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Onion
09-20-2008, 05:19 PM
The question I have is what are relevant topics for a curriculum for a staff officer course equivalent to the US Army the Command and General Staff Course or the US Marine Command and Staff Course? What are the most effective educational methods? The course serves the armed forces three small NATO nations which have to seriously consider territorial defense against conventional attack by a large power as well as irregular threats and are sending out expeditionary forces to fight coalition/alliance small wars. There are international students from large NATO and non Ė NATO nations in the course as well. I am involved in curriculum planning and would like some ideas on what an eleven month course for majors should include. The course covers military theory, leadership, operational planning process, peacekeeping - peace support operations, counterinsurgency, operational trends, defense planning, civil emergency management, ethics, international law and international relations. The international relations teaching in past courses have been heavy in lectures in political science theory. I question how relevant lectures on political science are. How many comparative theories on international relations do staff officers really have to know about? Perhaps itís good to have some political science, but in more moderation as in our case it takes about 25% of the course time. I wonder if it could be time better spent, perhaps on historical case studies carried by the students and guided by instructors to develop critical thinking on complex operational situations. Any thoughts on what other topics should be covered as well as what educational methods are best?

John T. Fishel
09-21-2008, 12:24 AM
staff officers to do at the end of the 11 month course? One of the things I learned teaching CGSC at Leavenworth after being a college professor for 15 years was the above is the right question to ask. Its answer determines subjects and teaching/learning methodology.

Cheers

JohnT

Onion
09-21-2008, 09:40 AM
What do you want these staff officers to do at the end of the 11 month course? That's the million dollar question. That's the question our faculty needs to ask earnestly. Part of our problem is that segiments of cirriculum are planned and taught by civilian academics with little life experience outside of universities. They are generally capable people in their specialities but lack a broad understanding of what professional military education is. The military instructors focus on their own specialized areas of knowledge and are careful not to tread on someone else's turf.

John T. Fishel
09-21-2008, 11:16 AM
or somebody senior to you on your suggestion - convene a faculty offsite (retreat) to brainstorm the question?

Cheers

JohnT

RTK
09-21-2008, 11:48 AM
Better yet, why don't the academics visit the units and commanders that these majors will eventually work for and ask them. We do that periodically with our basic course, checking with the force to make sure we're on azymuth. Doesn't seem like it would be much different. All you need to ask is three questions:

1. What do you want your Major graduating from our course to be capable of?

2. What things, of the majors you've received in the last two or three years, are things they do very well?

3. What things, of the majors you've received in the last two or three years, are things that they need to improve?

These three open ended questions will usually bring out the pet rocks in most commanders. If a guy has an ax to grind against the school house, these questions would definately afford him the forum.

Best of luck.

selil
09-21-2008, 01:49 PM
...Part of our problem is that segiments of cirriculum are planned and taught by civilian academics with little life experience outside of universities. They are generally capable people in their specialities but lack a broad understanding of what professional military education is. The military instructors focus on their own specialized areas of knowledge and are careful not to tread on someone else's turf.....

Oh, so this is just another broad swipe at academics not being good enough, ivory tower, anti-intellectualism post. gotcha. It is a long road from what should we teach, to, there is a credibility gap.

sullygoarmy
09-21-2008, 02:22 PM
Having been through the courses and Leavenworth and serving as a staff officer now, here's my takes:

1) Doctrine. Staff officers (especially planners) are expected to know doctrine front and back regardless if it is your branch, your Army or your Alliance doctrine. Know it front and back.

2) Learn to be a problem solver. On top of using doctrine as a building block (think a common language), the ability to step back and analyze a problem is a vital component. The U.S. Army's trials with Commanders Appreciation of Campaign Design or Systemic Operational Design (SOD) are merely different ways to develop the background of a problen then approach it looking for potential solutions.

3) Interaction with people. As silly as this sounds, there are some people that just do not interact well with other people. You've all worked with them. In a staff environment, this makes life 10 times harder if you cannot communicate with a fellow staff member. In my short time with 3ID I've worked with everyone from the literal "Little old lady in tennis shoes" to Joint Staffs...all on variety of different projects CGSC (or SAMS for that matter) never touched on. The ability to understand the problem then communicate with others will help a staff officer regardless of the situation. And by communication, I do not mean via e-mail only either.

