Sunday, July 15, 2012

This isn't college...

For those who have college courses under their belts, and really the same philosophy applies in high school, we all know you can study and cram for a test and forget all the information the next day. The beauty of it is you can pass the class with an A! I lived on my ability to do that in college and it never steered me wrong. So when I started the academy, it was a rude awakening to learn that technique would either fail me out or leave me toward the bottom of my class ranking at best. I needed to change my study habits quickly.

The academy curriculum is specifically designed to give you knowledge in order. Every class builds upon past blocks of instruction. For example, Laws of Arrest and Search and Seizure are taught early on in the academy. If you don't understand what you can and cannot do to effect an arrest, how will you be able to do well in scenario testing and every other block where you learn about specified crimes where you need to make a decision to arrest or not? You can't learn about search and seizure, pass the test and forget about it. If you do not grasp the concepts from one of these classes, the academy becomes increasingly more confusing and it's hard to play catch up.

Especially beyond the academy, you cannot expect to perform well on field training when you do not grasp the material presented in the academy. What you learn in the academy is the foundation for a great career in law enforcement. So how do you learn the material instead of just retaining the information long enough to pass a test? I'm not going to touch on specific study techniques so to speak. People learn differently and I'm not going to try to proclaim to know the best technique that works for everyone. What I do know is a study pattern that works for the academy and that's what I'm going to cover.

We have been following a pattern for learning our whole lives that we need to break. What's the purpose for taking any class? To learn the subject right? Why waste my time learning the subject beforehand if I just paid good money to have this expert instructor teach me? Even instructors don't expect their students to have a solid foundation of the subject matter before the class starts unless there are prerequisites to the class. This pattern usually works alright since the teacher is there to answer any and all questions along the way and is even there to proctor the test at the end.

The problem in the academy is, the instructor teaches the block of instruction, the recruits go home and study, but the block is done and the instructor in most cases, is not coming back to field questions and have a follow up discussion. When it comes time for the test, the instructor is nowhere to be seen and the academy staff is most likely proctoring the test. While it is true the recruits can ask for clarification from the academy staff, it is always easier for the instructor who was in the class and knows what scenarios and concerns were brought up during instruction.

The quickest change you can make to studying for an LD test to achieve greater success is to change when you study. First of all, do not study exclusively by yourself. If you get confused, you have only yourself to try and clarify the confusion. if you study with only one other person, naturally one person will understand the material better than the other and it just becomes a study session where whatever the one "expert recruit" says is the right answer. Well what if that person doesn't have as much of a clue as they think? Study groups of 3-6 seem to work well. Groups much larger than that will turn into social gatherings rather than a good study session.

So back to the when of studying... Get your study group together and study that LD before the block of instruction! Don't just "glance over the material" or "read over the LD." study that LD as if the LD test was going to be given at the beginning of the block of instruction before the instructor even says a word. This is key to getting the most out of the classes!

Don't rush through your study sessions! Do not move on in an LD until everyone in the group has a solid understanding of the material. This will ensure no recruit is left behind, but by other recruits taking the opportunity to teach that recruit, he/she is solidifying their knowledge of the subject even more.

During your study session(s), write down any questions or areas that need clarification for the group. Take them with you to the class so the instructor can spend more time on it and clear things up for you guys. Also, complete the Workbook Learning Activities at the end of the chapters and discuss your answers with your group. By the time the instructor steps in front of the class, you will all have an excellent foundation to now have an intelligent discussion about the topic instead of sitting there like a bunch of mouth breathers, and then complaining later that the instructor didn't do a good enough job covering the material.

I can promise you this: If you take the time to really study the material before the block of instruction, you will post high test scores every time. It's a habit you need to get into right at the beginning of the academy. The material is going to help you be a great cop! Sometimes it's hard to see the forest through the trees, but keep a wide perspective on it. You're not being taught the material so you can pass the academy. You're being taught the material to train you in your career so you make good decisions and don't end up being sued or in jail yourself!

If the rare situation comes up where you get an instructor who does a subpar job teaching (and studying beforehand will help you see the subpar instructors more easily), make sure to be completely honest in the instructor evaluation. It's hard for an academy to replace or "fix" an instructor when all the recruit's evaluations say, "The instructor did a great job and is really enthusiastic about the subject!" Stop giving cookie cutter evaluations and start being honest and making your academy be even better.

No comments:

Post a Comment