What Can We Learn From the Navy’s Train to Qualification System?

To learn more about professional development in the military, we called Mike Mosley, head of Learning Standards Branch in the Naval Education and Training Command.
When the Navy purchases a piece of gear, training is incorporated into the procurement process. For example, a new piece of sonar technology comes with model and platform specific training.
Initial assignments and training are based on applicant interest and assessed skills as well as the needs of the Navy–and those needs change with some frequency. Sometimes openings in the civilian pull certain specialities out and cause job vacancies inside Navy ranks.
“A” school builds basic occupational knowledge. It is a combination of classroom and hands on lab with an increasing use of simulations.
“C” school is more job specific; it’s where journeyman level skills are earned in Navy Enlisted Classifications (NEC)–the library of occupational certifications. Certified instructors judge performance outcomes of trainees but certification isn’t complete until trainees go to their first station and prove they have the ability to do that work.
Some cadets move more quickly through than others based on the evaluation of their Division and Commanding Officers. Annual evaluations are complemented with mid-term counseling.
In summary, there appear to be 10 things that K-12 could learn from the Navy about professional preparation and ongoing development:

  1. Do job task analysis to determine what high performers know and do;
  2. Build competency library of knowledge and skill by position;
  3. Build a training content library matched up with the competency library;
  4. Add more simulation based training;
  5. Buy training with new hardware and software;
  6. Let local administrators finalize certification based on observed job performance;
  7. Guide initial training based on sector needs as well as personal interest;
  8. Create improvement incentives for the system and participants, both will invest in seeking the most efficient path to mastery;
  9. Make adjustments when things outside change; and
  10. Innovation diffusion occurs within well-managed organizations and/or healthy markets.

Mosley taught 4th grade for 4 years and earned his school administration certification before joining the Navy. In addition to the rigorous job analysis, training, and certification process we discuss, he’d like to see better math and science preparation for K-12 teachers; as well as an emphasis on team interaction, collaboration, and classroom application.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

Kathy Vespia

I have presented my research on "Preparing Pre-Service Teachers for Battle - Lessons Shared with the Military" at the National Dropout Prevention Conference and writing about this topic. I would welcome the opportunity to share ideas and collaborate. NPR has expressed interest in hearing more about this topic.


Tom Vander Ark

We're wrapping up a paper on competency-based teacher prep (based on this post ow.ly/uCr8V ) and would be interested in seeing your research; [email protected]

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