4) Simulations and exercises. There are some great debates in the SWC about the value/uses of simulations. A staff needs good training just like a rifle squad or tank platoon. Being able to plan, develop, execute and AAR command post and staff exercises provides valuable experience to a staff. Treat that staff just like any of your maneuver units and train them.

5) No staff is so special that they cannot be out with the soldiers doing training. I am off the Starship Trooper (book, not movie) mentality that everybody drops, everybody fights. Staff members should be at all mandatory training events just like the soldiers. A staff that trains with its units has both a better understanding and relationship with the people they support.

I got a lot out of my CGSC time but I was fortunate enought to get the extra education at SAMS. So far (IMHO) I've been able to put that education and prior experience to good use (my boss may disagree!). Regardless, I know my role is to help the commander make an informed decision...bottom line. We often forget the importance of our staffs. When you have a good staff, you rarely ever hear them mentioned or see what is going on behind the scenes. When you have a bad staff...well I think we've all been there before.

Rex Brynen
09-21-2008, 03:28 PM
The international relations teaching in past courses have been heavy in lectures in political science theory. I question how relevant lectures on political science are. How many comparative theories on international relations do staff officers really have to know about? Perhaps itís good to have some political science, but in more moderation as in our case it takes about 25% of the course time. I wonder if it could be time better spent, perhaps on historical case studies carried by the students and guided by instructors to develop critical thinking on complex operational situations.

Having both taught IR and worked at a foreign ministry, I would suggest that the vast majority of IR theory is almost entirely irrelevant to understanding how foreign policy processes work in the real world...

max161
09-21-2008, 03:32 PM
If I were king for a day the intermediate level education for field grade officers would consist of history, theory, and operational art (and include planning exercises at the operational vice tactical level). Class time would be limited to 4 hours per day. There would be a heavy reading and writing requirement and the 4 hours class time per day would be focused on student interaction and sharing (and debating) of experiences and ideas (our field grade officers are not a lot more experienced than many of the more senior instructors). Sounds a lot like SAMS I know (at least in the old days). The problem I see with our military education system is that we maintain a training mentality and if there are 8 hours in the training day we will use all 8 hours (and cram 12 hours worth of work into it). But at the field grade officer level we need officers who can think, write, plan (operationally), and solve problems creatively. The other problem is that we have so many things we think we need to teach our officers that we cram in so much we cannot focus on the fundamentals of problem solving and understanding the current and future operational environments.

Bill Moore
09-21-2008, 04:47 PM
The course serves the armed forces three small NATO nations which have to seriously consider territorial defense against conventional attack by a large power as well as irregular threats and are sending out expeditionary forces to fight coalition/alliance small wars.

Concur with max161, but further add the course should include a wargame (applied learning) that addresses the complex scenario you identified above. The best wargames are relatively slow paced, with numerous mentors from different disciplines available to provide insights (not answers) to the players.

I am against a narrow focus (strictly conventional or irregular warfare), because staff officers must be able to address a wide range of problems, but the curriculum you listed did not appear to address one of your major security concerns posted above?

selil
09-21-2008, 05:32 PM
I get concerned for the state of military education when you all start talking about "what" should be taught and "how" something should be taught before figuring out the end state you desire. If the end state is some amorphous "the student shall be able to wage war" you haven't really defined the needed knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Whether you are teaching somebody to drive a car, read, do algebra, or wage war the methods of teaching, and learning are not so different.

Picking teaching strategies like war games, or choosing lecture formats just do a disservice to the learning of the student. My issue is the original poster starts out with topics that are taught which is fine, then we go through methods, and right to strategies without considering the end state. RTK picks up on this pretty well in his idea s of finding out what is needed. Contrary to popular opinion teaching chess does not make a warrior general. But, you can use appropriate models to teach strategies for near and far transference of knowledge.

The first step is discovering what you want them to know. Topics (nouns) are great, but it is the actions (verbs) that make a difference in the learning process.

John T. Fishel
09-21-2008, 05:43 PM
I especially like max161's approach. But, I will go back to my original question - with modification: What do the 3 countries armed forces want the graduates to be able to do? With all due respect simply transferring the American approach to staff education may not be the best way to achieve this goal - certainly not without adaptation to the specific environment. Asking the future commanders is a good place to start but they do not necessarily know exactly what they need. I have seen American commanders who having the right person assigned have rejected that person's advice. Read, for example, Major Gen. Edward Lansdale's memoir, In the Midst of Wars - particularly toward the end of his tenure in Vietnam.

