Instructing Vs Coaching - Army tradition Vs Modern thinking

MrBane

LE
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#1
When I was on my RSI course at Bovington (Schools recommend, but didn't have the heart to tell them that three quarters of them were cocks that I'd never want to work with), they invited in some academia learned type who patronised us for about an hour on the values of coaching rather than instructing.

The general gist of it was that telling someone to do something, telling them how to do it and telling them when you want it done will only get you so far, and that at some point you need to break it down into more in-depth and personal coaching (or mentoring for another term). We of course ridiculed his Communist thinking and more or less boo'd him out the class, but that was us being pig headed and a 'Who the **** does this guy think he is?'.

Looking back on it now, I see scenarios where the coaching would definitely have been far better than the instruction I received. An example that sticks with me is training on the ranges at Herrick up at FOB Juno when I got to play with (If I recall, but memory fades) an AT-4. We were all given fam training which was short and sharp, and instructed on handling and firing the weapon. Then we were promptly lined up, and told to hit a chassis however far away. I'm sure I probably upset a few Iranians that day, but suffice, I missed my target by some significant margin. The same applied at Lydd when I had my first pop at the UGL with the orange paint training rounds - some baguette eating motherfucker would've looked a right tit that day after my projectiles made their way casually over the Channel.

That an a dozen plus other scenarios where I and many others would have really benefited from being sat down and coached through what we were doing, in soft voices and patient tones, rather than the traditional shouty screamy.

Now there is a reason for shouty screamy, and there is a time and place for it, but coaching also merits a great deal of attention and I recall that running the in-house sigs courses for the crews, I achieved a far higher pass rate by sitting down with those struggling and slowly taking them through the material at hand, clarifying questions and giving them time to muck about and figure it out for themselves.

This has also got me thinking that actually, on deployment yes, it needs to be hard and fast, but even during peace time, tucked away in a quiet corner of a training area or in barracks, we always trained fast and hard which meant a lot of information being taken in, but how much of it was actually absorbed?

So my questions are:

  1. Can you think of a time when you would have performed far better if you had been coached rather than instructed
  2. Where and when do you feel coaching should come in to play?
  3. Is this an example where the army needs to modernise (If it hasn't since my time) how it approaches training at all levels to if you like, slow the pace down a bit? Lets be honest, we're not strapped for time, are we?
Thoughts?
 
#2
1. You can't be instructed to solve problems IMHO. You can be coached through problem solving. I can't think of any occasion when instruction would have been more appropriate apart from black and white situations like the early stages of weapon handling when people don't appreciate how dangerous they are.
2. Coaching should come into play as soon as your audience is mature enough and receptive. Back to weapon handling, once the "instructor" knows that you aren't going to look into the wrong end of the barrel, or point a loaded weapon not down the range you can start coaching and work through skill gaps.
3. It sort of has though I'd argue that Pirbright(?) is way behind Halton on training.
 
#3
I think there needs to be a mixture of the two. Thinking back to my own experience, I was once placed into a role at very short notice, for which I'd only had basic training on. It was a training exercise, BOST to be precise and, as a newcomer sprog to tyhe ship in the ops room, surface picture compilation was the expected limit of my skillset. For reasons I cannot remember, I was suddenely placed as PC2 - air picture compiler. I was bricking myself. Proper in at the deep end for someone at my then stage in the career. I was "winging it". Yes, I made a few prcedural mistakes, was slow to do certain things but - I got encouragement...even a "Well done PC2" over command open line as I updated a track onto correct radar skin etc. It boosted my confidence no end and- for what I then lacked in system and procedural knowledge, I made up for in the desire to learn my new found hobby to the best possible level!

Without blowing smoke up my own arse..I went on to be quite notable in the branch I was in.

@Jimmy_Green - who will no doubt deny ever having served with me now !
 
#4
I currently teach our software.
Initially the course is instructed, however as the course progresses (or I'm on a consultation visit) it becomes coaching.

I also look after a couple of circuses for H&S, that's mostly instructional as they don't respond well to polite suggestions. Making it black and white for them is easiest on everyone.

I've been taught/coached by some excellent people these all helped me learn the subject and how to teach.
Then there were those who taught me what not to do.
 
#7
With piping and drumming, you can instruct someone on the basics from reading music, holding sticks and chanters, scale,etc etc, but if they become competent it turns more into coaching. They will know how to play to a certain level, but instructing only goes so far and the more focused coaching aspect takes precedence to bring ahead the quality the individual possesses. It doesn’t work on all students though, you can instruct a Gurkha to play, but no matter how much coaching he receives, he’ll still sound like shïte......
 
#8
If it is an individual learning a new skill then you can tailor the teaining to that individual's learning style. The difficulty arises when you have a group to train and a set time to deliver that training. There reaches a point where someone learning at a different rate to the rest becomes a hindrance to the group.
I had a student on a course some years ago, who got it, but was off the pace the whole time. I tried various approaches to bring him on, including one to one sessions (difficult when you are training a team skill).
In the end my instructional team convinced me that for the good of the rest he should be binned.
While in theory all learning should be tailored to suit the individual, I would suggest that very few organisations, particularly public sector, have the time to do that.
 

