Learning Like an Expert: A Guest Post by Marshall Wallace

This guest post is from a fellow Boydian thinker, and friend Marshall Wallace. Marshall had mentioned at one of our Boyd and Beyond Boston meetings that he was working on a paper "Learning Like an Expert" below are his insights into what we need to do to create and nurture critical thinkers and problem solvers, this includes those of us in law enforcement.

Marshall explains There are four tools that the Training of Trainers needs to model. This modeling represents, on the one hand, how to gain experience, while on the other it also shows how to continue self-training.

1. Practice: deliberate – set goals
2. Experience: yours and others – collect stories
3. Feedback: get it, ask for it – make it timely and relevant and accurate
4. Review: your own experiences and others – especially mistakes

This model is centered on how we should be developing those in law enforcement, using the case study learning methodology using tactical decision games and decision making critiques. The one thing i would be cautious of, is "deliberte set goals" not that we should not have them but instead we as facilatators need to be cautious we don't force particpants into one solution or one method to get to the "set goal." Practicing set goals is good but understanding their is no one method to solving a tactical problem is in my humble view better. This in my view keeps Boyd's conceptual spiral of learning, unlearninga dn relearning alive and well eaving room for creative and innovative solutions to problems both conventional and unconventional. I believe you will find Marshall's piece very helpful in how we approach developing ourselves and our organizations.

[This is almost entirely notes that need to be expanded to explain actually using the four concepts]

[Much of this is based on the work of Gary Klein (Sources of Power), but Marshall has also used these concepts to enrich trainings]

Because expertise requires experience, we will not get experts in one or two weeks. However, we can give them the tools to learn like experts.

There are four tools that the Training of Trainers needs to model. This modeling represents, on the one hand, how to gain experience, while on the other it also shows how to continue self-training.

1. Practice: deliberate – set goals
2. Experience: yours and others – collect stories
3. Feedback: get it, ask for it – make it timely and relevant and accurate
4. Review: your own experiences and others – especially mistakes

1. Practice
a. Practice needs to be intentional and deliberate. Every situation can become a training situation. But only if it is mapped out before hand. What does the trainer wish to accomplish in the time period?
b. In the course of the ToT Practicum, the trainers should map out goals for their sessions. Because they have limited time, they should build that limited time into their ideas about the practicum. They should also focus on as many elements (see above) of the training as possible.
c. The goals should have criteria attached to them. How will know if you’ve achieved your goals? These should be gone over with the trainers of the session and with a partner who will be watching.

2. Experience: yours and others – collect stories
a. Experience needs to be shared. This sharing takes place through stories.
b. It is imperative that DNH trainers have multiple stories for every concept.
c. There are many ways to gather these stories. Our own experience is invaluable in this. Our own stories are always better than other people’s stories.
d. However, listening closely to other people is also important.
e. Many good stories come from the newspaper and convey a suggestion of timeliness. This should be built into the training if possible. Get the new trainers to read the newspaper and to use an appropriate timely story.

3. Feedback: get it, ask for it – make it timely and relevant and accurate
a. Make sure people are comfortable with feedback.
b. In the workshop the practicum sessions are where people get their first example of feedback. In the practicum the trainer who sits at the front with the person who has just conducted the session needs to be the “good” cop. Only positive feedback from the friend and ally up at the front. This person should also have the last word. It is possible (sometimes even desirable) for the other trainers and the other participants to go into the real failures.
c. One of the key elements of this feedback is to work with the goals the person has set for themselves (as per item 1 above).

4. Review: your own experiences and others – especially mistakes
a. Review can be of events just experienced or events from the past. It can be very useful for people who have just undergone DNH training to use an old, old project or set of experiences to test the lens. This gets people in the habit of using experiences and of reinterpreting experiences.
b. Look for the mistakes in the past.
c. Tell your own mistakes as they are powerful
d. As you refer to past experience with new lenses it allows you to build upon the experience and enrich it.

Marshall Wallace has worked with humanitarian relief and development organizations in more than forty countries on the impacts of assistance on conflict and developing appropriate responses to those impacts. He leads research projects, develops and conducts training based on the learning, and writes. With Mary B. Anderson, he co-authored Opting Out War: Strategies to Prevent Violent Conflict, a study of communities in civil wars who developed ways to stay out of those conflicts. He will draw a diagram at the drop of a hat and is pretty sure that the moral dimension of conflict is to the physical as twelve is to one.