Cheers

JohnT

Ron Humphrey
09-21-2008, 08:24 PM
Just a little extra though, if as you say much of the teaching is to better prepare them for working with others who's concerns are related to ability to defend against large interest with their own limited assets, it would seem prudent at least in that particular portion of course to practice ad hoc'ery:D

In that part of thinking outside the box is recognizing which box your in then planning from there. Case studies do provide a lot in this area both in military and civilian context's. Figure out how to expose them to walking a mile in others shoes. If nothing else it may help to remind them how nice their own shoes are or point out that wearing tenni's to the dance might not be the best idea:cool:

Bill Moore
09-22-2008, 04:21 AM
Posted by Onion,
The course serves the armed forces three small NATO nations which have to seriously consider territorial defense against conventional attack by a large power as well as irregular threats and are sending out expeditionary forces to fight coalition/alliance small wars.

Posted by Selil,
I get concerned for the state of military education when you all start talking about "what" should be taught and "how" something should be taught before figuring out the end state you desire. If the end state is some amorphous "the student shall be able to wage war" you haven't really defined the needed knowledge, skills, and abilities.

First, I would make the counterpoint that the Onion did mention a requirement to understand conventional warfighting, see his post above.

Second, there is no endstate in education, unless you are talking about training. It is a staff course where the student should learn to solve complex problems ranging from peace keeping to general war (based on the way I interpreted his post). It may be amorphous, but the bottom line is the student should be familiar with staff processes and complex problem solving.


Whether you are teaching somebody to drive a car, read, do algebra, or wage war the methods of teaching, and learning are not so different.

Learning to drive a car and read is training, not education in the higher sense where you the focus is teaching (or enabling the student to learn) advanced concepts and leave room for the student to develop their own concepts. I think there is a considerable difference between training someone to drive or educating them to fight a war.

Marshall's, Petraeus's, Abram's, etc. were not products of a route training in the MDMP, they were products of higher education. I would wager a six pack that every great general we produced would further support the incorporation of war games into the education process, because they are incredible learning vehicles when they're well designed and the appropriate mentors are on hand. It allows the student to apply his historical case studies and other lessons in a collective environment that will facilitate further learning and expose him to new ideas.

Folks are simply presenting ideas based off one post, there is no way we can assess what these officers need from our vantage point.

GBNT73
09-22-2008, 05:29 AM
Staff = bureaucracy. I mean that in the objective, academic sense, not the colloquial, derogatory sense. It is a social-collective all its own, with typologies and dynamics governing structures and relations throughout. We expect our people to operate -- thrive, even -- in this kind of environment, yet we do not teach them about it. This would be useful not just for staff, but for commanders (since we are a leader-centric organization) and just about everyone else as all are touched or even governed by the influences of the "laws" of bureaucracy and the ill-fitted organizational types to which we are married.

The fields of organizational sciences and collective action bring quite a bit of research to this area and we do not touch it. Authors like Schein, Mintzburg, Arquilla, Barabasi, Moffat, James Wilson, Zegart, Senge and Rothstein all touch upon organizational structure, flow, culture, and "fitness" of organizational types and the environments that surround them and are contained within them. Some, like Arquilla and Rothstein, deal directly with military issues of organizational mis-fit.

We barely study anything from this field in the brief overview of the Army as a "learning organization." What little study we do engage in begins just as the leadership FM: with the presumption that the US Army is a learning organization. That presumption itself is indicative of the lack of understanding of what a "learning organization" actually is. Those of us who have studied the above issues will say that the Army is NOT a learning organization, though it does contain people and groups who do learn. The Army is the very difinition of the "traditional" model, as opposed to the "learning" model. The difference is transparent to those who have not studied it, and thus it makes for rather silly discussion in the halls of Ft Leavenworth, Carlisle Barracks, and the satellite campuses.

Onion
09-22-2008, 12:21 PM
Here is the best answer for what the staff officers are expected to do after completing the 11 month course.


