One of the main preconditions for good instruction is to help learners establish a personal connection with the subject and make them understand its relevance for themselves. Teachers in higher education use Operant Conditioning by awarding low grades to punish failure and higher grades to reward success. This method does “force” the learners to establish a personal connection with the subject. Also, as voluntary adult learners, students in higher educations are believed to be motivated and possess the personal drive to learn when enrolling into a specific course of study. Choosing a certain course will usually mean that they are interested in the subject and perceive the course as important for their academic aspirations and career objectives. Typically, college students are at the early phases of their profession development with almost no prior knowledge on the subject and have the ‘unoccupied space’ that can be filled with new knowledge. Finally, the inability of some students to successfully complete the course of study would still be perceived as their personal failure and would certainly not significantly affect the particular instructor.
If we compare it to building security awareness, the operational performance of security managers greatly depends on how well they will succeed in passing on knowledge horizontally and vertically throughout the organization. They will have to get all the people in an enterprise to absorb new knowledge, learn skills and adopt a completely new mindset in order to play an active role in the security strategy of the organization, even if they are not motivated, not interested in the content, do not perceive the subject as relevant for themselves, and know that failure will probably not impact their job performance or career aspirations. What makes it even more complex is the fact that security managers are usually not professional educators but mostly hands on practitioners who are required to successfully instruct others to achieve their own operational objectives.
Even professional security instructors who are designing and delivering professional courses are often required to solve complex equations. Unlike in higher education, where teachers present new knowledge to students, security instructors are frequently required to replace the old knowledge of their learners with new information. Basically, although the participants voluntarily enroll into a course and are supposedly motivated to successfully complete it, they are usually experienced professionals with established routines, practices, opinions and convictions. Attempting to change, or even question these parameters certainly poses a challenge for any instructor.
Additionally, in many cases, participants enrolling into security courses are not even looking to acquire new knowledge and skills but are actually only after certification that will officialize the knowledge that they already possess so that it could support their job searching efforts or career goals. Some instructors would even say that they are in the CV building business and that the actual value of a course depends on how presentable it can be when showcased in a couple of rows in a professional resume. That means that our certificate should not only be good but also attractive, reputable, and accepted by the industry as proof of knowledge and skill.
Naturally, organizers of security courses, curriculum developers and instructors face the same challenges as all other professional educators, regardless of the field and subjects they are delivering. We must be able to successfully market and sell the course by clearly presenting the benefits of the content and the certificate. We must find the right balance between having attractive tuition fees for unemployed participants and flexible study time for the busy ones. When creating course curriculum, we want to effectively instruct all the participants that come from diverse backgrounds and levels and possess different levels or knowledge. Also, we want to adapt our instruction style to the subject we are teaching, but also match it with all the individual learning styles of participants in order to produce optimal result.
Still, the biggest challenge is succeeding to make the course and instruction attractive, enjoyable and effective. In addition to considering the specific profile and professional backgrounds of our learners, our instruction has to match the human nature and how people learn in general, and encompass teaching methods that are known to produce the best outcomes. There are numerous studies and theories that analyze teaching and learning, such as the Constructivist (active) approach to teaching that highlights the importance of using activities during the learning process, gamification of instruction, the importance of group discussions and debates for building opinions, or proper use of case studies in building understanding, and how long such activities should last. Teaching and learning theories also analyze how lectures should be structured and organized to be effective, and when instructors should encourage individual work, what type of activities should be performed in pairs or small groups and when the entire group should work together.
Unfortunately, learning theories and best teaching practices are still widely ignored by the security teaching industry that still believes that the specifics of the subject give it the right to bypass the basics.