Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Changing Nature of Military Education

Military education has come a long way over the past hundred or so years. The authors John Persyn and Cheryl Polsen (2012) discuss the changes in military education and how it has adopted new technologies as well as more complexity to match the environments in which members now find themselves. They discuss the trends in military education that includes more distance education as well as higher levels of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. 

During the Civil War education was primarily focused on learning how to read. The first textbook was the Bible as this is something many of the military members carried. The skills needed for successful service were relatively simple and the ability to read was of minor concern. As the military grew in ability the needs to read and write instructions become more pronounced. 

Today’s military is very complex and even lower rank enlisted members have needs for education and the ability to handle complex equipment. Higher level officers need additional training in complex problem solving and critical thinking skills. The modes of learning have adjusted to keep up with the needs of learning in the modern military. 

The military education market includes 3.2 million active, National Guard, civilian and other members (US DoD, 2012). The needs range from skills training on the entry level ranks all the way up to complex thinking skills at the upper end of the ranks. Finding a method of training this wide and diverse group of people across the globe can be a daunting task. 

The authors discuss the history of training, needs of training, and the overall educational landscape. This ranges from veterans returning to active duty members in need of updating skills. They do bring forward the concept that professional military education should include curriculum  that helps members make sound judgments in a rapidly changing environment.  The goal of learning in the military should include developing higher-order thinking skills for all soldiers as they prepare for a dynamic, complex, ambiguous environment that includes high technology equipment and global distribution networks. 

Comment: The authors acknowledge the benefit of online training with game simulation. It is possible to develop officer learning series that allow for updating skills in virtual locations. Changing technology is affording the possibility that online military colleges can be developed that include concepts such as critical thinking, situational games that teach complex skills, videos, test taking, personnel management, food management, distribution, strategy development, etc... Programs and courses often mirror those learned in their civilian counterparts but are more focused and specific.

Persyn, J. & Polson, C. (2012). Evolution and influence of military adult education. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 136.

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