The three basic ways in which learning occurs are:
It is in the Cognitive domain you find your most commonly understood method of learning. Here you are dealing with recall or recognition of knowledge and the development of intellectual abilities and skills. You will find that the delivery of information in the cognitive domain is handled through the medium technical information lectures.
According to Fire Service Instructor, there are six stages of cognitive learning:
• Knowledge - Recalling and recognizing information
• Comprehension - Understanding the meaning of information
• Application - Using information learned in specific situations
• Analysis - Breaking information into parts to understand the whole
• Synthesis - Integrating the parts to invent a new whole
• Evaluation - Using standards and criteria to judge the value of information
By understanding how people learn, you can develop a more effective approach to teaching. You can create bite- sized pieces of learning that can be easily digested by your students. Some of these might involve discovering new information, facts, and ways of doing things.
Once your students know about these things, and can explain them, you can move on to assisting them into translating these facts into new and related situations. The ability to transfer knowledge to new situations is a good sign that relatively permanent learning has happened.
Psychomotor, or skill learning, is the range of learning used by those of us who train fire and emergency service workers. This type of learning encompasses those competencies needed to actually maneuver an implement or make a bodily move to do something. I am talking about the combination of brain and brawn to get a job done.
According Fire Service Instructor, concept of psychomotor refers to the skills involving the senses and the brain as well as the muscles. You can easily see how critical this type of learning is to a physically demanding field like firefighting. How many of you have spoken time and again about how firefighting is such a labor- intensive field of endeavor? If you are to succeed in this aspect of our business, you must understand how we blend the mind and the body to perform firefighting tasks.
According to Fire Service Instructor, just as in the cognitive domain, each psychomotor level is progressive, building one upon the other. These levels are listed as follows:
• Observation - Witnessing a motor activity
• Imitation - Copying a motor activity step-by-step
• Adaption - Modifying a personalizing a motor activity
• Performance - Perfecting the activity until the steps become habitual
• Perfection - Improving performance until it is flawless and artful
A quick reading of these five steps tells you exactly how we, as a body of people, learn to fight fire. We look, we perform, we perfect. Unfortunately, there are still cases where these five steps are performed in an on-the-job basis. Fortunately the number of people who still throw a new person out into the field to learn-while-doing is shrinking.
But be warned. There are still people out there who practice this ancient and costly style of our old friend, "Trial and Error Learning". Avoid these people like the plague. And if you find yourself in such a place, practice an active form of knowledge acquisition. By as many books as you can about firefighting and read them as quickly as is humanly possible. Then pray that you do not get killed or injured in the interim.
More on learning in my January 2006 column