we create a conducive learning environment where soldiers can thrive and embrace their journey towards becoming accomplished and confident NCOs. Ultimately, you are there to make the student better than they were on day one of the course and your training design and instructional techniques will be commensurate and reflected through the trainee’s ability at the end of the course.