Nearly two years ago, Staff Sgt. Thomas Gambrel attended the Foundation Instructor Facilitator Course designed to have Army Reserve instructors modify their traditional lecture styled teaching method to a more facilitative approach.
Now Gambrel says, in 2015 the new standard is paying dividends at Tactical Training Center-Dix where he’s an assistant instructor teaching the Army Plumber Course.
This teaching style, which implements principles of adult learning is meant for established Soldiers looking to learn an additional Military Occupational Specialty. It reduces instructor-led slide presentations and incorporates students’ knowledge, skills, and experiences.
“Reserve Soldiers especially, bring a whole lot of civilian experience,” Gambrel said. “We [the instructors] can draw from that, instead of us acting like we’re the only subject matter experts when we’re not.”
Army plumbers and pipe fitters are responsible for installing and repairing plumbing and pipe systems. The APC at TTC-Dix teaches students to install and troubleshoot a building’s waste system and main water source.
During a two-week class in April 2015, APC instructors had each student put together a small class presentation, which was part the overall block of instruction that teaches how to install a building’s waste system.
“Someone talked about how to measure and cut pipe…someone talked about the ventilation system and how that works,” Gambrel said. “They put all the key points together and taught themselves…we just sat back and made sure they hit the key points.”
“As long as they understand it [the process] we can turn them loose and have them put the system together,” he added.
Sgt. Nicholas Winchester, a student enrolled in the APC, said each student researched their assigned topic and became a subject matter expert and reference source for their fellow students.
“When they [the students] are teaching, they’re also learning, because they’ve done the book research and now they get to do the hands on when they teach the class,” said Winchester, a National Guardsman assigned to 672nd Engineer Company, Fort Missoula, Mont.
Gambrel said, the ALM also allows students to work as teams, so they can problem solve and teach each other.
“We have a team that took a day and a half to put a system together, and [then] they moved to the second one and it took them about 45 minutes,” he said, referring to Winchester and his work partner Sgt. Tara Foster, a Reserve Soldier assigned to 358 Engineer Company, New Cumberland, Penn.
Foster said, she likes the fact that she’s learning from fellow students who are her contemporaries verses “some instructor who’s possibly taught the same way year after year.”
Since he attended the FIFC, Gambrel has implemented the ALM in two classes.
“I got some resistance from instructors who’ve been teaching for a long time and don’t want to change, but after seeing it in play, I’ve gotten buy-in from every instructor from both of those courses,” he said.