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Prepare your training for all types of learners

Police trainers — and trainees — need to be aware that there are three types of learning preferences

There are dog people, cat people and monkey people. Dog people prefer dogs, cat people love cats, and monkey people are energized when monkeys do their monkey things. 

You can see by the photograph taken before one presentation years ago that as a trainer I was prepared to deliver important knowledge and skills to the dog people and monkey people in my class, but I was ill-prepared to enthrall the cat people that inevitably occupied the class.

You see, I have always preferred dogs and monkeys.

I have always preferred dogs and monkeys.
I have always preferred dogs and monkeys.

The dog and monkey people benefitted from the program, while the cat people left untrained, unfulfilled, and even disappointed.

What’s my point? Clearly this is not about dogs, cats, and monkeys. Police trainers — and trainees — need to be aware that there are three types of learning preferences. They are:

1.) Visual learners
2.) Auditory learners
3.) Kinesthetic (hands-on) learners

If you are a trainer or a trainee, the questions that need to be asked are:

1.) What are my preferences?
2.) How can I become a better trainer or trainee by recognizing my preferences for the sake of the survival of all?

Visual and Auditory “The Knowing”
Visual and auditory learning often go hand in hand.  For the trainer, it is the easy format to provide and for the learner it is the easiest format to participate in. Trainers will be constantly in the show and tell mode.

There is a very real economic advantage to this in that a large number of students can be trained simultaneously using lecture, demonstration, or an on-line format. It is the easiest way to reach the most people at once and should not be abandoned.

Training experiences that offer the visual and auditory delivery are great for enhancing “the knowing,” of many of the officers in attendance. People, who are good visual and auditory learners, often retain the valuable information and impressions delivered in this format.

This format can be very powerful. Who does not remember their first viewing of Trooper Coates’ squad car videotape?

Kinesthetic “The Doing”
The kinesthetic learners benefit the most by getting physically involved, while learning. They want to shoot, run, grapple, hand cuff, climb and swim their way through the learning process.

These learners will better become “knowers” if the learning process allows them to become “doers.”

The visual and auditory learners ,for example, will watch a video of a demonstration of a particular technique. They will be able to remember its name, list the advantages and disadvantages of the technique and even explain the justification for using it on the street in a given situation.

They will be personally satisfied as learners by just listening to the explanation and viewing the demonstration even though they will be unable to perform the technique on the street under stress.

The kinesthetic learners will have a need and desire to get up and practice the technique. They may lose interest in the long-winded explanation of the legal justification and disregard the terminology listed in the hand-out.

The kKinesthetic learners will excel at and even enjoy the hands-on practice. They are the officers who will be able to perform the technique on the street, but may have problems justifying its use in their reports and on the witness stand later.

It’s About Survival
In the area of training and learning the physical skills of survival, the trainer must recognize and overcome their personal preferences in the teaching of the skills. The learner must overcome their preferences in the learning of the skills to insure that when your health or even your life depends on it:

1.) You know what you need to do.
2.) You are able to do what you need to do.
3.) You can deftly articulate the legal justification for what you have done.


Your physical and legal survival depends on the knowing and the doing.

Monkeys, Dogs, and Cats!
When I was young, I was delighted by monkeys and loved dogs. I did not have a natural inclination toward liking cats. However, since the people I care about love cats, I have (with great effort) learned to appreciate, even embrace cats.

Whether you are a trainer or trainee, you must recognize your weaknesses, embrace them, and resolve to make them your strengths...for the survival of all.

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