A Science-Based Approach To Your Training Programs

A Focus on Trainers

The integrity of policing in our society is dependent upon ‘rightful policing’ practices. These practices reside upon the ability of police and law enforcement officers to demonstrate exceptional judgment and appropriate application of force if and when necessary. Officers must assess critical situations and decide how to best respond in a risk‑effective manner in what can often be time-compressed situations.

How individual officers respond during such incidents is heavily underpinned by how the officers were trained. This places an immense responsibility on law enforcement trainers and use of force instructors. As we continue to discover more about human performance and decision-making in complex, high-consequence, rapidly unfolding events, there is an absolute nexus between the quality of an officer’s decision-making and survivability and how the officer was trained.

— An officer never rises to the occasion; they fall to the level of their training. —

Bad training exists and should be categorized as education built without the foundational research and science in neurology, cognition, and motor learning principles. Training is both art and science. Therefore, the responsible law enforcement trainer’s focus and efforts necessitate creating training programs that reflect current research centered on correct skill selection, training design, and delivery for optimal learning and retention of critical police skills.

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Course Content

The following sections outline the content of this intensive training program:

Course Rationale and Overview

Public and officer safety and the integrity of policing in our society is dependent upon ‘rightful policing’ practices. These practices depend strongly upon the ability of police officers to demonstrate exceptional judgment and the appropriate and professional application of force if and when necessary. Police officers are required to assess situations and make decisions on how to respond in the most risk-effective manner. Often, these decisions must be made in extremely short periods of time; frequently, fractions of a second. Under these conditions, typically accompanied by heightened degrees of stress arousal, how humans observe unfolding events, make sense of them, select a motor response and ultimately respond, involve very complex processes. Crisis decision-making involves vastly different neurological processes than decision-making in times of low emotional intensity.

How individual officers respond during rapidly unfolding, time-compressed violent encounters, is heavily underpinned by how those officers are trained. Therefore, law enforcement firearms and use of force instructors have an immense responsibility. As we discover more about human performance and decision making in complex, high-consequence, rapidly unfolding events, there is an absolute nexus between the quality of an officer’s decision-making and survivability and the manner in which the officer was trained. Since we do not “rise to the occasion” in the midst of a crisis but default to the level of our training, the law enforcement trainer literally holds officer’s lives in their hands.

There is such a thing as bad training. Bad training would be categorized as training that is not built upon defendable foundations of the research and science of neurology, cognition and motor learning principles. Training is both art and science. The responsible law enforcement Trainer’s focus and efforts must therefore build training programs that reflect comprehension of the current research regarding correct skill selection, training design and delivery for optimal learning and retention of critical police skills.

Traditionally, in many LE academies and agencies, training models are often based more upon history and tradition (the way ‘we have always done it’), or upon the deeply held personal opinions of the trainers themselves. Frequently, these training models are not based upon an empirical research-based and scientific understanding of human learning and instructional principles, biomechanics and decision making. Current research has demonstrated that despite the millions of dollars that police agencies and academies spend on police training every year, almost none of this training has been validated and very little of it is retained by the officer or transferred to the operational environment where it is most needed. In fact, even basic motor skills have been shown to deteriorate post-academy training to non-functional within six weeks of the officer leaving the academy.

The Methods of Instruction – Advanced Training For Practical And Professional Law Enforcement Skills course fills a critical vacuum that has existed in law enforcement training for decades. During this intensive course, students will be deeply challenged by the exploration of paradigm-breaking, scientific principles which they will be able to apply immediately and directly to their setting in the Academy or Agency’s training programs.

Through the use of pre-course directed study, in-class instruction, facilitated group work and analysis, case studies and practical application, you will learn about effective training methods and procedures that are well established in the scientific literature and how they might be incorporated into existing academy and/or agency in-service training programs.

