Making Good Instructors Great: USMC Cognitive Readiness & Instructor Professionalisation Initiatives

After a decade of waging unconventional conflicts, Defence stakeholders now generally accept that the US military has entered a new era of warfare, distinguished from previous generations by its prevalence of insurgent and terrorist tactics, frequency of non-kinetic tactical dilemmas, complexity of the sociocultural context, and emphasis on operational decentralization. To excel under such conditions, each war-fighter (down to the lowest echelons) must possess a high degree of cognitive readiness, that is, the mental, emotional, and interpersonal skills that allow them to rapidly decide and act in complex, dynamic, and ambiguous environments.

Language Training at Fort Bragg
Language Training at Fort Bragg

Each of the US Armed Services is addressing cognitive readiness training differently. The United States Marine Corps (USMC), for instance, has embarked on two related, large-scale efforts. First, the USMC Training and Education Command (TECOM) established the Small Unit Decision Making initiative in order to “improve the ability of small unit leaders across the MAGTF to…assess, decide, and act while operating in a more decentralised manner” (Implementation Planning Guidance, p. 9). To achieve this, TECOM personnel and academic advisor’s are translating advanced instructional methods into actionable forms (e.g., militarised handbooks, instructor development seminars) and launching a pilot course in spring 2012 for non-commissioned officers (NCOs) on decision making. Second, TECOM personnel are examining instructor career progression, looking for strategies to enhance Marine Corps instructors, writ large. In other words, TECOM is looking to take Marine instructors from good to great.

In this presentation, the authors will discuss the instructional principles in use by the Small Unit Decision Making and Instructor Professionalisation efforts. Specifically, we will describe key instructional strategies for engendering complex cognitive skills and science-based recommendations for making good instructors even better. They also outline these efforts’ specific approaches and explain how the two plans build upon research-informed recommendations in order to enhance Marine instructors and give them the techniques they need to better prepare their personnel.


Making Good Instructors Great, USMC Cognitive Readiness and Instructors Professionalization Initiatives (Schatz et al., 2012)


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