A Critical Analysis of Detective Training within a Police Force

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"Planning a course of study for (learners) and constructing the curriculum they will follow is central to the whole educational process.....It defines, directs and co-ordinates what (the learner) is intended to learn, gives direction and purpose to teaching, provides it with justification and gives it order and coherence."

(Taylor, 1970)

In order to critically evaluate the factors influencing the curriculum design, development and delivery around Detective training for the police, it is integral to analyse the meaning of "Curriculum" in respect of its design. Bobbitt (1918), in The Curriculum, the first textbook published on the subject, describes 'curriculum' as the course of deeds and experiences through which children become the adults they should be, for success in adult society.

However, the students that undertake the training to become detectives within the police service are not children, but rather mature adults, viewing the course as a continuation of the career development, albeit with a range of backgrounds and experiences, both within and external to the police.

Taylor (1946:44) states 'Since the real purpose of education is not to have the instructor perform certain activities but to bring about significant changes in the students' pattern of behaviour, it becomes important to recognize that any statements of objectives of the school should be a statement of changes to take place in the students' 

The national training for new detectives - the Initial Crime Investigators Development Programme (ICIDP) is broken down into three phases. The first phase of this programme is a multiple choice exam on their understanding of law, legislation and procedure. To achieve this students are given a distance learning manual covering the relevant areas of knowledge. The second phase is a more traditional classroom-based section where the attitudes and behaviours of the students are challenged and their decision making process is examined.

Neagley and Evans (1967) describe a curriculum as "the planned experiences provided…to assist the learners in attaining the designated learning outcomes to the best of their ability". The experiences undertaken by learners will be directly linked to whether they achieve the learning outcomes of the course. However, in order for learners to develop and self-actualize their own learning, it is important that they are able to put theory into practice and develop their skills. The experiences back in the workplace can never be planned, yet learning clearly is achieved from the "doing" in the real world. This is linked with the final phase of the ICIDP where learners are required to show workplace competence through dealing with new experiences.

However it is defined, the factors affecting the curriculum will impact on both teachers and students, and will deal with not only content or structure of the "course" but is also the recruitment process of learners, administration issues during the course and any assessments or competencies faced by the students to show learning.

Policy and Regulatory Systems

Curriculum design will be shaped by the requirements of what that course is aimed to achieve. This will in turn be affected by the current policy and procedures in place, together with regulatory systems that oversee such courses.

South Yorkshire Police (SYP) currently has a specialist department involved in the training of investigative skills to its staff. The performance of the police in the area of crime investigation is continually under scrutiny by the Government, the Criminal Justice System and the media. The Police Reform Act 2002 highlighted the need for the Police Service to professionalise all aspects of police investigations.

The NPIA became operational on 1 April 2007. The agency took over the work of several precursor agencies including the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO), Centrex (including the National Centre for Policing Excellence), and a small number of Home Office staff. The NPIA was proposed by the ACPO as a response to the UK Government's green paper Building Safer Communities Together.

The stated objective of the NPIA is to support

the delivery of more effective policing and

a culture of self-improvement around policing in the United Kingdom.

As a result, the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), were tasked to design a programme of learning which would 'Improve the professional competence of all police officers and staff who are tasked with conducting investigations'. In March 2007 they republished the latest version of the Initial Crime Investigators Development Programme (ICIDP), which all new Investigators for serious and complex crimes should undertake to obtain the status of "Detective".

In the republication of this national training package, the NPIA worked in collaboration with Skills for Justice to create a set of national occupational competences (NOS's) that all investigators should be assessed against, which have been ratified through the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

Rather than create a rigid course structure and material, the NPIA have created learning outcomes that the courses need to achieve, directly linked with the NOS's required for the third phase of the ICIDP programme. This has enabled a more flexible approach to the training of this course.

The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (OFSTED) was set up to monitor of the performance of schools and other educational establishments. In addition to the NPIA, her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is a regulatory body involved in the monitoring the performance of the police service as a whole, which includes the training received by staff.

Inspectorate reports and audits from HMIC around areas for development, specifically for South Yorkshire Police, will also include areas where training may be an issue. The flexibility to the ICIDP course enables, to a certain degree, for these areas to be incorporated into case studies or other sections of the course. This can also include areas relating to force policy, or the more "target-driven" police management.

In the current economic climate, Police Forces are being encouraged to look to cost-savings, such as reducing course durations (less abstraction time from the workplace), the use of distance learning and other e-learning packages. Another area under examination is the re-introduction of regional training for several forces, rather than individual force training departments.

