Learning Theories

    I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
    - Mark Twain

    In 1956, Benjamin Bloom helped develop theories of learning based on the cognitive, psychomotor, and
    affective domains of human behavior and interaction. (1) His theories are widely applied in law
    enforcement training.

    Cognitive Learning Theory

    The Distance Learning Technology Resource Guide, (2000), provides an informative description of
    Blooms theories. (2) Cognitive learning  is demonstrated by knowledge recall and the intellectual skills:
    comprehending information, organizing ideas, analyzing and synthesizing data, applying knowledge,
    choosing among alternatives in problem-solving, and evaluating ideas or actions. (ibid.) Law
    enforcement officers need cognitive intellectual skills to make ethical decisions.

    Bloom theorized  six levels within the cognitive domain.(ibid.) The levels range from simple recall or
    recognition of facts, the lowest level, through increasingly complex and abstract mental levels, to the
    highest order, classified as evaluation. Examples representing each level follow:

    Knowledge: arrange, define, duplicate, label, list, memorize, name, order, recognize,
    relate, recall, repeat.

    Comprehension: classify, describe, discuss, explain, express, identify, indicate, locate,
    recognize, report, restate, review, select, translate.

    Application: apply, choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate,
    practice, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write.

    Analysis: analyze, appraise, calculate, categorize, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate,
    discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, test.

    Synthesis: arrange, assemble, collect, compose, construct, create, design, develop,
    formulate, manage, organize, plan, prepare, propose, set up, write.

    Evaluation: appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose compare, defend estimate, judge, predict,
    rate, core, select, support, value, evaluate.

    Affective Learning

    Affective learning is demonstrated by behaviors indicating attitudes of awareness, interest, attention,
    concern, and responsibility. The ability to listen and respond in interactions with others, and ability to
    demonstrate those attitudinal characteristics or values appropriate to the test situation and the field of
    study. This domain relates to emotions, attitudes, appreciations, and values, such as enjoying,
    conserving, respecting, and supporting. Verbs applicable to the affective domain include accepts,
    attempts, challenges, defends, disputes, joins, judges, praises, questions, shares, supports, and
    volunteers. (ibid.) Empathy is an important trait for law enforcement officers. Lack of empathy can lead to
    ethics violations when, for example, someone's rights are violated by an uncaring or inattentive officer.

    Psychomotor Learning

    Psychomotor learning is demonstrated by physical skills; coordination, dexterity, manipulation, grace,
    strength, speed; actions demonstrating fine motor skills such as using precision instruments or tools,
    or actions evidencing gross motor skills such as dancing or athletic performance. Verbs applicable to
    the psychomotor domain include bend, grasp, handle, operate, reach, relax, shorten, stretch, write,
    differentiate (by touch), express (facially), and perform (skillfully). (ibid.)


    (1) Bloom, B.S. (1956). Taxomony of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals:
    Handbook New York: Toronto: Longmans, Green.

    (2) U.S. Department of Education. (2000). The Distance Learning Technology Resource Guide, Star
    Schools Program. Retrieved April 21, 2003 from http://www.dlrn.org/library/dl/guide4.htm


    Learning Theory - Gardner

    In Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner describes several ways in
    which people learn (1). He describes these pathways to learning as follows:

    1. Linguistic (word smart)
    2. Logical-mathematical (number/reasoning smart)
    3. Spatial (picture smart)
    4. Bodily-Kinesthetic (body smart)
    5. Musical (music smart)
    6. Interpersonal (people smart)
    7. Intrapersonal (self smart)
    8. Naturalist (nature smart)

    Law enforcement officers, due to the nature of their training and work, use several of Gardner’s styles.
    Training academies require academic, physical fitness, and firearms qualifications. These skills require
    linguistic, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. At the training academy level,
    less emphasis is given to logical-mathematical skills, and no emphasis to musical, and naturalist
    learning styles.

    In the field, daily community contacts require officers to hone linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic and
    interpersonal skills. Complex investigations require the development and use of logical-mathematical

    Concepts involving ethics focus on linguistic and logical-mathematical functions, requiring the
    application of reason towards determining right from wrong. Arguably then, police training and field
    experience is strong in the ethics-oriented area of linguistics but less so regarding logical-mathematical


    (1) Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic.  Retrieved
    August 22, 2002, from www.thomasarmstrong.com/multiple_intelligences.htm

    Collaborative / Facilitative Learning Theory

    Ethics teachers often use a collaborative or facilitating style of instruction. The joint-inquiry method of
    learning removes the instructor from the prophetic role of seer and master of all ethical knowledge and
    works to inspire students towards discovering their own paths towards ethical conduct. (1)

    For some instructors, the collaborative approach attempts to accomplish three educational goals:

    1. Heighten the student's ethical awareness
    2. Provide a means to identify ethical issues
    3. Help develop tools to clarify and resolve ethical issues

    According to Daniel Callahan and Sissell Bok (1980), ethics instructors must be careful to guard against
    using a "telling" approach. In their book, Ethics Teaching in Higher Education, (2) they state:No teacher
    of ethics can assume that he or she has such a solid grasp on the nature of morality as to pretend to
    know what finally counts as good moral conduct....It is the time and place to teach them [students]
    intellectual independence, and to instill in them a spiritof critical inquiry. (ibid.)

    In The Managing of Police Organizations, (1996), Whisenand and Ferguson (3) say, Moralizing about
    ethics is not very effective in sustaining or changing attitudes and behavior. "No one likes to be "should"
    upon!" Traditional lectures on ethics should be scrapped and replaced by group discussions (ibid.).


    (1) Jones, J. R., & Carlson, D. P. (2001). Reputable Conduct: Ethical Issues in Policing and Corrections,  
    New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 47-48.

    (2) Bok, S. & Callahan, D. (ed.). (1980). Ethics Teaching in Higher Education, Cambridge, MA: Perseus,  
    71.    http://www.addall.com/Browse/Detail/0306405229.html

    (3) Whisenand, P. M., & Ferguson, R. F. (1996). The Managing of Police Organizations, (4th ed.).Upper
    Saddle, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 51.

Ethics Training for Law Enforcement