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The Fire Service Teaching Model

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December 01, 2023 | NATIONAL JOSEPH CEA, Correspondent

The fire service is likely one of the most hands-on professions in the world and for good reason.  There are A LOT of moving parts, gadgets and equipment that have to be combined, used and broken down on any given call.  Does this mean that there is no intellect involved?  Of course not.  In fact, firefighting is also one of the most intellectual professions as well in the sense that you have to think and make decisions quickly.  There are two types of lessons the fire service uses - psychomotor, cognitive and then a performance evaluation although most drills center on the former especially during the spring and summer months where getting to a training facility is necessary and optimal.  

This chapter will only discuss the psychomotor or hands-on teaching model.  There are five steps in the psychomotor teaching model in accordance with the NYS Principles of Instruction course.  Accordingly, other states and even more local departments may have variations of this method but for the most part the basic structure is intact.  

The first two parts can be collectively grouped as the “I do” or instructor does section.  More specifically:

A. The instructor performs the skill at normal speed in accordance with any applicable objectives.
     1. The instructor verbally introduces the skill. 
     2. Then without explanation or further comment the instructor will perform the skill.
     3. This is simply a demonstration.
     4. An example would be donning gear where the instructor will don turnout gear in accordance with the objectives/SOPs.

B. The Instructor performs the skill slowly.  

     1. The instructor will explain each step while performing the skill.
     2. The student will simply observe.

The next two steps can be collectively grouped as “We do” or both the instructor and student combine on performing the skill although the roles for each switch.  More specifically:    

C. The instructor performs the skill for a third time.

     1. The student explains each step as the instructor performs the skill.

D. The student performs the skill slowly and explains each step.

     1. The instructor supervises the student.
     2. Emphasis by the instructor on correct methodology.
     3. Any errors are quickly corrected by the instructor.
     4. Instructor also coaches and praises any correct actions.

The last step is performed by the student only and is referred to as the “You do” meaning the student.  More specifically:  

E. Student practices to mastery.

     1. Ready for evaluation

There are several reasons the fire service uses this kind of model.  First and as mentioned is that it is used for psychomotor skills and the fire service has plenty of hands-on training where this type of lesson is key to learning the profession.  Secondly, it is easy to use and understand.  This method can be used not only during company drills where officers and instructors are teaching the necessary skills to firefighters but also for instructors to show the next generation of officers and instructors how to train the trainer.  

Lastly, and arguably the most important is that this method compels an interaction between the instructor and firefighter.  It passes the torch so to speak, disseminating vital training and information down from one generation to the next.  Now there is an interaction that also serves other functions within a given department such as fostering a positive working environment and sowing the seeds of trust; a concept that cannot be understated in the fire service.                 

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JOSEPH CEACorrespondent

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