Marines overhaul training, Marines say no more “death by PowerPoint”

Marines overhaul training, Marines say no more “death by PowerPoint”


WASHINGTON, DC — As the Marine Corps overhauls its teaching methods, Marines and those who teach them will see a more direct, problem-solving approach to how they learn, and “death by PowerPoint” will be significantly reduced.

Decades of Marines “stomping” through material, recalling what they’ve learned and regurgitating it on tests before forgetting most of what they heard, are being replaced by “outcome-based” learning that has been used in other fields but is just now being introduced to military training.

“Instead of telling them what to think, we’re teaching them how to think,” said Col. Carl Arbogast, director of policy and standards at Training and Education Command.

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In his speech at the Modern Day Marine Expo, Arbogast outlined some of the new methods the command is using at its Learning and Faculty Development Center.

“No more death by PowerPoint,” Arbogast said. “No more ‘sages on stage,’ but ‘guides on the sidelines.'”

To that end, Lt. Col. Chris DeVries, director of the Center for Learning and Faculty, said the Marines have spent several years developing two new military occupational specialties, 0951 and 0952.

Exceptional MOSs, which are awarded in addition to the primary MOS, allow Marines to quickly identify those among their subordinates who are qualified to teach using new methods.

Training for these jobs gives instructors, now called facilitators, a rudimentary understanding of how to teach in an outcomes-based learning model.

DeVries said the long-term goal is to create two more levels of instructor/facilitator that Marines can return to during their careers: a journeyman level and a master’s level. Those curricula are still in development.

This new approach helps facilitators first learn the technology they need to share and teach materials with students, and they are also taught more formal assessment tools so they can measure student performance.

Students can learn at their own pace. Once a student understands the material their group is working on, they are encouraged to advance their learning instead of waiting for the whole group to master the introductory material.

Students are given more responsibility: In a land navigation class, for example, instructors share materials for students to review on their own before class, then the next class they jump right into a land navigation project with maps, compasses and protractors, said John DeForest, the center’s learning and development officer.

This allows more time for Marines to practice their skills in a realistic environment in the field.

Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 268, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing fire an M240-B machine gun on a gun range at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, March 5. (Cpl. Tania Guerrero/Marine Corps)Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 268, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing fire an M240-B machine gun on a gun range at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, March 5. (Cpl. Tania Guerrero/Marine Corps)

Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 268, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing fire an M240-B machine gun on a gun range at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, March 5. (Cpl. Tania Guerrero/Marine Corps)

For the Infantry Marine Course, the school divided large classrooms into platoon-sized groups led by a sergeant or first sergeant, allowing students more individualized focus among each other, Arbogast said.

“Teachers need to provide activities that directly engage students in their own learning and guide them toward the right outcomes,” said Timothy Heck, the center’s West Coast director.

Justina Kirkland, leader of the West Coast contingent, said the students were creating work products and portfolios during their training rather than simply taking a written exam.

Students are also encouraged to discuss problems and solve scenarios on their own, and the facilitator’s role is to monitor the conversation and ask probing questions to guide the group in the right direction if it strays from track, Heck said.

DeForest said this will include more decision games, cases forcing decisions and even war games.

“We are sending students into active learning experiences where they will grapple with uncertainty and gain necessary technical skills and knowledge,” DeForest said.

This ensures that learning is focused on application rather than memorization, he said.



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