By Jane Benson, NSRDEC Public AffairsMarch 13, 2017
NATICK, Mass. -- British philosopher, statesman and scientist Sir Francis Bacon once said, "knowledge itself is power," an adage that especially applies to the American Soldier. With that idea in mind, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center and the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine are working with curriculum development and education at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, or USASMA, to help revise wide-ranging curriculum for the Soldier.
By revising Professional Military Education, or PME, NSRDEC, USARIEM and USASMA's curriculum department seek to move away from instructor-led ways of learning to experiential ways of learning that focus on student participation, collaboration, experiences and involvement. Passive instruction, or instructor-led learning, typically does not engage learners or build on prior experience in the way that experiential learning does. Experiential learning is also more apt to address the needs of the individual learner and includes problem-solving exercises that are relevant to the Soldier's working environment.
"Experiential learning has proven to be one of the most effective ways of transferring retainable knowledge to adult students," said William R. Ogletree, chief of curriculum development and education at USASMA.
By working together, NSRDEC, USARIEM and USASMA's curriculum development and education aim to improve learning techniques and ways of thinking, increase knowledge retention and improve channels for Soldiers to pass along knowledge to other Soldiers. The resulting knowledge pool would then be frequently updated to ensure that Soldiers have the latest and best information.
The collaboration will eventually include an NSRDEC-hosted site that will house applicable science and technology knowledge products, which USASMA curriculum developers can use to access needed information and course content.
"NSRDEC and USARIEM has already greatly assisted us by reviewing and providing input into our educational products, rubrics and other curriculum materials for delivery in the classrooms," said Ogletree.
USASMA's curriculum development and education oversees all Noncommissioned Officer Education System courses and is responsible for all educational content, both self-directed and classroom, for all enlisted Soldiers. The USASMA curriculum encompasses a wide variety of topics relevant to the Soldier.
"Our knowledge is really in curriculum analysis, design, development and execution for 16 different courses," said Ogletree. "Those courses include, but are not limited to, the Basic Leader Course, Advanced Leader Course (Common Core), Senior Leader Course (Common Core), Master Leader Course, Sergeants Major Course, Structured Self-Development Course level 1-6, Battle Staff NCO Course, and the Commandant's Pre-Command Course."
Ogletree emphasized the importance of the collaboration.
"The collaboration between the USASMA and NSRDEC/USARIEM will benefit the Soldiers by providing them with the latest and greatest information available as it comes out," said Ogletree. "When NSRDEC and USARIEM put out new info, I can get it immediately into the appropriate level courses -- BLC, ALC, SLC, MLC or the SMC. This provides the student and leader with the most current and relevant information to take back to their units. It also assists NSRDEC and USARIEM with a vehicle to distribute their products and information. This is a vital link that has been vacant for many, many years."
NSRDEC and USARIEM are particularly well suited to improving the Soldier's access to knowledge and how this knowledge is presented. NSRDEC and USARIEM have long been experts in studying Soldier performance and ways to optimize performance and improve quality of life.
"NSRDEC and USARIEM are uniquely positioned to share knowledge products with the USASMA curriculum developers because our respective missions are to conduct and transition Soldier-centric research," said Elizabeth Caruso, NSRDEC Human Performance Thrust Area manager.
"USARIEM is very excited to have the opportunity to partner with the USASMA curriculum developers," said Dr. Stephen Muza, deputy, Science and Technology Management, USARIEM. "We see the insertion of our knowledge products into the USASMA enlisted and NCO PME as a highly effective way to educate Army leadership on best practices and guidance for sustaining Soldier health and performance across the full spectrum of Army training and operations."
Scott Germain, team leader, NSRDEC Soldier/Squad Interface Team, is the operational liaison between NSRDEC and USASMA's curriculum developers.
"Soldiers benefit from this collaboration because they will be getting the most up-to-date, evidence-based information embedded in their education, enhanced by subject matter experts and presented in a way to improve Soldier knowledge/training retention," said Germain. "In turn, Soldiers can then apply that knowledge within their unit."
In addition to working with the academy, NSRDEC has ongoing partnerships with several units to garner new insights into the cognitive, physical and emotional performance of Soldiers.
"We've seen the demand come from the units as to what types of information Soldiers need and are hungry for," said Rick Haddad, assistant deputy chief of staff, G3/5. "That created an opportunity to engage the chief of curriculum at the Sergeants Major Academy. At NSRDEC, we are out there talking to Soldiers. We know what they want and need for information. And now we've built this bridge to the institutional Army where we can feed that PME design over and over again with new and relevant information and products."
"NSRDEC generates large amounts of knowledge," said Haddad. "Now, we have a clear path to transition this knowledge to the institutional Army, which has a great reach."
The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities for decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the Joint Warfighter and the Nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Material Command.