This student-centric course utilizes an adult learning, problem-based approach. The course consists of a minimum of 20 hours of pre-class reading / viewing and assignments and 40-hours of in-class instruction. It should be understood that successful completion of this course requires the student to be able to demonstrate comprehensive understanding of the material and its application in a variety of contexts. The evaluation of this comprehension will be conducted by the course facilitator through intensive student commitment involving pre-course study, evening study during the course, individual and group participation, class presentations and both oral and written evaluations.

At the end of this course, the successful student will have a fulsome understanding of how to identify critical training needs, and build and instruct a defendable, scientific-based training program to address the critical skills required. In addition, the course of instruction will include the development of realistic, verifiable and defendable course training standards (CTS) which will guide future instruction, protect the agency and the trainer.

The course is immensely challenging. It requires a willingness of the student to leave behind strongly held biases and traditionalism and embrace a growth mindset. The fruit this approach will bear is going to be worth the effort – for both you and more importantly for the law enforcement officers whose lives you hold in your hand.

Semper Reformanda!
— Chris Butler

Course Content

Topics covered in the Methods of Instruction – Advanced Training For Practical And Professional Law Enforcement Skills course include:

  • Scientific Foundations for Learning
  • Skill Retention and Perishability
  • ‘Skill Perishability’ studies
  • Block vs. Interleaved Training and the ‘Illusion of learning’
  • Training Myths – What They are and What to Do About Them
  • Applicable Neuroscience
  • Mind Model
  • Vision, Perception, Attention, and Performance
  • Stress Arousal and Performance
  • Decision Making Models
  • Decision Training and Behavior Training
  • Implications of Memory on Learning / Applying Offline Modulators to Enhance Learning and Retention
  • Principles of Motor Learning and Performance
  • Types of Motor Movements; Motor Skill and Motor Learning Principles
  • Memory and Motor Learning
  • The Role of Exercise to Enhance Learning
  • The Role of Sleep and Learning
  • Mirror Motor neurons – what they are and why they matter
  • Feedback Methods: types and timings for best retention and skill transfer
  • Training ‘Specificity’
  • Contextual Interference, Effortful Retrieval, Spacing Effect, and Desirable Difficulties
  • Skill Transfer to Novel Settings
  • Skill Boosting and Priming
  • Types of Performance Errors, ‘Training Scars’ and how to avoid them
  • Identification and Validation of critical officer skills / gap analysis
  • The Role of Student Motivation and Instructional Techniques to Enhance Learning
  • How Imagery and Visualization Techniques Enhance Learning
  • Course Training Standards – Design and Defense; Protecting the agency and validating the training program

Syllabus & Course Logistics

This course is delivered over a series of 12 modules. The course is designed in such a way that the material is both scaffolded and interleaved, utilizing the very same research-based learning methods that the students are taught and encouraged to utilize. In addition, each day consists of both ‘priming’ and ‘booster’ sessions to reinforce and cement the critical aspects of the course into long term memory. Throughout the course, the instructor will utilize various learning tools in order to create ‘desirable difficulties’ and ‘effortful retrieval’ of the information.

Module 1 — Course Introduction and Contemporary Training Issues

  • Course overview / structure
  • Current training issues
    • Emphasis on technical skills rather than goals, principles and outcomes
    • Little translation of skill into the motor learning environment
    • Inability to integrate skills into a ‘combat system’
    • Silo training effect
    • Cognitive dissonance and performance
    • Incorrect feedback methods (heavy emphasis on external augmented feedback)
    • The ‘Illusion’ of learning
    • Skill type and instructional methods not validated scientifically
  • Current training myths.
    • Change means learning has occurred
    • Everyone knows good training techniques
    • Practice makes perfect
    • Perfect practice is best for motor learning
    • Instructor feedback should be heavily guided
    • ‘Tunnel’ vision is always bad
  • Blocked and Interleaved Training
    • Role of Distributed Practice
    • The ‘Spacing Effect’ and motor learning
    • Transference of skills to novel settings
    • Contextual Interference – what it is and why its good for learning
    • Blocked practice – what it is and where its helpful and not.
    • Interleaved practice – what it is and how to incorporate it.

