Have you ever stopped to consider how much learning takes place by observing. There are several modes of learning, but as humans we like to emulate.

Child’s play

If you are trying to learn a new skill how import is it for you to watch someone who knows what they are doing? It’s interesting to watch children play, they have their own method of discovery, but they learn so much from watching. As adults I don’t think we are much different and we use the same teaching methodology in our classes. When selecting our instructor cadre it goes without saying they must be subject matter experts. On top of that they have to be able to demonstrate anything and I mean anything to our students. If I am asking the student to accomplish a task, I must first show the task.

Worth your salt

That’s pretty stressful for some, to my surprise many instructors do not demonstrate techniques. I cannot understand how they overlook such an important yet simple teaching technique. Let’s face it, some may be concerned about ego. I get that, who wants to look bad when your in the spotlight. If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that you can’t be afraid to fail. What kind of message does that send to the students if you are asking them to work hard and possibly fail, but you’re not willing to do the same thing. Failure is such an important part of life, especially on the range. I’m not perfect and I will occasionally miss, I think it’s important for students to see that. It let’s them know your asking for their best, but it’s ok to make a mistake. One of my favorite sayings in class is, “even monkeys fall out of trees.”

Student by-in

The other problem is deeper and that is the instructor doesn’t demonstrate because they aren’t sure what they are teaching. I see this more than you think, just ask your instructor to demonstrate off their weak side to see what I’m talking about. How can you ask your students to do something if you can’t? Well, you shouldn’t is the bottom line. It’s a classic leadership tenet, “don’t ask your men to do something you won’t or can’t do.” It really bothers me, almost as bad as when you ask a question and you get “because” as a response.

Do as I say, not as I do

The last point is credibility, credibility in both the technique and your skill at teaching the technique. At this last class we did a lot of walking to check targets. During the first part of the class I showed 4 different methods to sling the rifle. They each had their place, when having to move administratively I opt for one technique over another. Like everything, it has pro’s/con’s, but in this case my preferred method for covering distance administratively was different from when I’m running tactics. One student asked why I wasn’t using the earlier method from class, you could see the credibility was in question. When I reviewed the methods and reminded him of the advantages over the other he was able to remember the lesson from the other day.

Do I think it’s important as an instructor to demonstrate the techniques you are teaching? Absolutely, without a doubt it is central to your capability as an instructor. Do you have to do it as fast, as accurate or as good as others. No, you just have to do it. How do you as a student know if the instructor your paying will demonstrate. Unfortunately it’s not an advertised subject, but I think word of mouth is a good method. We have a saying in our Instructor classes, “I do it fast. I do it slow, we do it together and then off you go.”

One thought on “The Ability to Demonstrate

  1. paulmnihill says:

    Always great stuff on here, Jeff. And may I add the often overlooked obvious that the reason we train hard is for the moment when we need to call on it the most. This and the “Juice Box” blog go hand-in-hand. For those who are afraid to push themselves I would say failure is our best teacher! Keep pushing and you have no choice but to get better!!!

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