Government Eval TIG Week: Using an Evaluation Lens to Strategically Elevate SOF Education by Beth Fidermutz

Hi, I’m Beth Fidermutz.  I serve on the President’s Action Group at the United States Special Operations Combatant Command’s (USSOCOM) Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), where I’m helping lead efforts to strategically rebalance Special Operations Forces (SOF) education across the learning continuum. 

US joint professional military education continuum

The J-NEXT initiative is a direct response to national defense leaders calling for a paradigm shift in military education to secure the national strategic advantage through intellectual overmatch.  J-NEXT moves education of SOF professionals from an input-focused model to one driven by output and evidence of student learning and effectiveness. 

Visualization depicting the fourth age SOF Education enabling future SOF leaders

In addition to accountability, identification of learning outcomes across levels of curricula provides a scaffolded approach that allows our low density, high demand” operators to tackle manageable chunks of content over time – these modules, while standalone, also aggregate to larger courses and programs.  

Hot Tips 

Partners…leverage collaborative efforts to expand networks and bring in talent and resources you don’t have in house!  In academia, we are all familiar with “publish or perish” but JSOU has pushed back and is embracing the Federal E-learning Science & Technology Conference’s 2022 theme of “New Paradigm of Learning: Partner and Prevail”!

Cool Tricks

The identification of learning outcomes coupled with backward design allows subordinate learning outcomes to be articulated across all levels of curriculum (i.e., program, course, module, lesson), while ensuring outcomes are relevant and align to higher learning outcomes…all which nest under and ultimately support the Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs)!  

A visualization showing learning outcomes moving from the lesson, module, course, program, and institution

Rad Resources

Research-based learning taxonomies like Bloom’s Revised in the cognitive domain and Krathwohl in the affective provide standardized approaches for articulating learning outcomes.  Utilizing these resources helps provide transparency in student learning expectations!  

Lessons Learned

Think about assessments early on and use them to drive the curriculum!  Once you identify the intended learning outcomes, consider what authentic assessments can be developed and utilized to gauge student mastery.  Learning efficiency is maximized when students acquire new knowledge in contexts similar to how they will apply the education and also when the new content or skills build upon past experiences.  For SOF, these contexts are current and future complex security environments or gray zones.  Remember teaching to the test is a GOOD thing when assessments are aligned with learning outcomes and placed in the larger “real life” context of how graduates will perform the behaviors in future environments!  

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The American Evaluation Association is hosting Government Evaluation TIG Week with our colleagues in the Government Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our Gov’t Eval TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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