Module 2 — Introduction to Human Factors

  • What are Human Factors and why they are critical to training design and development
  • The current ‘Threat Environment’
    • Spontaneous and rapid threats at close range
    • Current LEOKA Studies
    • Weapons – types
    • Distances of attacks
    • Offender hit accuracy
    • Speed of Attack
  • Non-Weapon Attacks
    • Empty hand / fisted
    • Kicks
  • Weapon Attacks
    • Impact weapons
    • Edged weapons
  • Firearm Attacks
    • Time to shoot
    • Firing cadence
    • Traffic stop attacks
  • Hidden hands and Prone subjects

Module 3 — Foundations of Motor Learning

  • Types of Muscle Fibre – Fast Twitch vs Slow Twitch
  • Methods of Conditioning Fast and Slow Twitch Fibre
  • Types of Motor Actions
    • Discrete motor movement
    • Continuous motor movement
    • Serial motor movement
  • Types of Motor Skills
    • Closed
    • Open
  • Motor Skill vs. Motor Learning
    • Role of Retention and Transfer
    • Adaptation and problem solving
  • The Critical Role of Learner Motivation
    • Early context relevance
    • ‘Technique within Tactics’ training
    • Random and Variable practice
    • Emotional Intensity
    • Guided Error
    • Narrowed bandwidth Feedback
  • Hebb’s Law
    • Firing and Wiring
    • Neuroplasticity and Hebb’s Law
    • Long Term Potentiation
  • The Role of Repetition in Motor Skill and Motor Learning
    • Automation of cognitive and motor skill
    • Spatial and Temporal aspects of automaticity
    • Training speed and motor skill development
    • Introduction to performance (skill based) error
  • The importance of early contextualization in motor skill development
    • Learning the skill but not learning the ‘game’
    • The role of ‘Game Intelligence’
    • The disastrous effect of non-integration
    • Importance of ‘Hard First’ Instruction
    • Technique within Tactics Training methods
  • Perception and reaction times
    • Kinesthetic
    • Auditory
    • Visual
      • Foveal RT
      • Ambient RT
    • P300 Event Response Potential
  • Time to Start and Stop motor movements
  • The Psychological Refractory Period (PRF)
  • Hicks Law – what it actually means

Module 4 — Vision and Performance Implications

  • Basic introduction to vision and visual processing
  • Foveal, Parafoveal and Ambient vision
  • Visual Accommodation / Ciliary Muscle function and role
  • Object Recognition – what we know and don’t know
  • Vision in Mesopic and Scotopic environments
  • Ambient / Reflexive vision – critical role in survival
  • The critical role of ‘gaze anchoring’ in threat perception
  • Optical Flow and perception
  • Visual reaction time and techniques to improve it
  • Gaze / Action Reaction Time research and training
  • Visual Reaction time tools
    • Virtual tools
    • Reaction Balls

Module 5 — The Role of Attention on Perception, Decision-making & Performance

  • Myths about Human Attention
    • People are always aware of what they are attending to
    • The deployment of attention is always a choice
    • People have complete control over what they attend to
    • People always know where to direct attention
    • People should always ‘expect the unexpected’
  • The role of Attention and excellent decision-making and performance
  • ‘Game Intelligence’ (Stratton, et al)
  • Nideffer’s Quadrants of Attention
  • Selective Attention
  • Funnel Theory of Attention
  • The ‘myth’ of multi-tasking
  • ‘Situational Awareness’ – we’ve been teaching this concept all wrong
  • Tunnel Vision – what it is and isn’t
  • Gaze – Action Coupling
    • Officer performance
    • Offender performance
  • Bottom Up vs. Top Down Attentional processing
    • Attentional Control Theory
    • Signal vs. Noise
  • Sensory Gating (Yantis, et al)
  • Colavita Effect (Colavita, et al)
  • The Setchenov Phenomenon

