What is it that an instructor contributes to the learning process? What portion of the role can, and must, be replicated by technology?
The research literature has much to say on the instructor competencies required to facilitate learning. In military settings, we find that the instructor role takes on a few dimensions not regularly seen, or seen quite so strongly, as in civilian academic settings. CPG is in the process of eliciting the key performance areas for Marine Corps instructors. Initial outcomes indicate the following to be the most critical, in order of importance:
- Instructional Technique, the ability to apply a number of strategies in the classroom to facilitate learning given different student knowledge bases and learning types;
- Leadership and Professionalism, the character traits of a leader who acts as a role model to students;
- Planning and Preparation for class, and continually updating the instruction;
- Self-Development, or the motivation to continually build ones skills and knowledge;
- Developing Subordinates and Peers, or acting as a mentor and advisor to other instructors;
- Assessing and Adjusting, to ascertain whether the instruction is effective and adapting when it is not;
- Learning Environment, or setting the classroom conditions for learning;
- Subject Matter Expertise, or domain knowledge sufficient to be judged credible by students.
At the top of the list is the application of a variety of instructional approaches to ensure students are interested, engaged, and learning, regardless of their incoming knowledge, aptitude, or learning style. The second most important competency is the ability to be a compelling leader and role model. As we continue to push technologies to make up for the shortage of good instructors, we are well advised to keep in mind two key requirements. First, technologies must strive to support different learning types and offer multiple means of facilitating comprehension and learning. Second, technology cannot replicate everything that an instructor provides to a student. Leaders and role models are often just as important in a learning environment as the knowledge itself.