Law enforcement training is a dynamic and evolving field that demands exceptional instructors to guide officers toward their full potential. In the pursuit of excellence, law enforcement instructors must embrace the values of humility, continuous learning, and personal growth. As the famous phrase goes, “When the master is no longer the student, they are no longer the master.” This profound statement highlights the essential link between an instructor’s willingness to remain a lifelong student and their ability to cultivate an exceptional learning environment for law enforcement professionals. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of humility, continuous learning, and growth in the context of law enforcement training and discuss how these qualities can elevate instructors to new levels of mastery.


The Power of Humility

Humility lies at the core of effective law enforcement instruction. Instructors must acknowledge that they do not hold all the answers and that their knowledge is ever-growing. A humble instructor recognizes that there is always room for improvement, that they can learn from their students, and that they are open to different perspectives. By setting their egos aside, instructors create an environment where officers feel encouraged to share their ideas and experiences. This fosters collaboration between instructors and students, allowing for a rich knowledge exchange and facilitating the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.


Continuous Learning as an Anchor

To be an exceptional instructor, one must never stop learning. Continuous learning ensures that instructors remain up-to-date with the latest advancements, techniques, and best practices in law enforcement. Stagnation can lead to outdated teaching methods that fail to address the realities faced by officers in the field. By actively seeking out new knowledge, participating in professional development opportunities, and engaging with subject matter experts, instructors can provide their students with the most relevant and practical training. Continually expanding their knowledge base, instructors enhance their expertise and inspire their students to embrace a lifelong learning mindset.


The Role of Personal Growth

Individual growth is not only crucial for law enforcement officers but also for instructors themselves. Personal growth extends beyond acquiring technical skills; it consists of developing emotional intelligence, cultivating effective communication, and refining leadership abilities. Instructors who prioritize personal growth are better equipped to connect with their students on a human level, relating to their struggles, and empowering them to reach their full potential. Additionally, personal growth allows instructors to adapt their teaching methods to accommodate different learning styles and needs, ultimately enhancing the overall learning experience.


Creating an Exceptional Learning Environment

Integrating humility, continuous learning, and personal growth creates an exceptional learning environment for law enforcement professionals. When instructors embody these qualities, they set a positive example for their students, encouraging them to embrace their own growth journeys. Instructors who humbly acknowledge their limitations promote a safe space where officers feel comfortable asking questions and seeking guidance. A commitment to continuous learning ensures that instructors provide the most relevant and effective training for real-world scenarios officers face. Personal growth empowers instructors to understand and address officers’ unique challenges, fostering empathy and support throughout the learning process.



In law enforcement training, exceptional instructors understand that the journey to mastery is ongoing. By adhering to humility, continuous learning, and personal growth, instructors can achieve the highest level of excellence in their craft. They inspire their students to develop the same qualities, creating a collaborative and progressive learning environment. As the adage reminds us we must maintain an open mind and the open heart of our greatest students. Let us embrace the philosophy of perpetual learning and growth, for it is through these endeavors that we become exceptional law enforcement instructors who empower officers to serve and protect with the utmost competence and compassion.

When selecting a training method for your officers, you want to make sure that you are choosing one that has scientific evidence behind it while also keeping your teams engaged and retention rates up. You can get all of these things when you train with the VirTra simulators!

VirTra prides itself in its work with science-based technology for law enforcement. With that, our technology and curriculums are designed to immerse trainees into real-world scenarios that help them develop their decision-making skills, firearm skills and much more in a way that has been proven to be effective.


Different Training Applications

With the simulator comes a variety of training applications and focuses. From crisis response and de-escalation to marksmanship, different trainers will likely all choose different focuses depending on what they see as a priority at the time. But all of these focuses play important roles in rounding out the officer training experience.

One question some might have is how to train their officers in all these different ways without overwhelming them with so much information that they are no longer processing and retaining it. David Blake, police practices/force response expert and law enforcement trainer, did some research on how to keep learner retention up and found information on trainees’ limited processing capabilities and how training simulators can play a part in increased learner retention.

He found a concept that was studied called Cognitive Load Theory. Cognitive Load Theory suggests that learners have a limited amount of mental resources that can be divided into three categories; intrinsic, extraneous, and germane loads. Blake explains, “In general, our instructional goal should be to manipulate intrinsic load into manageable pieces while decreasing extraneous load and increasing germane load for optimal learning”.

Which, in simpler terms, means that trainers should break the content into desirable difficulty pieces, minimize unnecessary information, and decreasing the number of training methods to help achieve long-term memory storage for trainees.


Learn and Retain

Blake goes on to explain that training simulators are a really useful way to implement this suggestion. Students can learn through watching their trainer go through a scenario, pausing at key points for them to ask questions and absorb the information. When they are ready students can then work through the scenarios on their own, still pausing at key points to absorb their simulated surroundings and answer the problem before continuing. Eventually, students will be able to run through the scenarios fully on their own with no pauses.

He concludes that using the simulator in this way is an effective method because, “The student’s full attentional resources are focused on the learning objective instead of those goals being lost in the dynamics of the scenario”.

To read through the whole study called Force Options Simulators: An Underutilized Training Tool by Dave Blake, click here!


Contact Us!

For more information on our science and research-based simulators and curriculum, contact a VirTra specialist today!

How a person learns evolves over time, yet simultaneously stays the same. Learning is also complicated, yet one of the simplest concepts to understand. And though learning is both easy and difficult, it is up to instructors to understand its nuances and create the best learning environment for their trainees.

