These are my notes from Col Casey Haskins’s presentation, “Military Development at West Point” during the 2011 Intellectual Warrior’s Conference at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, on April 12th. MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS. THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST PRESENTATIONS I’VE EVER HEARD ON LEARNING / TRAINING DESIGN AS WELL AS ASSESSMENT. GREAT IDEAS AND CONCEPTS HERE.

I want to talk about how I think about this process, but not just from the teacher’s perspective
- how I think about setting up and running the program

You’ll hear an undercurrent in this that we can do much better, we do not have the best educational processes and procedures currently
- we can get better

Two lessons learned from combat from the past 10 years
- soldiers and leaders require greater mastery of individual and small-unit skills than our previous training had provided (we can do better, we need to be better)
- the problems our leaders and solidiers must solve often differ from those we preparted them for

implication is straightforward
- we need to shift from training people how to apply solutions: we need to teach them how to find AND solve the problems
- we need to equip people with solid educational skills

Oak Tree Counseling
- a good idea mutated from this: “Let’s prevent some of these automobile fatalities…” to a very confusing “Meeting Under the Oak Tree” schematic
- we have a great instiutional tendency to do this

Physicists category problems into four types:
- simple
- complicated
- complex
- chaotic

Almost all our problems today are COMPLEX: many variables, and they interact (change one, and the others change)
- taking an action can change the entire problem, even if it works great (example: Libya, taking out gov’t tanks with air power)

Engineers and schedulers solve complicated problems
- there are tradeoffs
- fundamentally: once you get it right

MDMP: Military Decision Making Process can work well for complicated problems
-

The exact same forces of nature that we see in combat are in training
- we tend to apply an engineering-based process

4 Premises I use and can defend
- people train to the test. Always
– our assessments should not only inform us but provide the right incentives
- teaching that works with human nature achieves better results than teaching that works against human nature
– many of our methods work against human nature: We often start with generalities, but the brain starts with concrete things and can then unwind to generalities
– culturally: we are hard-wired to learn by stories (there are entire parts of our brains that light up when we recognize faces versus other objects)
— give people an abstract problem and people freeze, but if you give them the same scenario with people they know they can immediately address/solve it
– having people solve problems also works well
– when you are learning you have to make mistakes

We need to have an environment in which it’s kinda cool to make mistakes in learning and training, within defined boundaries
- we should encourage mistakes during learning, and then minimize mistakes during tests
- we often tend to do a bad job of this

We have to make it cool to ask lots of questions

2 other assumptions that are wrong, but embedded in our training model
1- it’s possible to take a complex skill, disaggregate it’s component parts, teach them separately and then put them back together again (but people don’t work that way)
– so it’s possible to teach land navigation in four discrete parts, but people graduate from those programs without effective navigational skills
- consistent finding: one third of the army (at all levels) can’t navigate

2- it’s possible to teach someone the mechanical aspects of a skill and then switch on the thinking
– makes great sense, but humans don’t work that way
– there is no neutral in a human mind: you are always learning either TO solve problems and think or NOT to
– our method of training can make people less willing to try things (condition people to listen and wait for instructions, rather than take initiative)

THIS REMINDS ME OF THE BBC THE WORLD TECHNOLOGY PODCAST ABOUT SOVIET OFFICIALS IN 1996 DURING THE CHERNOBYL DISASTER

Continuing premises:
- In a complex system, everything has side effects
– things in isolation don’t work the way they do in context
– focusing on a single metric almost always does more harm than good
- centralized planning and control can’t be made to work

story: illustrating how different problems need different solutions
- marksmanship story: conditioning helplessness for troubleshooting and problem solving on the rifle range
- did we accomplish safety or ‘accident avoidance’?
- we have to help people learn
- we were measuring an absence of accidents and the ability to shoot straight

Last premise:
- Almost everyone involved in our training wants to do well
- with very few exceptions, cadets or soldiers are capabile of behaving like adults if treated like adults… if our stystems do not discourage it
- we COULD have a culture of accountability rather than a culture of compliance with rules, if we so choose

I THINK THIS IS A GREAT QUOTATION

Rather than changing the academic year culture of West Point, I have sought to insert a new summer culture
- takes about 2 weeks in the summer to get into a culture of accountability
- back to academics: takes about 2 hours to get back to the silliness

Outcomes-based training and education (OBTE)
- method for training and training management that standardizes by outcomes ratehr than by inputs or processes
- rests upon trained leaders who are accountabile for results, rather than upon enforcement of external controls and processes

3 overarching components
1- requires agreement on everything the trainers are to accomplish, both in teaching tangible skills and instailling vluaes nad behavior
2- more….