Module 6A — Introduction to Decision Making

  • Introduction to memory
    • Acquisition
    • Encoding
    • Storing / Retention
    • Retrieval
  • Implicit and Explicit Memory
    • Role of procedural memory
    • Semantic memory
    • Episodic memory
    • ‘Trauma’ events and memory
  • Confabulations
  • Decision Making Systems ‘System 1 and System 2’ (Kahneman)
  • Rational vs. Naturalistic (RPD) decision making
  • Training Scars – How and Why and What do we Do?
  • Thin Slicing and Cue Utilization
  • The role of Heart Rate – or not?
  • Physiological Arousal, ‘Stress’ and Long-Term Potentiation (Sapolsky, et al)
  • Yerkes Dodson Law
  • Catastrophe Model of arousal and performance
  • The Psychological Refractory Period
  • Role of Drills, Contextualization and High-Fidelity Training

Module 6B — Survival Implications of the First Quarter Second

  • Why the first 250ms is vital
    • Early threat cue recognition
    • Initiation of response
  • Examples and Case studies
  • Role of NDM ‘reflexive’ responses
  • Research study ‘Effects of Reflex-Based Self Defence Training on Police Performance in Simulated High-Pressure Arrest Situations” (Renden, et al)
    • Trained attentional control (top down)
    • Trained use of primary reflexive action (0 – 250 ms)
    • Continuing action hinged to reflexive action
    • ‘Single System’ approach to rapid threat at close range
    • Skills integrated into a combat system (not siloed)
  • Critical importance of Moving head and neck as primary response to evolving threats at close range

Module 7 — The Role of Mirror Motor Neurons in Learning and Coaching

  • MMN’s – what they are and their role in vision and learning
  • Visuo-Motor Observational Learning
  • Implications for Coaching and Training
  • MNN ‘Overload’ danger and learning impairment
  • Role of student motivation and MMN activation
  • Correct vs Incorrect demonstrations
  • Right and Left hand dominate students

Module 8 — Instructional Feedback Methods and Learning Implications

  • Behavioural Training (BT) and Decisional Training (DT) Models
  • Behavioural Training (BT)
    • Part to whole training
    • Simple to complex drills
    • Easy-first instruction
    • Emphasis on technique
    • Internal focus of attention
    • Little use of exemplars or video modelling
    • Little use of ‘observational’ learning
    • Typically, blocked type practice
    • Low variability
    • High trainer feedback
    • Low use of questioning
    • Little use of video review
    • Very low performer skill in self detection and correction of performance errors
    • Little cognitive effort
    • Low learner motivation
    • No ‘curiosity seeking behaviour’
    • Deficient understanding of performance principles and goals
    • Low ability to problem solve
    • Little transference of skills to novel settings
    • Poorest retention of skill
  • Decisional Training (DT)
    • Tactical whole training
    • Competition like drills
    • Hard-first instruction
    • Technique within Tactics
    • External focus of attention
    • High use of exemplars and video modelling
    • High use of ‘Motor Observational Learning’
    • Use of variable and Random practice
    • Interleaved training models
    • Instructor uses reduced bandwidth feedback
    • High use of questioning
    • High use of video reviews
  • Performer develops ability to self detect and correct errors
  • High levels of performer cognitive effort
  • High levels of student motivation to learn
  • High levels of ‘curiosity seeking behaviour’
  • Performer understands principles and goals of performance
  • Very good problem solving and judgement
  • High transference of skill to novel situations
  • High retention of skills
  • The Complete Training Paradigm
    • Biomechanical
    • Physiological
    • Psychological / Decision Training
  • The Decision Training Model
    • Name the decision / cognitive skill
      • Anticipation
      • Attention
      • Focus & Concentration
      • Pattern recognition
      • Memory
      • Problem Solving
      • Decision Making
  • Design a drill or progression of drills in a contextually relevant setting with at least one cognitive ‘trigger’ or cue
    • Object cues
    • Location cues
    • Visual focus
    • Reaction Time cues
    • Memory cues
    • Kinesthetic cues
    • Self -Coaching cues
  • Select at least one DT Tool to train the decision
    • Variable practice
    • Random practice
    • Bandwidth feedback
    • Questioning
    • Hard First instruction
    • Observational learning
    • Video feedback
    • External Focus instruction
  • SMART Variations
  • SMART Combinations
  • Tactical relevance
  • The Role of Video in Training
    • Bio mechanical expertise
      • Exemplar model
      • Key Performance Indicators
  • Tactical / Decision Making
    • Cue recognition
    • Consequential decision-making analysis
  • Visual Reaction Time Training
    • Temporal occlusion techniques
    • Rapid cognition

