Becoming an Agile Warrior - An Examination of using a Constructivist Approach to Learning During Basic Training in the British Army.

Berry, Leon (2018). Becoming an Agile Warrior - An Examination of using a Constructivist Approach to Learning During Basic Training in the British Army. EdD thesis The Open University.



The British Army has been on the receiving end of Government cuts to numbers of full-time (regular) service personnel following the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review and proposed 2018 National Security Review. With numbers being reduced from 102,000 to 82,000, there could be a potential further reduction to 70,000 regular personnel, equivalent to two-thirds of the French Army. The challenge the British Army faces is maximising the performance of the organisation and the individuals who serve in it. As a result, the Agile Warrior concept was developed to promote thinking skills throughout all ranks. This was facilitated by the introduction of a constructivist approach, underpinning the way learning is conducted from a behaviourist, instructor-led style to a student-centred approach to learning. This method was to be trialled at Phase 1 training establishments.

This EdD thesis sought to both unpack the current understanding of the complexities of Phase 1 training including its design and implementation, and evaluate a potential solution in linking the design, instructors, recruits and organisational aims of the British Army. In order to achieve this, the thesis was divided into two studies focussing on the training design and instructional methodologies respectively.

Study 1 of this thesis initially sought to examine the training design for Phase 1 training delivered at the Army Training Centre (ATC) based in Pirbright. Interviews were conducted with staff members involved in the training design of Phase 1 and recruits in order to gauge the different sides. What emerged from the results was a friction between the standardisation of training design and the instructors want for flexibility to teach in ways they saw appropriate. This finding indicated a gap that could potentially be filled by employing the Present, Apply, Review (PAR) method as the constructivist vehicle for instructors.

Study 2 sought to analyse the impact of PAR in bridging the gap between the standardised requirements of Phase 1 whilst providing flexibility for instructors to teach. A mixed method, quasi-experimental design was used for data collection in order to analyse the thoughts of 239 recruits during their Phase 1 training. The findings of a pre-post survey found no difference in regard to the impact of PAR compared with non-PAR instruction using motivation, self-regulated learning and reflection as measurable constructs. Follow-up semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten recruits in order to further unpack the findings.

Overall, this research unpacked recruit experiences of Phase 1 training. The findings suggested that factors such as the impact of the instructor, time as a restrictive factor, and the motivational climate facilitated by Phase 1 training had a potentially overriding impact over the specific instructional method delivered by the instructors. It is suggested that the constructivist approach be employed in unit training within the wider army and that further studies should examine its impact within that context.

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