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2024 | WINTER

Improving Training Methods to Improve Knowledge Gain, Retention, and Application

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Timothy Bonadies, Jessica Herbert, Jon Blum, Peggy Schaefer, Dianne Beer-Maxwell, Gary Cordner, and Chris Carter

Research

2024 | WINTER

Improving Training Methods to Improve Knowledge Gain, Retention, and Application

Timothy Bonadies, Jessica Herbert, Jon Blum, Peggy Schaefer, Dianne Beer-Maxwell, Gary Cordner, and Chris Carter

Police agencies must provide their officers with training to ensure they meet established professional, operational, and legal performance standards as well as the constantly evolving expectations of the community. One of the most common approaches to satisfy these ever-increasing expectations is to increase the hours of training required for officers. In recent years, more law enforcement agencies and training academies are implementing the use of online training to augment in-person training as well as provide a more convenient and economical approach for staff to receive training. However, there has been little examination of the quality of knowledge/skill development and retention from these traditional processes.

 

Retention interval is defined as the time between when an individual participates in a training program and is tested on the material. Generally, longer intervals of time between an officer completing a training course and testing typically results in lower retention of knowledge/skills.

 

One approach to address this is to utilize an integrated curriculum to provide a deeper understanding of how to apply the knowledge and skills presented during training. To accomplish this, instructors include problem solving skills and critical thinking activities during the training to help students evaluate situations as well as identify alternative responses. In turn this enables students to develop more comprehensive perspectives of issues and solutions and retain the course material.

 

This study evaluates the impact of instruction format on the knowledge gained and retained by 152 police recruits in five academies. To accomplish this, four groups of recruits were exposed to training in one of four instructional techniques. These included traditional classroom instruction, on-line instruction, traditional classroom instruction with an integrated curriculum and on-line instruction with an integrated curriculum.  Each group completed a pretest prior to attending the training and four post-tests over established periods of time.

 

 

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Researchers found all four groups performed best immediately after the initial training, but performance and retention continued to decline for each in the subsequent tests. Recruits who attended in-person and online training utilizing integrated curriculum approaches scored “higher and demonstrated continual knowledge retention when compared to traditional in-person and online groups”. More specifically, recruits who attended in-person training with an integrated curriculum outperformed those who attended on-line training with an integrated curriculum. Similarly, students who attended in-person training performed better than those who utilized online training.

 

Agency leaders should take these findings into consideration when providing training. Traditional classroom and on-line training have limitations. The more engaged the students are in developing skills and abilities to process information and apply it to realistic situations will improve knowledge retention and skill development.  Implementing integrated training processes is likely to improve the quality of knowledge and skill acquired and retained. The added benefit of integrated curriculum is the reduced need for as much increase in the quantity of training.

 

Finally, it is important to note, the researchers reported an integrated approach requires instructors to possess enhanced knowledge and skills to effectively provide this level of training. To accomplish this, instructors must be provided an ‘extensive amount of professional development’ to master the material and deliver an integrated course.

Timothy Bonadies
Jessic Hubert
Jon Blum
Peggy Schaefer
Dianne Beer Maxwell
Gary Cordner
Chris Carter

Timothy Bonadies, Jessica Herbert, Jon Blum, Peggy Schaefer, Dianne Beer-Maxwell, Gary Cordner, and Chris Carter, “Recalling Responses: A RCT on Police Learning and Knowledge Retention”, Policing, Vol. 20, pp.1-17, (2023) 

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