Module 9 — Online and Offline Learning

  • Offline learning and memory consolidation
  • ‘Early Offline Boosting’
  • Probabilistic Tasks and Sequences
  • If / Then Judgment tasks are learned primarily offline
  • The role of sleep and offline learning
    • Slow Wave sleep and consolidation
    • M1 Motor cortex activates during SW sleep / encoding
    • Implicit vs explicit memory tasks and sleep
  • Learner Exhaustion and Fatigue and impact on learning
  • Role of ‘Booster’ training to enhance offline learning

Module 10 — Exercise and Learning

  • Review of energy systems
    • ATP/PC
    • Glycolytic
    • Aerobic
  • Acute vs ‘Lifestyle’ exercise
  • Acute (High Intensity) ‘Functional’ Exercise (Milanovic; Afzalpour; Billat)
    • Positive impact on neuroplasticity / priming (Sing, et al)
    • Learning-related neurotransmitters (Rojas Vega, Et al)
    • Before or after motor skill training session (Roig et al)
    • Reduces both training and occupational injuries (prehabilitation) (Keller, et al)
    • Improves whole body structural integrity (J. Amtmann)
    • Reduces medical illness (Boni, et al)
    • Increases officer resiliency and mental wellness
  • ‘Context Related’ or Functional HIT
    • Relevant law enforcement biomechanics (J. Amtmann; Advancements in Scientific Study)
      • Stand-up grappling
      • Stand-up striking
      • Ground grappling
      • Ground Striking
  • The need for ‘Fight Specific Interval Training (FSIT)’
    • Combined weight and aerobic intervals
    • Biomechanics of direct relevance to combat demands
    • Need to create the metabolic and biomechanical contextual relevance

Module 11 — Imagery and its Role on Learning and Performance

  • The research on ‘Visuo-Motor Behavioural Rehearsal’ or Imagery
  • Priming effect
  • Intending / Imagining / Observing and Performing and the Motor Cortex
  • Importance of full sensorial experience (Full Symbolic Poly Sensory Experience)
    • Visual
    • Auditory
    • Kinaesthetic
    • Emotional
    • Tactile
  • Imagery and Elite Athletic performance
  • Teaching a student to perform effective imagery
  • The PETTLEP Model
    • Research review “Examining the Effectiveness of a PETTLEP Imagery Intervention on Football Skill Performance of Novice Athletes”; E Norouzi, et al; Journal of Imagery in Sport and Physical Activity.
    • Physical characteristics
    • Environmental
    • Task required
    • Timing necessary
    • Learning accessed
    • Emotion
    • Perspective

Module 12 — Learning Interference

  • There is both good and bad learning interference
  • Contextual interference is the ‘good’ (Battig; Shea and Morgan)
  • The ‘Constraints Led Approach’ (CLA) to Motor Learning Training
  • Motor skill interference is the ‘bad’
    • New motor skills need time to ‘stabilize’ before similar types of skills are introduced (Doyon, et al)
    • First 8-hour phase learning is very susceptible to interference and learning impairment (De Beukelaar, et al)
  • Implications for training design and deliver of motor skills

Additional Resources

The following are links to additional PDF resource documents for the Methods of Instruction – Advanced Training for Practical and Professional Law Enforcement Skills course. These documents can be viewed, saved and/or printed online.