Upon graduation of the course the officers shall be prepared to work in the following positions:
- Commanders at battalion and formation level
- Staff positions in national central staffs
- Staff positions in NATO/EU HQ and in multinational tactical and operational level HQs
- Senior instructors at national and international military educational and training establishments

Thanks for all of the replies so far, all very useful.

BayonetBrant
09-22-2008, 03:22 PM
I think that description is much more suited to a higher level than our current mid-career staff college in the US. It's almost approaching War College level, but War College attendees will have been prior BN Commanders.

Ski
09-23-2008, 02:11 AM
Considering that only 15-20% of all American LTC's go on to command battalions, it's apparent that CGSC is designed to produce staff officers. Guess that's just how it goes when the personnel system is still designed to accept a large influx of draftees into the active forces as per the Industrial Age model.

Fully agree with GBNT73's comments. Individual level learning - and desire to learn - is evident...but it's a case by case basis.

BayonetBrant
09-23-2008, 10:16 AM
Ski- my response was based on the post immediately above it (by Onion), who was laying out the goals for his staff college following a lot of responses from the crowd.

While many of the responses have been CGSC-specific, Onion (writing from Estonia) seems like he was looking for a more general set of ideas, and perhaps his goals are a bit higher than where we shoot for CGSC.

sullygoarmy
09-23-2008, 12:52 PM
While many of the responses have been CGSC-specific, Onion (writing from Estonia) seems like he was looking for a more general set of ideas, and perhaps his goals are a bit higher than where we shoot for CGSC.


....Not hard to do when you have the "No Major Left Behind" program.

John T. Fishel
09-23-2008, 02:27 PM
the duty positions you have in mind. But what I don't know is what you expect each of those duty positions to do. Let me address NATO and multinational staff officers.
Learning Objective (LO) 1: Describe NATO staff functions. Compare those to other coalition staff functions and the staff functions in your own military. Demonstrate how they are similar and how they differ.
LO 2: Demonstrate the ability to perform the roles and functions of C1, C2, C3, C4, C5 ... Cn.
CONDITION: Command Post or Staff Exercise
STANDARD: Produce an acceptible solution to the operational problem posed by the exercise as determined by the exercise controllers.

The format I have suggested is that of Task, Condition, Standard which TRADOC uses. I modified it to use LO (We used TLO and ELO at Leavenworth when I taught there but I never saw much utility in that formulation.:rolleyes:) rather than tasks but you get the idea. This is hardly the only way to set up your course but it is a good place to start making the appropriate adaptations - especially ones that fall within the military traditions of the country. Culture, after all, does count.

Hope this is useful to you.

Cheers

JohnT

120mm
09-24-2008, 03:53 PM
If I were king of the world, or at least of developing a CGSC-type of curriculum, I would turn the conventional model of learning on it's head and task the "students" to develop the curriculum, to include "how do you defend your country from the most likely, most dangerous and combination of above" threats.

I think the traditional, top-down method of curriculum development has all sorts of problems, including the arrogant assumption that I, the curriculum developer, know better than You, the student, what you need to learn.

selil
09-24-2008, 05:01 PM
If I were king of the world, or at least of developing a CGSC-type of curriculum, I would turn the conventional model of learning on it's head and task the "students" to develop the curriculum, to include "how do you defend your country from the most likely, most dangerous and combination of above" threats.

I think the traditional, top-down method of curriculum development has all sorts of problems, including the arrogant assumption that I, the curriculum developer, know better than You, the student, what you need to learn.

I've got to argue pretty strenuously against the bolded section. It presupposes knowledge before it has been attained, and the maturity to admit you don't know what you don't know. Further by derivation you are saying they know what they are about to learn which is a bit circular.

Now, I'm not saying that good curriculum design is easy or that it isn't done poorly in lots of cases. Already earlier in the thread somebody tried to misconstrue skills attainment, education, and learning. There is an absolute difference in the levels of education and realities of training. There is also a consumer, producer, student, scholar paradigm on who is paying for the education, and what the expected outcomes are.

I am no fan of the student as a customer model.

Speaking specifically about military "colleges" and "training" who is the customer? I truly doubt that a bought and paid for asset with oak leaves or bars is the actual customer. It is likely the associated service, the command the individual is coming from, and even more likely future command slots that individual will be associated with.