W21A

LE
Book Reviewer
#9
I can be instructed in most subjects. If I am interested I can be coached; hence my avatar. Note it is not an NBC avatar which I also did an instructor's course in.
 
#10
It sort of has though I'd argue that Pirbright(?) is way behind Halton on training.
Halton is the home of the Defence Centre of Training Support, so it would be!
 
#11
The days of permanent send, test, summary ie DITs/MOI etc are long gone. Its all about Present Apply Review mow. Get the students engaged and involved. GROW models, student based learning, in line with schools, which makes sense. As pointed out, coaching and mentoring are two very different beasts with two different approaches. To be a good coach and a good instructor take different qualities. It is very possible to be good at both, but neither necessary or desired in most cases. That is not to say that the old methods are defunt: SAA lessons, for example, or HAZMAT lessons need to be taught that way. Of course the students will dictate the way in which subject matter is delivered...

EDIT By the last statement I mean the style of delivery. Ph1 and 2 will need a very different style than a room full of WO2s
 
#12
I can be instructed in most subjects. If I am interested I can be coached; hence my avatar. Note it is not an NBC avatar which I also did an instructor's course in.
Good point - re: having interest being a major factor in being able to be further coached beyond minimum required skills.
 
#13
Good point - re: having interest being a major factor in being able to be further coached beyond minimum required skills.
Coaching is very time consuming as it requires 1 on 1 focus, but the results are so much better than instruction with a ratio much higher. As you say, if people aren't interested then it becomes a real challenge to engage them and deliver it in a style that includes them too
 
#14
A very interesting question Mr Bane. I always benefited more from coaching and the personal input that that involved. I used to get anxious that I was going to get it wrong, and as we all know that’s when it does go wrong. In a “coaching” situation I found it easier, and I learnt a lot more.
I was an instructor for a bit and I have found some encouragement goes a bit further than shouting.
 
#15
I currently teach our software.
Initially the course is instructed, however as the course progresses (or I'm on a consultation visit) it becomes coaching.

I also look after a couple of circuses for H&S, that's mostly instructional as they don't respond well to polite suggestions. Making it black and white for them is easiest on everyone.

I've been taught/coached by some excellent people these all helped me learn the subject and how to teach.
Then there were those who taught me what not to do.
I would agree with that approach. Initial instruction to teach the mechanics and A, B, C's of a particular widget and once that it out of the way then it can move into coaching mode to make sure that the student is nudged into showing that they can give a good performance beyond the basic's.

With firearm handling and shooting I find that a formal presentation of the basic skills ie introduction to weapons, load, unload, marksmanship principles and initial couple of shoot's are best taught. Once beyond that the instructor(s) need(s) to move into a coaching mode to get the best individual performance and deal with individual problems rather than giving the entire class a good talking too for over use of the 5.56mm pencil.
 
#16
I can be instructed in most subjects. If I am interested I can be coached; hence my avatar. Note it is not an NBC avatar which I also did an instructor's course in.
Everyone on my assistant NBC instructor course came away from one lesson with only one thing... SHOUTING.. it was delivered at full volume, as if General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett, VC, KCB, DSO had been the instructor only without the charisma and intelligent.
 
#17
I would agree with that approach. Initial instruction to teach the mechanics and A, B, C's of a particular widget and once that it out of the way then it can move into coaching mode to make sure that the student is nudged into showing that they can give a good performance beyond the basic's.

With firearm handling and shooting I find that a formal presentation of the basic skills ie introduction to weapons, load, unload, marksmanship principles and initial couple of shoot's are best taught. Once beyond that the instructor(s) need(s) to move into a coaching mode to get the best individual performance and deal with individual problems rather than giving the entire class a good talking too for over use of the 5.56mm pencil.

For me (at present) the coaching element comes in when we are looking at the client customising the software for their particular needs. Even during an open course there is time to demonstrate this before spending time with each person to look at individual requirements.

One of our other trainers doesn't do this as
A. He's a bit shit
B. He is ex RAF
C. He knows everything (see B)
 
#19
Two cents: it depends on the subject.

Instruction is ideal for procedural type activity, where there is little or no deviation from the procedure, except for the "if A do B". For example, ironing, shaving, weapons handling/SAA, drill. This is where EDIP excels, and imho is better suited than coaching.

Coaching is vastly superior for going beyond this basic level, or skillsets where the individual needs to exercise judgement, decision-making, or skill-honing. For example, taking a trained soldier and improving marksmanship skills and accuracy at range; Cisco internetworking; areas where the ability to reason, think, apply knowledge, or benefit from a feedback loop beyond that of "mistake... 10 pressups".

Instructing is suited to groups of individuals, all learning the same procedure. Coaching is time-intensive, and ideal for 1-1 situations, where an individual will face challenges in different areas.
 
#20
I can be instructed in most subjects. If I am interested I can be coached; hence my avatar. Note it is not an NBC avatar which I also did an instructor's course in.
Do you Marshall aircraft?
 

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