Methods of Instruction – Goal & Training Objectives

Methods of Instruction – Bibliography & Reference List

For more information or to inquire about hosting this course at your agency, contact Chris Butler at

What Our Students Are Saying

The Foundations of Training & Methods of Instruction Course that I had the opportunity to participate in was excellent. The research fact-based information provided was extremely insightful as to why and how humans perform and what the best learning methodology is and why. As a seasoned Officer Safety instructor and previous to that, a Martial Arts instructor, I believe this methodology will enhance my teaching skills and enable me to more positively influence and impact future student learning.

Chris Butler is a passionate instructor with years of experience and vast knowledge. He does an excellent job of getting the aforementioned information across to his audience. I highly recommend this course to anyone, especially to persons that are or will be in any form of instructional capacity.

Chris Osztovits - Training & Development Officer, University of Alberta Protective Services

I attended the Foundations of Training course on September 22-25, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. I am currently a law enforcement trainer, (last 15 years) and have had the opportunity to attend many excellent training courses related to law enforcement training. The Foundations of Training course was absolutely phenomenal. The information presented was extremely valuable, relevant, and thought-provoking. I am still processing all of the information delivered and formulating strategies on how to
best implement this information/concepts into our current training programs. Chris Butler is an outstanding trainer, facilitator, and presenter. The amount of knowledge possessed by Chris is second to none. Chris is in a very, very small circle of professionals with comparable knowledge, skills and abilities. It was and is always a privilege to learn from him.

Barry de Seguin - Training Sergeant - Specialized Training & Standards, Alberta Solicitor General Training Academy

I had the pleasure of participating in Chris’ Methods of Instruction & Foundations of Training course. From start to finish, Chris proved to be a consummate professional who exudes passion and whose depth and breadth of knowledge is unparalleled. He has a demonstrated ability to take complicated concepts rooted in complex science and articulate them in lay terms. Chris’ dedication to his craft is evident and has inspired me to continue pursuing training excellence through evidence-based methodologies. Quite simply, this course should be mandatory for all law enforcement practitioners. The law enforcement and first responder communities are lucky to have such a dedicated, passionate individual to learn from.

Taylor Browett - Training Instructor Peace Officer - Training & Standards, Alberta Justice Training Academy
The Foundations of Training & MOI course was far and away the most educational course related to instructor development and training methodology I’ve taken in my career. It is truly evidence-based, informative, and the resources provided to the participants encourage ongoing learning and development using actual research related to the topic. Chris is a wealth of knowledge and a captivating facilitator who truly makes the information interesting and engaging. I would recommend this course to EVERYBODY who is in law enforcement training, or instruction in any field of coaching and development.
Tyler Irvine - Provincial Coordinator, Training and Logistics Protective Services, Alberta Health Services

Chris Butler is an outstanding Trainer/Teacher. The level of explanation was out of control!!! He explains all concepts clearly, and will not stop giving examples or explaining until he feels that everyone in the classroom has an accurate understanding of the discussed concept. I truly believe everyone in that class left with new skills to make change as a coach or trainer.

Sean Carter - Director of Engagement - Strategic Engagement Branch, Alberta Education

Bar none the best training I have received relevant to the training work I am responsible for delivering to our officers. This course is well thought out and surpassed my expectations. I highly recommend this course!  Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge.

Scott Ryan - A/Staff Sergeant - Chief Crowfoot Learning Centre, Calgary Police Service

This has been such an impactful week. I wish we had even one more week to dig into this information more. Your style was energetic and kept my interest for five days! I felt you mixed the material with just the right amount of stories, examples and group work. Without question, the was the best course I have taken in my 25 years with CPS.

Steve Ellefson - Staff Sergeant - Chief Crowfoot Learning Centre, Calgary Police Service

This course should be a must have for any police instructor. These are evidence-based training ‘truths’ that will change our training and impact our students in profound ways!

Alex Odinstov - Constable, Abbotsford BC Police Department

I really enjoyed this course. The material is beyond relevant. Chris was instrumental in the delivery. He was excellent in explaining the concepts, contextualizing everything and kept everyone fully engaged for five days! By far, this has been my favorite course. I would take it again.

JulieAnn Gagnon - Training Instructor - Peace Officer Training & Standards, Alberta Justice Training Academy