Currently, the training undertaken by police staff is directed towards workplace competence and accredited by NPIA. With a more transient workforce and the idea of transferable skills and competence, there is a move towards more formal qualifications, recognised outside the police sector. Partnerships are therefore being forged with academia, such as University's or other recognised awarding bodies.

Curriculum Models

It can be useful to view curriculum development and design in the light of three main schools of thought, the product model, the content model and the process model. Although the models are not mutually exclusive, they do represent different philosophical approaches

Product model

This model, also known as behavioural objectives model, is interested in the product of the curriculum. The key theorist behind this was Tyler (1949) who came up with four fundamental questions around the curriculum design.

What are aims and objectives of curriculum?

Which learning experiences meet these aims and objectives?

How can these learning experiences be organised?

How can the extent to which these aims and objectives have been met be evaluated?

Tyler (1949)

The success or failure of both the programme and the individual learners is judged on the basis of whether pre-specified changes occur in the behaviour and person of the learner (the meeting of behavioural objectives). Smith (2000) describes this as "the dominant mode of describing and managing education today.  Education becomes a technical exercise".

Behavioural objectives are set with clear outcomes, so that content and method may be organized and results obtained evaluated. This enables a clear assessment guide as to whether the required standard of learning, or competence, has been achieved. Therefore at the end of the course, by way of clear and easy assessment criteria, students can show competence and gain vocational skills.

However, the result can be long lists of often trivial skills or competencies, an approach to education and assessment which resembles a shopping list, only assessing skill, rather than any high levels of understanding as per Blooms taxonomy of learning (Bloom 1956).  When all the items are ticked, the person has passed the course. 

Content model

This model relates to the "what" of learning, concerned with the intellectual development of the learner and the transmission of wisdom, based on the work of Hirst (1974). Many people still equate a curriculum with a syllabus. The curriculum is therefore designed to enable the learners to develop their understanding of these areas which usually assume the form of curriculum subjects.

The prime aim of this curriculum is the transmission of wisdom - that is knowledge already developed in the form of disciplines or subjects. Education in this sense is the process by which this knowledge is transmitted or 'delivered' to students by the most effective methods that can be devised (Blenkin et al 1992: 23). It is this knowledge that becomes the chief factor influencing the curriculum decisions

This form of curriculum has certain advantages, such as being easy to access and a much easier concept. In contrast, there is the assumption that retention of 'facts' equates to learning and the learner is not an active participant in the process. If one contemplates the recent debates around the increased grades being achieved at school exams, such as GCSE's, then the argument is 'does the teacher teach the student to pass an exam, rather than the student learning about the subject'.

Newby (2005) describes this model of teaching being still persistent in current educational curriculum, stating "... the curriculum sees children and young people as passive participants in a prescribed and directed teaching environment. Equally importantly, it places teachers as 'couriers', conveying knowledge, and increasingly using methods, prescribed by others"

Process model

Another way of looking at curriculum is to view it as process. In this sense it is not a physical thing, but rather the interaction between teachers, learners and knowledge. In other words, curriculum is what actually happens in the classroom and what people do to prepare and evaluate. A process approach to curriculum theory and practice tends towards making the process of learning the central concern of the teacher (Grundy, 1987)

Advantages to this model are that the experience of learning is more interactive, with increased learner/teacher autonomy. The experience of learning can often be applied to other things - transferable skills/knowledge. However, it becomes more difficult to assess what the learner has 'learnt' and learners may not appreciate or understand the value of what they've learnt until later date

Curriculum Models used Investigative Skills Training

In considering which is the dominant model used for curriculum design for the ICIDP course, it is important to realise that this is a lengthy eight-week course and contains a range of subject matter. As such some of the content lends itself towards the content model, this being the training around law and legislation. This subject is very black and white, and backed up by case-law which directs learners to the exact meaning behind potentially grey areas.

Other sections of the course relate to the competences that students will need to achieve back in the workplace and hence lend themselves towards a product based model. Indeed, by simply creating the learning outcomes for the course, NPIA have gone down a product based model of design, with the learning outcomes directly linked to the NOS's. The third phase of the programme being returned to the workplace to become a "competent investigator" by evidencing a range of simple tasks.

The training of Investigative Interviewing, however, also contains a large degree of understanding around the psychology of human interaction and behaviour. As such, being able to describe the theory does not equate to being able to react to these issues in a real interview and lead to any deeper understanding of the complexities of interviewing people. Therefore this section of the course is more linked to a process model, where the learning takes place as the group develops their understanding through dynamic interaction and role-play.

Theories of Learning and Teaching

There are a range of theories around how "Learning" occurs. How we define learning has a major impact on the curriculum designed and used to achieve it.