In creating the best learning environment, instructors can rely on the social learning theory described by Albert Bandura. It describes how people learn socially through observing, modeling, then imitating the behavior and reactions of those around us. Or simply: monkey see, monkey do. It can also be from the perspective, “Don’t do what that monkey did!”

For a moment, think of a child. How do they learn how to act, move, communicate, the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs,’ and the rules of life? It is all learned through observation. Children follow their models, which often begins with parents and siblings and later branches out to friends, teachers, book and TV characters and so forth. After observation comes action, where children mimic the learned behaviors. Depending on if the behavior is met with a punishment or a reward, the behavior is then reinforced or discarded.

As children grow up, so does their form of learning. Now, observational learning comes with an extra step: thought before action. This new consideration helps people to improve themselves, as they think through possible outcomes rather than immediately imitating a presented behavior. After determining and performing the best course of action, they then become a model for others—bringing the social learning theory full circle.

While officers are full-grown adults, and not the children in this example, social learning theory still applies to training. Starting at the beginning, the V-VICTA™ curriculum my team and I create heavily promotes observation. It is recommended to have one officer complete a skill drill or training scenario with the rest of the class watching using a rubric for evaluation. Depending on how the first officer performed, those watching know which actions are important, which actions to mimic, which to avoid and overall, how to create a better outcome. While the first few officers may stumble and err, the remaining officers improve techniques and together everyone learns. This allows for larger numbers of officers to obtain high quality training with great time management.

Throughout this training, instructors act as the ‘parents’ or the ‘prime’, so to speak. It is the instructor’s job to reward positive actions or ‘punish’ potentially dangerous actions—either praising the behavior, describing the error in debrief or immediately providing a real-life consequence, such as an electric shock delivered by a Threat-Fire® device. Training after this manner helps reinforce correct training and make these lessons second-nature once officers are in the field.

Learning can be either complicated or simple; it all depends on how instructors approach the task. Creating an environment that places a heavier emphasis on observation before performing—our earliest form of learning—could be the greatest asset in your classroom.


Written by: Lon Bartel; VirTra Director of Training & Curriculum

Lon Bartel spent 20 years as an officer, where he spent 12 of those years as a Rangemaster and 18 years as a certified law enforcement trainer. Now, as an IADLEST Nationally Certified Instructor and Force Science certified Use of Force Analyst and Advanced Specialist, Lon works to create powerful training curriculum for law enforcement.



Bandura, Albert. “Social-Learning Theory of Identificatory Processes.” Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research, Rand McNally & Company, 1969.

McLeod, S. A. (2016, February 05). Bandura – social learning theory. Simply Psychology.

As law enforcement instructors, we take a great amount of pride in what we do. We spend countless hours researching our topics, practicing our techniques and making sure we are giving the latest and best advice available. People’s lives and careers count on us teaching as best we can. But, is everyone learning what we are teaching? Just because you’ve created an amazing PowerPoint and demonstrated the techniques to perfection doesn’t mean that your students are actually retaining what you’re trying to teach.

As adults, we don’t learn the same way as we did when we were younger. Not only do we choose additional learning (unlike a child who must be told they have to go to school), but we are able to see how what’s being taught can apply to our lives. We also don’t just “magically absorb” knowledge as we hear it from our instructors. It has to be presented in a way that our brains can attach it to how we might apply the knowledge at work or at home.

Here are a number of things you should consider when instructing your adult students:

Get Them Out of Their Seats

Sitting around in a classroom for hours on end will result in tired and distracted students not retaining much of anything. Presenting with short bursts of information, followed up with some hands-on practicing is a great way for them to absorb the material. For example, you could teach a proper draw, and then move the students into a VirTra training simulator to practice the draw on a virtual range. Not only does this help embed the training, it also motivates the student to learn more, as well as make the learning fun!

Show Why It’s Important

When you were a child, adults would tell you something and you would (usually) just accept it. Occasionally, you might ask “why?”, and I’m sure that was countered immediately with a “Because I said so.” That doesn’t really work with adults.

Your students will want to know how the information you’re presenting will directly affect them in their everyday lives. In law enforcement training, we generally show ways to make them safer and more effective while performing their duties. Explain to them how what you are teaching will accomplish that. It’s even better when you explain it, and then combine it with getting them out of their seats.

Don’t Grade Them

Instead of traditional school-style grading, there are other ways to determine understanding of a new subject.

Class discussions and group activities are a great way to show that learning has occurred. It also removes the fear from students of being singled out for a lack of understanding.

A fun an interactive way to show learning is through skill demonstrations. This can be accomplished through hands-on activities showing proper techniques. It can also be done within a simulator such as going through a scenario that’s related to the topic.

Teaching adults doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need to make sure you’re using the right tools for the job. Trainers really do want to train, and students really want to learn. Adjusting our presentation style can mean all the difference.

Stay safe!




ProEdit. (2013, June 5). 5 Adult Learning Techniques to Improve Your Training Programs. Retrieved from ProEdit:


This article was written by TJ Alioto, VirTra’s Subject Matter Expert. TJ spent 20 years in law enforcement with the Wauwatosa Police Department, having reached the rank of Lieutenant prior to retiring in 2017. Now, as an SME, TJ uses his experience in designing and presenting coursework and curriculum for police officers to continue to pass along essential skills to new officers.