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  • Cited by 9
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: August 2010

13 - Training Complex Cognitive Skills: A Theme-Based Approach to the Development of Battlefield Skills

Summary

Professionals face unexpected challenges every day. The sector of our society that has had the most experience preparing for unexpected crises situations is the military. As a result of the contemporary operational environment, soldiers have experienced the need to adapt to virtually continuous changes in technical equipment and skills, as well as unique radical changes resulting from differences in conventional war and guerilla war. This has led to an increased need to develop adaptability skills in Army leaders (e.g., Barnes, 2005; Wong, 2004). For example, Barnes (2005) wrote, “Iraq has deeply challenged the soldiers who serve there, sometimes forcing them to perform duties far different from those they trained for. As a result, the Army has come to believe that teaching its soldiers how to think is as important as teaching them how to fight” (p. 72). Due to the complexity and uncertainty of the modern battlefield, Army leaders will need to be skilled at making rapid battlefield decisions under the most difficult conditions (Johnston, Leibrecht, Holder, Coffey, & Quinkert, 2002).

To address the needs described above, researchers at the U.S. Army Research Institute (ARI) for the Behavioral and Social Sciences investigated new methods designed to train complex cognitive behaviors. The result of the work was a theme-based training approach (Lussier & Shadrick, 2006) that could be used to train soldiers in expert mental models using an explicit set of behaviors or “themes.”

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