If you are a field training recruit (FTR) about to begin the field training officer (FTO) program, then this column is for you. Read very closely. Once you enter the program, be eager to learn, exhibit your skills, and garner great scores so you can graduate to solo status.
Understanding how you will be taught during this process will help you excel and lower your frustration level.
The Steps of Learning
The traditional process for learning psycho-motor skills is the EDP process. This systematic approach is prevalent in police training. It is based on learning through observation, verbalization, and performance. You will take each new skill in logical steps: explanation, demonstration, and performance. Here is how it works.
The FTO will present a task that you are to master. The first step is the explanation process. Your FTO will explain what and how the steps are to be performed correctly. He will reference a standard operational procedure, practice, or regulation. The FTO will fully explain the steps and then he will perform them. Simply, the FTO verbalizes the steps and performs the process. You as the FTR only observe and asks questions if needed.
The next step is the demonstration phase. This is similar to the explanation phase; but with a twist. Here your FTO will verbalize the steps of the process while you (the FTR) perform under her direction. This has a built-in safety factor for everyone's benefit, for the FTO is not going to instruct you to perform an unsafe task.
What is critical here is that you must learn to visualize as well and begin to verbalize the tasks you perform daily. For instance, if you are in court your testimony could require that you be able to verbalize not only how but why you perform a task a certain way. Learn now, for you will rely on these foundational skills for the rest of your career.
This demonstration element of the learning process is critical for not only what we do, but why and how it is performed. An example of how this can go awry was a drug case. The officer testified that a sample of the suspected narcotic was placed in the drug testing kit. These testing kits are the ones with the vials that must be broken in sequential order and agitated a prescribed number of times to obtain a color for a positive or negative test. His testimony was that he broke the little bottles and shook it a few times. Long story short, he lost the case. Learn now and excel in the future.
The final step is the performance step. Here the recruit verbalizes the task and then actually performs the task. The FTO is the observer and grader. This is more than a game. It is a sound learning approach to ingraining proper steps and procedures.
Do not expect your FTO to offer you a shortcut; only the proper methodology for performing the task. To learn a task correctly, it must be presented and performed correctly. Although this is time consuming, it is extremely important. Using the proper method will decrease your chance of developing bad habits. Your future performance, and maybe survival, is based on this learning principle.
Your ability to observe, verbalize, and perform is very important. One day in court it could mean the difference between guilty and not guilty. Another day, it could mean how you will teach your recruits, for you are the FTOs of tomorrow.
Train with heart and train with focus!