FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - Seven Soldiers recently spent a week learning alternative ways to be more effective military instructors at the Missouri National Guard's 140th Regiment Missouri Regional Training Institute's Small Group Instructor Training Course on post.
Six Guardsmen and one active-duty Soldier attended the course led by Master Sgt. James Brown.
"This course is designed to take Army Basic Instructor Course graduates and further their instructional capabilities into a more detailed understanding of small group facilitation," said Brown, who lives in St. Robert. "It focuses on group development and dynamics, while utilizing an experiential learning model to further the learning experience well beyond the traditional classroom training."
Although most Soldiers end up teaching a course within their unit, Brown doesn't recommend the small group course for those who are not full-time instructors.
"It is a professional development course for instructors specifically geared towards noncommissioned officer education system and officer education system courses, but further instills facilitation requirements for the Army Learning Model," Brown said. "This model focuses on moving from a 'sage on the stage' to a 'guide from the side' concept to delve deeper into student experience and knowledge. The students do most of the learning and the teaching from their student perspective, while the lead instructor is more like a guide."
Brown said the most challenging aspect of the course is getting students from the traditional instruction concepts.
"I want them thinking in terms of turning over the power and the learning to the students, and making it part of their responsibilities, rather than trying to deliver the instruction to them," Brown said.
At the institute, Brown's main role is as the military police chief instructor. He said he's seen the benefits of this course from the instructors who work for him.
"Almost all of my military police instructors have been through this course and since they've been through, we've been able to see a lot more discussion being enhanced during all of our courses and training events," he said. "It gears them more toward the students brining up their own experiences, background and knowledge during classroom discussions."
Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Turner, who is an active-Guard instructor/writer at the Missouri National Guard's Regional Training Site-Maintenance, of Fort Leonard Wood, said he took the course to improve as an instructor and because it is a job requirement.
"I wanted to learn some other methods of teaching and find better ways to make my method of instruction flow a lot better," said Turner, who lives in Iberia.
Turner said he learned several new teaching techniques as well as the experiential learning cycles' process, which is a constant evaluation of the instruction.
"This course is going to make me a lot better instructor," he said. "It's a lot easier to flow with the students and my instruction abilities will get a lot simpler."
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Cook, who is the active-Guard human resources noncommissioned officer for the 140th, said he took the course to better understand the needs of the instructors who work at the institute.
"I wanted to be able to relate more with them, as well as the Soldiers who come and go from the institute," said Cook, who lives in Marshfield.
Cook said the most important thing he took from the class is the Army prefers instructors to use more modern methods.
"For instructors now, the military doesn't want you to stand up at the podium and preach - they want you to utilize critical thinking and let the group come to conclusions for themselves," he said. "You are basically there as an instructor to guide them through the process and help steer them and keep them in the boundaries if the topic."
The course should also help Cook present information on the enlisted points system and noncommissioned officer evaluation report, which are areas he said he's had to cover for other Soldiers in just about every unit he's ever been a part of.
"It will help me present classes to the target audience in a more productive manner, instead of me standing up and firing regulations and standards, I can actually utilize role-playing and critical-thinking exercises to get everyone more involved and buy into the program."