If you want to create a holistic learner centric (different then learner derived) learning objective based curriculum you have to start somewhere. That place is what the outcome based goals of the cadre are going to be. What is the desired end state (goal state) for their education? Describe, create topic silos as courses, learning objectives at the course level, continue to the lecture/laboratory learning objective level, and return to the top with appropriate assessments based on the learning taxonomy of choice (Gagne, Bloom, etc..).

That kind of holisitic learning structure puts the student first. You can use different strategies to accomplish your goals like war games, game theory, lecture, thought papers, modeling, hands on, etc. into infinity and beyond (<-- Buzz Lightyear quote). The learning strategies are more an instructional/instructor/student relationship and that capability may be a selection of instructor criterion.

Another problem with the student led learning paradigm is that it will only associate with student led instructional fluency. It will not expand the scope and range of instructional strategies or learning methods a student can use. If problems and associated instruction are only within a tight scope or learner pattern than learner fluency will not be challenged and the student will not be truly served by the education. I will immediately admit that learner/instructional fluency is a two sided sword that can negatively impact learning if used inappropriately.

Then again what would I know about curriculum design.

BayonetBrant
09-24-2008, 05:11 PM
Then again what would I know about curriculum design.


Your forgot your [sarcasm] tags :p

Ken White
09-24-2008, 05:30 PM
The student will design a syllabus based on what he thinks he will need -- whereas, particularly in a military force subject to the vagaries and friction of war, what is actually required may be -- almost certainly will be -- totally different.

Further, as the Tactics guys at Leavenworth used to point out "What we teach you will apply on a mild June day in gentle terrain and if you have all your personnel and equipment fully trained and operational and you face an average opponent. If any of those parameters change, you'll have to adapt..."

Selecting what to think doesn't equate to how to think.

120mm
09-24-2008, 06:07 PM
I've got to argue pretty strenuously against the bolded section. It presupposes knowledge before it has been attained, and the maturity to admit you don't know what you don't know. Further by derivation you are saying they know what they are about to learn which is a bit circular.


Perhaps I'm not being clear, but what I envision is a system where you throw a diverse group of O-4s together in a room for 11 months and tell them "Develop your best plan for satisfying the following security objectives" and then cut them loose. They should be allowed to research, develop and test their learning to their heart's delight.

Unless I'm reading you wrong, it sounds like you're arguing that students lack the ability to "go and find out" in the discovery learning process.

Historically, the CGSC and War College system used to do just that. They were the laboratory where doctrine was formed.

If I were to fault the current education system, it's that everything useful is being taught out in the "real" world. A student graduates from CGSC, or from college, and then has to scramble for a year or two to learn "how things are really done", which is a radical departure from what they just wasted 11 months, or 4 years and six figures worth of tuition "learning."

Edited to add: I'd also fault the education system for being hyper-concentrated on "meta-education", or "learning about learning." You don't have to know any of the taxonomy's or theories, or name your buzz-words, to be an effective teacher. I would suggest that most of the education theory is smoke thrown to cover the fact that they don't know how to teach.

There are some skills that need actual "training", but most education that is worthwhile is "discovered" versus "taught", imo.

120mm
09-24-2008, 06:13 PM
The student will design a syllabus based on what he thinks he will need -- whereas, particularly in a military force subject to the vagaries and friction of war, what is actually required may be -- almost certainly will be -- totally different.

So, the "big army" has a better idea of what they "think" the student will need? So what IS big Army's record on being prepared for the next war????




Further, as the Tactics guys at Leavenworth used to point out "What we teach you will apply on a mild June day in gentle terrain and if you have all your personnel and equipment fully trained and operational and you face an average opponent. If any of those parameters change, you'll have to adapt..."

Selecting what to think doesn't equate to how to think.

Agreed.

Ken White
09-24-2008, 08:18 PM
So, the "big army" has a better idea of what they "think" the student will need? So what IS big Army's record on being prepared for the next war???? -- and their little SOF counterparts, I'd say about 50-60%; not stellar but predicting the future's never been easy.

Better question. What's yours? ;)

Across the board, they have taught a certain adaptability and they do take a broad based, multi-functional approach as opposed to a student basing his syllabus on his experiences (which may be totally irrelevant in the next war) -- and that's more important than getting the type of war right because wars can and do morph and change while you're playing...