26 April 2015


By Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, U.S. Army retired, and Col. Nate Allen, U.S. Army retired

After almost a decade and a half of continuous war, the Army has an opportunity to rethink the relationship between traditional schoolhouse learning and the variety of its continuous learning practices. Now is a good time to start that discussion with the help of the officers and sergeants who have experienced both while at war. These leaders may hold the answer to what the Army should do next. If you are one of those leaders, we want to hear from you.

The Army’s officer and NCO professional education programs are modeled after episodic learning with the aim to create understanding of doctrinal principles and patterns. Periodically, leaders must be educated, especially in doctrine and leadership as well as the theoretical and historical roots of each. This education explains what the institution expects of its leaders, given their rank and experience, and it transmits the basics of how the institution expects them to meet those expectations.

This education takes place away from units at one of the Army’s schoolhouses. Continuous learning, on the other hand, aims at practical wisdom and helps leaders apply schoolhouse learning to real life. It takes several forms: personal learning, peer-to-peer learning, leader-team learning, and learning that takes place during routine garrison operations as well as during individual, leader and collective training. The two forms of learning are designed to reinforce one another. Doctrine and leadership theory provide the principles that should guide practice, and practice informs doctrine and leadership theory so that they can adapt to changing realities.

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