The Science of Learning

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The demand for evidence-based policing continues to create unprecedented opportunities to develop and improve professional policing standards. 

In support of this mission, the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) reached out to Dr. Bill Lewinski and the Force Science Institute for the latest research in police skill development and decision-making.

In IADLEST’s latest digital report, Why Law Enforcement Needs to Take a Science-Based Approach to Training and Education, Dr. Bill Lewinski and Dr. Jennifer Robb discuss how the science of human performance can accelerate skills development.

To this end, the authors provide expert recommendations for scheduling, variability, skill incorporation, and testing. Drawing on independent police research and principles of athletic training, the authors confirm that the method of instruction remains critical in skill retention and effective decision-making.

Toward Evidence-Based Practice

Identifying and sharing the right method of instruction continues to be a priority for the Force Science Institute. In his recent 4-part training series, Dr. Lewinski highlighted these issues in the Force Science Top 10 Training Observations and the Keys to Training Excellence.

Summarizing his observations, Dr. Lewinski noted: “If professional skills are to be developed that are resilient, flexible, and creatively applied, modern principles of learning have to drive the academy process. Agencies must move toward scientific, evidence-based training that recognizes the interdisciplinary and integrated practice of professional law enforcement.”

This move towards evidence-based police training begins by acknowledging the “clinical” nature of the police profession.

Dr. Lewinski explains: “Law Enforcement is a clinical profession, meaning officers are expected to perform in the real-world. When officers arrive at an incident, they are required to conduct an assessment, interpret what is happening (diagnoses), and then implement a solution (prescription).  The educational and training processes, both academy and in-service, have to teach and reinforce these clinical skills at an extremely high level. Unfortunately, we still see agencies that approach training as a mechanical trade instead of providing decision-making training that reflects the diversity and flexibility required for real-world application.”

“If professional skills are to be developed that are resilient, flexible, and creatively applied, modern principles of learning have to drive the academy process. Agencies must move toward scientific, evidence-based training that recognizes the interdisciplinary and integrated practice of professional law enforcement.”


The Science of Learning

The Force Science Institute continues its commitment to establishing the clinical standards by which officer performance can be measured and evaluated. As a natural outgrowth of this focus, the Force Science Institute branched out to assess how effectively the police profession has been training its officers.

According to Dr. Lewinski, the results of these assessments were discouraging: “Regardless of the techniques or curriculum taught, we found that agencies not teaching an evidence-based curriculum are creating an illusion of learning that guarantees a rapid erosion of skills and inconsistent application to real-world problems.”

Not satisfied with simply identifying the training gaps, Dr. Lewinski and the Force Science Institute have been developing an advanced train-the-trainer course. Expected to roll out in the Spring of 2021, the Force Science Law Enforcement Trainer Certification Course aims to fill critical gaps in law enforcement training.

Students who complete this 5-day course will understand the scientific principles that back the most effective methods of instruction. Topics are expected to include:

  • Legal Implications for Law Enforcement Trainers
  • Scientific Foundations for Learning
  • Skill Retention and Perishability
  • Training Myths – What They are and What to Do About Them
  • Neuroscience
  • Implications of Memory on Learning
  • How to Enhance Learning and Retention
  • Principles of Motor Learning and Performance
  • Instructional Design and Delivery
  • Training Scars and How to Avoid Them
  • Identification of Critical Officer Skills / Gap Analysis
  • How to Develop Effective ‘Reality-Based’ Training Models
  • Course Training Standard – Design and Defense
  • Validating and Defending Training Programs

Mike Musengo, an IADLEST Certified Instructor and retired Police Training Commander, has been heavily involved with Dr. Lewinski in the development and testing of the Law Enforcement Trainer Certification Course.

As a police trainer, Mike has studied, tested, and implemented cutting-edge training methods at the Regional Academy level.  His focus on long-term learning, retention, and skill transfer in real-world settings made him a perfect addition to the Force Science training development team.

When asked about the future of police training, Mike had this to say: “We give police superhero responsibilities and often expect superhuman performance. But police are human, and if we expect them to perform at elite levels we need to support them with the most effective methods of training, coaching, and mentoring. For us this has also meant inspiring a culture change—while we still emphasize physical performance, we have heavily invested in the development of emotional intelligence.  Part of that has been our efforts to develop study habits, intellectual curiosity, an appreciation for workgroups, and an expectation of lifetime learning.”

For those interested in the 2021 Force Science Law Enforcement Trainer Certification Course, continue to watch for the official course announcements on our social media sites as well as the Force Science training calendar.

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Effective date: January 06, 2019

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