By Ms. Julia Bobick (USAREC)September 20, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Sept. 21, 2012) -- So what's really different in the redesigned Army Recruiter, or ARC, and Center Commander, also known as CCC, courses? An easier question to answer would be, "What hasn't changed?" What the schoolhouse does, train noncommissioned officers to recruit for the Army, hasn't changed; it's how they do it that's been turned upside down.
Courses are now 'facilitated' by seasoned recruiters who guide the learning experience, not direct it; they are the observer-controllers of the classroom.
No dress-right-dress desks in rows:
After completing the recruiting doctrine and introduction phase, students are divided into 16-person teams and transition to rooms where desks are set up in pod-like groups of four facing one another to stimulate more interaction and peer-to-peer instruction and learning. The facilitator doesn't stand in front of the class; they stand in the center and move about the room to more easily engage each and every student, according to Don Copley, the Recruiting and Retention School's director of training since 2005.
More collaborative learning:
Facilitators avoid directly answering questions and instead ask questions to engage the entire class in a discussion that will result in the answer - or answers.
"One of the hardest things to adapt to as an NCO was not just giving students all the answers," said Sgt. 1st Class Mark More, who facilitated the first ARC pilot.
Course facilitation is "not about giving students the answer, it's about ensuring they know where to go get it and creating an environment that encourages their peers to jump in and help them find the answer and solve problems together, exactly as a team should operate," said Copley.
Go/No-Go grading system eliminated:
The Go/No-Go grading sheets previously used for evaluating Soldiers on recruiting tasks have been replaced with grading rubrics that identify Soldiers' proficiency levels without a numerical value: proficient, successful, needs practice and unsuccessful.
The goal is that every student will want to achieve at least a "successful" level of proficiency, Copley said, and the students can help one another improve their skills to achieve that level instead of just being a pass or a fail.
The courses now overlap to merge the final weeks of the ARC with all four weeks of the CCC. Recruiter course students benefit from the experiences of their center commander students - most of whom are assistant center commanders, and the center commander students benefit from more realistic leader training and the ability to mentor future recruiters.
There had never before been any interaction between the courses, according to Copley, who first came to the RRS in uniform in 1999 and taught every course before retiring. This has been one of the most appreciated aspects of the course changes, by students in both courses.
In addition, the schedule for the company leader course (a merging of the first sergeant and company commander courses) will be realigned to overlap the final weeks of the ARC and CCC courses, allowing first sergeants and commanders to pop into a "recruiting station" classroom and ask questions of the recruiters and center commanders during the final days of their course.
Students are also applicants, parents and educators:
Students rotate through days as role players, coming to school in the appropriate civilian attire and acting their part in training scenarios. While a specific NCO might be conducting a task, both his or her peers and the role players give feedback on the NCO's performance, reinforcing the collaborative experience from all sides.
Carefully developed training scenarios augment the NCOs' live role-playing experiences. As an example, the training team wrote and developed more than 3,600 role-playing scenarios, since "no two Army Interviews are the same," said Lt. Col. Douglas Bunner, former RRS deputy.
As added realism in live and virtual scenarios, students now hear, "No!" during the Army Interview - something that rarely happened in the old course because of time constraints inherent to the way the training was conducted.
The curriculum for all seven weeks of the ARC, about 50 lesson plans in all, was dismantled and rewritten to align with the Army Learning Model 2015. Lessons are now more engaging, hands-on and outcome-based, less death by screen shots and slideshows. More live-fire training in a group setting provides students with more practical, usable and realistic learning experiences.
After action reviews, or AARs, are also a daily occurrence during which students talk through the topics they covered and identify the key learning outcomes.
"All the students benefit from the collaboration; we are trying to get to the point where the whole class is learning from one another and learning from each other's mistakes," said More, a recruiter in Minneapolis for six years before coming to the schoolhouse in January 2011. "It ultimately creates better, more effective recruiting teams."
Lesson plans updates occur faster:
"In recruiting, our rules of engagement can change every day, so we can't wait six months or more to update our lesson plans," said Scott Lewis, a former recruiter who's been on the RRS training division team since February 2011.
Based on daily AARs, facilitators can provide immediate feedback to the director of training and approved changes can be implemented within 72 hours, according to Lewis. The training team can also rapidly react to changes in the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, or USAREC, doctrine and policy, immediately incorporating them into lesson plans. Since all the facilitators pull their lesson plans from SharePoint daily, everyone is working from the same up-to-date lesson plans and training is synchronized across all the small groups.
"We've got a lot of work ahead of us, but we are excited about the direction we are going," Copley. "I believe we are building a better Soldier not only for Recruiting Command, but also for the Army."