How We Learn Versus How We Think We Learn

Robert Bjork, Distinguished Research Professor in the UCLA Department of Psychology, shares insights from his work as a renowned expert on human learning. Bjork has been studying learning and memory for more than four decades. Recorded on 02/17/2016. I just loved this video because it shows the serious gap of how we learn versus how we think we learn. Important for police officers and police trainer as well as police leaders to understand!

Why do we misunderstand our own learning and how do we improve our learning capabilities?

A major problem we confront as teachers and as students: Conditions of instruction that make performance improve rapidly often fail to support long-term retention and transfer,


Conditions of instruction that appear to create difficulties for the learner, slowing the rate of apparent learning, often optimize long-term retention and transfer.

In the quote above Dr. Robert Bjork says we need to introduce manipulations that introduce desirable difficulties' for the learner. We do this by varying conditions of learning. Distributing study or practice sessions. Using tests rather than presentations as learning events. This is where experiential learning or scenario based training comes into play. He also advises we provide contextual interference during learning (e.g., interleaving rather than blocking practice). Policing currently trains in silos. we have use of force training, firearms training, defensive tactics training, law, community policing, physical fitness etc. etc. etc. mostly all made up of lectures where we sit and listen, then take a written multiple choice exam. If we pass the exam we are good to go or so we think.

What Dr. Bjork is getting at when he uses the term interleaving is blended training. We need to turn training on its head and put new police officers into novel situations and then allow them to solve the problem. This develops problems solvers versus rote rehearsed responses. I know what some of you are thinking well we do combine the training in applied patrol procedures class? True but the mistake is, its done at the end of the academy or other specialized training session, after students have learned everything in a rote way. What do you get? What you taught them thrown right back in your face even if the situation they applied it in did not warrant what they were taught. An example is felony stop procedures. Cops try to apply felony stop procedures like they were taught to them in the police academy. and the procedure does work great. WHEN everything goes as expected. BUT when it does not go as expected cops all too often fail to adapt to the novelties of the situation.

They way we teach or how we learn versus how we think we learn are seriously two different things and those two things in the policing profession are LIFE and DEATH! Watch this video and ask yourself is how you teach preparing police officers for the job or can you (we) do better?

Stay Oriented!