[I WILL TRY

the question is not did you attend the class: question is can you DO what is required? (evidence)

Resulting changes
- do less, better
- we use problem solving for the basis for all learning – avoid tests where solutions can be memorized
- expect far more than minimum standards (if you focus on minimum standards, that is where your focus becomes)
- focus explicitly on developing character, leadership and judgement – not just skills (how you teach has an impact on these things: ability to think, willingness to take initiative, judgement)
- wherever possible (and it’s a lot) have cadet leaders be the trainers

desired outcomes for military development (we write these in English instead of buzzwords)

Each graduating West Point cadet will:
- be proficient as an individual soldier
- be proficient as a member of a team in select tasks
- solve tactical problems using principles that underlie doctrine and warfighting
- understand the roles of officers and NCOs in the Army
- demonstrate effective leadership expected of a junior officer in accomplishing assigned mission
- demonstrate courage, character, integrity and toughness

If we say it’s important, we have to figure out how to spot it

Purposes of Assessment
- can be a qualification or an individual requirement
- or it can be to get feedback on the program, to see what’s working, and to steer adjustments
- it ALWAYS communicates (to Soldiers and to leaders) what’s important. If our words don’t match our tests, they’ll believe the tests and stop listening to the words. So we have to measure important things.

some is good does not imply that more is better

Assessment principles:
- goal is not certainty, but to reduce the uncertainty enough to decide
- do not try to look at one thing in isolation, put things in context and watch for side effects
- simpler measurements are better
- when choosing among alternate means for finding things out, cheapest and least intrusive measurements are preferred
- don’t rely upon a single data point. multiple assessments of each outcome and measure of effectiveness, by multiple assessors
- assessment instruments and the assessors themselves should not have the same internal boundaries or design as the organization they are assessing – otherwise they bring the same invisible biases
- try to disprove the conclusion, not to prove it. The more it stands up to that test, the more reliable the conclusion will be
- measure results, not effort
– no credit for the process by which we accomplished or attempted to accomplish something, but only for demonstrating that it worked
– students should have to apply skills to solve problems they haven’t applied

For instructors / teachers, we have to go through this process
- what are all the outcomes we want for our faculty / instructors
- we have to measure that, and hold them accountable for that
- some of this happens in apprenticeship phase
- but we can also measure things: their student performance, but that’s not enough
- we have to create measurement scenarios in which we deliberately look for those things… it’s challenging to do, but possible

In a scenario recently, we designed the activity with competing interests / priorities and watched what happened
- gave participants obvious opportunities to cheat
- fundamental questions are: how well did the students learn, how good of a role model is/was that instructor?

Feedback from audience: Idea of a pre-test is critical
- if you have smart folks who already know the information and skills, recognize that and reward them

We shouldn’t just teach discrete parts of navigation: we should teach how to navigate

From Col Haskins: After Vietnam we lost so many experienced NCOs, we started writing scripts for instructors
- we do need lesson plans and agreement about how to do these things, but all the lesson plans don’t have to be exactly the same
- we have gone too far with detail, and this has destroyed both quality and initiative in many cases

There is a growing dichotomy between how we conduct operations and how we teach people, and we need to bring those areas together

MY THOUGHT: THIS IS SIMILAR TO THE IDEA OF HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO BRING THE REAL WORLD INTO THE CLASSROOM OFTEN AND REPEATEDLY
- CREATING THE CONTEXT

WOW THIS IS KEY FOR EFFECTIVE TEACHING, NOT JUST IN THE MILITARY. WEST POINT IS SO BLESSED TO HAVE A LEADER AND THINKER LIKE CASEY HASKINS LEADING THE MILITARY TRAINING PROGRAM. BASED ON WHAT I’VE HEARD TODAY I’M SURE THE CADETS AND OTHER MILITARY MEMBERS ARE DIRECT BENEFICIARIES OF THESE IDEAS AND PHILOSOPHIES. LOTS TO THINK ABOUT AND SHARE IN A K-12 AS WELL AS HIGHER ED CONTEXT.

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