Innovative Learning


While most aspects of military training are similiar to civilian instruction, there are some tasks and skills that are unique to combat and weapons systems. For example, the skills involved in operating or repairing a tank are not that different from those associated with heavy construction vehicles; however, targeting and munitions handling are distinctly military. Many military competencies transfer directly to civilian jobs (e.g., flying, troubleshooting, leadership, medical care, engineering, etc.).

Theories of adult learning (e.g., Cross, Knowles, Rogers) that emphasize experiential learning, as well as theories of social learning (e.g., Bandura, Vygotsky), are important to military training because of the extensive interpersonal interaction involved, particularly in the context of team performance (e.g., Modrick, 1986). Military training handbooks (e.g., Collins, 1978) emphasize the importance of leadership skills at all levels of command.

Given the broad range of skill requirements in military tasks, there is considerable sensitivity to individual differences in job assignments. Theories of intelligence such as Guilford, Gardner, and Sternberg are therefore important in making such assignments. In addition, there is awareness of the significance of cognitive styles and learning strategies in the design or delivery of training programs.

Decision-making and problem solving are two skill domains that are fundamental to most types of military tasks. Since many military tasks involve the operation of equipment, sensory-motor and troubleshooting skills are also important. In addition, a great deal of tactical knowledge relies on facts and hence memory skills (i.e., recall, recognition, retention) are critical.

Because military tasks are usually well-defined, theories of instruction such as Gagne, Merrill or Reigeluth are particularly relevant. The criterion-referenced approach of Mager which emphasizes mastery learning is especially salient to military training. So is the functional literacy approach of Sticht in the domain of basic skills. One area that has received a great deal of attention in military training (primarily out of concern for cost-effectiveness) is the use of instructional technology (e.g., Ellis, 1986; Seidel & Weddle, 1987). Simulators are widely used for aviation, maintenance, and tactical training.


Collins, A.S. (1978). Common Sense Training. San Rafael, CA: Presidio Press.

Ellis, J.A. (1986). Military Contributions to Instructional Technology. New York: Praeger.

Halff, H.M., Hollan, J.D., & Hutchins, E.L. (1986). Cognitive science and military training. American Psychologist, 41(10), 1131-1139.

Modrick, J. (1986). Team performance and training. In J. Zeidner (ed.), Human Productivity Enhancement, Vol 1. New York: Praeger.

Seidel, R.J. & Weddle, P. (1987). Computer Based Instruction in Military Environments. New York: Plenum Press.