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by Officer John Bunnell

To be an effective teacher, there are several factors that must be considered. There's the instructor, the student, the number of students, the teaching method, the topic, the location, the props, the lighting, the time of day, the schedule, and so on.  The teacher must ensure everything is set up appropriately.  There are many different teaching methods, and all have their proper place.   In this article, I will be referring to teaching a technique that requires physically doing something (Weight lifting, calisthenics,  self-defense, shooting, etc.)

It is important to understand that a person can learn by seeing, hearing or doing. Most people learn best when combining two or more of these.  With that in mind, to truly be an effective teacher, you must be a good communicator.  But more than that, you must ensure your actions match your words.  You absolutely will lose the student if you say one thing as you are doing another.   

Next, be sure what you are teaching is simple.  Don't give the student too much information at once or they will probably not retain much of it.  By that I mean, break lessons down into smaller, easier to understand lessons.  For example, you would not make one lesson on "How to Shoot A Gun" unless you broke it down into smaller lessons on Safety, Nomenclature, Operating Characteristics, Shooting Principles, Sight Alignment/Sight Picture, etc.  "How To Shoot A Gun" would be more of a title for an entire course, not one lesson. 

A very effective technique to use when teaching someone a new physical skill is The Four Step Method:

  • Demonstrate

  • Break-Down

  • Walk-Though

  • Do

For the given lesson, Demonstrate it.  The Demonstration should be full speed, real-time, accurate and effective.  This is the "WIIFM" (What's In It For Me) stage and hooks the student on wanting to learn how to do the technique and why.

The Break-Down should be done very slowly; elaborating on key points as you go. Obviously, do what you say and say what you do.  Avoid jargon (shop talk) and use widely understood analogies.   

The Walk-Through is simply having the student(s) do the technique exactly as you broke it down.  In this phase, whether you utilize steps or not, be sure your words and analogies here are the same ones you used during the Break-Down phase. This re-enforces the students learning.

Finally, the Do stage is having the student perform the technique as demonstrated.  Obviously, they will not be able to do this until after substantial practice.  However, as they repeat the technique, slowly remove the steps and have them shoot for gradually reducing mistakes.

Any one of the steps above can and should be done more than once.  How many times depends upon the technique, the class size, questions, time, etc.  But you want to be sure each student is able to see every part of the technique from every necessary angle.  Again, this will help solidify the "why" and not just "how" to do a specific technique.  

I use this technique at work frequently and find it to be very effective.  If you use it, how does it work for you?  If not, try it and let me know how it goes.  Good luck, and please be safe.  

Originally written November 30, 2015

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