This article was published in Smart Soldier 54, Nov 18.

Reflections within the Construct of the Combat Shooting Continuum.  Why it works!

There has been some instrumental areas in which our understanding of the science of learning have assisted in the success of combat shooting. Firstly how the brain works and the controlling reaction to sensory input as well as the storage of information. Another and equally important area is the adult learning environment created, as this has induced the interest, excitement and positive responses from the soldiers.

Armed with this new found knowledge of the brains limbic system, or ‘mammalian brain’ as it is often called, combat shooting training has been tailored to increase memory retention and rapid responses. Understanding this has allowed us to incorporate a ‘combat mindset’ within the continuum, preparing the ADF combatant for stressful situations through conditioning the sympathetic nervous system. Through developing highly stressful and realistic serials in a controlled environment, ADF combatants learn to instinctively react to situations in the battlespace. It is imperative to encourage the memory to have a positive outcome to fully avoid hesitation (fight, flight or freeze).

The use of psychologists, scientists and other subject matter experts in the area of bio-feedback are being used not only to examine what is happening to the body but also how we can further tailor the training continuum to aid in controlling these involuntary reactions. To catalyse short-term memories into long-term, we attentively manage our training audience’s circadian cycle, our inbuilt 24-hour biological body clock. By adjusting training programs accordingly we optimise learning by teaching in the mornings, lunchtime we rest (sleep if required) and afternoons we consolidate skills learnt.

As mentioned earlier, the other big change is creating an environment in which people want to be part of using Knowles’ Adult Learning Principles:

  1. Adults are internally motivated and self-directed. Adult learning should be self-directed. Adult learners make choices relevant to their learning objectives. They also direct their learning goals with the guidance of their mentors. Students need to be given the freedom to assume responsibility for their own choices. This is a major principle of learning.
  2. Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences. The learning process is about experience. Educators encourage learners to connect past experiences with current knowledge and activities. Educators must know how to relate the sum of the learners experience to the current learning experience.
  3. Adults are goal oriented. Adult education is about goals. Adult learners aim to acquire relevant and adequate knowledge and for this reason intended learning outcomes should be clearly identified. Once the learning goals have been identified, educators must align the learning activities such that these objectives are fulfilled within a period of time.
  4. Adults are relevancy oriented. Instructional design should focus on developing relevance. Adult learners benefit by relating the assigned tasks to their own learning goals. If it is clear that the activities they are engaged into, directly contribute to achieving their personal learning objectives, then they will be inspired and motivated to engage in projects and successfully complete them.
  5. Adults are practical. It is very important for educators to identify appropriate ways and convert theoretical learning to practical activities. Work placement is a way for students to apply the theoretical concepts learned inside the classroom into real-life situations. Learning is assisted when appropriate ways of implementing theoretical knowledge in real life situations is made clear.
  6. Adult learners like to be respected. Adult learners thrive in collaborative relationships with their educators. Learners become more productive when they are considered by their instructors as colleagues. When their contributions are acknowledged, then they are willing to put out their best work.

These six principles aren’t only about motivating people to train but also how to maximise their ability to learn. We explain, demonstrate, practice (EDP) and coach. EDP accommodates for auditory, visual and kinaesthetic learners; however, the process is capitalised by members fault correcting utilising Socratic questioning techniques.

Every member is responsible for actively coaching their partner by drawing the information from the shooter’s memory, reinforcing the neural pathway for that information. Memory retention can be approximately quantified by the 10:20:50:90 rule: 10% auditory, 20% visual, 50% kinaesthetic and 90% teaching (coaching, fault correction).

Science is continuously opening doors that were once locked. Change is exciting. Change is necessary. Yet change isn’t easy. Continuous reflection of what we do and, more importantly, why we do it is essential for our team’s success.

The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life. Confucius