Learning (n)

knowledge gained by study; instruction or scholarship

the act of gaining knowledge

(Psychology) any relatively permanent change in behaviour that occurs as a direct result of experience

Collins English Dictionary (2003)

One such definition is that learning is a change in behaviour.  In other words, learning is approached as the end product of some process. It can be recognized or seen.  This approach has the virtue of highlighting a crucial aspect of learning - change. Some theorists have looked to identifying relatively permanent changes in behaviour as a result of experiences, developed into the Behaviourist theory

Behaviourist Theory

Behaviourism, as a learning theory, can be traced back to Aristotle, whose essay "Memory" focused on associations being made between events such as lightning and thunder. The theory of behaviourism concentrates on the study of overt behaviours that can be observed and measured (Good & Brophy, 1990).

Behaviourism is primarily associated with Pavlov's work around classical conditioning such as his famous experiments with food, a dog and a bell. This was further developed around operant conditioning, whereby when an organism emits a behaviour (does something), the consequences of that behaviour are reinforced, it is more likely to emit (do) it again, as (Skinner, 1954)

In educational settings, behaviourism implies the dominance of the teacher, as in behaviour modification programmes. In the context of police training, there are certain subjects whereby this theory of learning could be relevant, such as public order training. The idea that students automatically react in certain ways to set commands could ensure the safety of officers and the public. Students are required to "do" rather than think about "why" they're doing it.

Cognitivist Theory

Not surprisingly, many theorists have, thus, been less concerned with overt behaviour but with changes in the ways in which people 'understand, or experience, or conceptualize the world around them' (Ramsden 1992:4). The focus for them, is gaining knowledge or ability through the use of experience. The depth or nature of the changes involved is likely to be different.

Hartley (1998:18) has usefully drawn out some of the key principles of learning associated with cognitive psychology. As he puts it: 'Learning results from inferences, expectations and making connections. Instead of acquiring habits, learners acquire plans and strategies, and prior knowledge is important'

In the context of police training, this theory of learning lends itself to more analogical reasoning such as law and legislation. The definitions of crimes are set down in statute but a deeper comprehension and understanding of their implications is required. The application of the law to scenarios is used in order to get students to apply their cognitive reasoning to determine which offences, if any, have been committed.

Deep and Surface Learning

Säljö (1979) carried out a simple, but very useful piece of research. He asked a number of adult students what they understood by learning. Their responses fell into five main categories:

Learning as a quantitative increase in knowledge. Learning is acquiring information or 'knowing a lot'.

Learning as memorising. Learning is storing information that can be reproduced.

Learning as acquiring facts, skills, and methods that can be retained and used as necessary.

Learning as making sense or abstracting meaning. Learning involves relating parts of the subject matter to each other and to the real world.

Learning as interpreting and understanding reality in a different way. Learning involves comprehending the world by reinterpreting knowledge

As Ramsden (1992:26) comments, the first three categories imply a less complex view of learning. Learning is something external to the learner. In a way learning becomes a bit like shopping. People go out and buy knowledge - it becomes their possession. The last two conceptions look to the 'internal' or personal aspect of learning. Learning is seen as something that you do in order to understand the real world. Marton and Saljo (1984) distinguished between these two different approaches to learning as surface level learning and deep level learning.

Claxon (1966) suggests that students choose to learn in different ways depending on their motivation, the nature of the course and subject-matter, and a host of other variables. The principal variable is motivation; the greater the intrinsic motivation, the more likely the adoption of a deeper learning strategy. In fact, the idea that students can (and do) take a deep or surface approach to their learning is probably one of the most used bits of educational research in higher education.

Deep learning involves the critical analysis of new ideas, linking them to already known concepts and principles, and leads to understanding and long-term retention of concepts so that they can be used for problem solving in unfamiliar contexts. Deep learning promotes understanding and application for life. In contrast, surface learning is the inferred acceptance of information and memorization as isolated and unlinked facts. It leads to superficial retention of material for examinations and does not promote understanding or long-term retention of knowledge and information.

Critical to the understanding of this principle is that we should not identify the student with a fixed approach to learning, but it is the design of learning opportunity that encourages students to adopt a particular approach. Perhaps the major influence on the students' approach to learning is the assessment methods. It is often argued that the explicit setting of "straightforward" assessments involving short questions testing separate ideas will encourage surface learning, e.g. Carew and Mitchell (2002) or Biggs and Tang (2007)

This issue around surface learning has been observed with the students attending the ICIDP course. The first phase of the programme is a distance learning section, followed by a multiple-choice exam. There is a national required pass mark of 56% in order to progress onto the second phase. It has been observed that students subsequently attend the classroom phase and their knowledge or understanding around areas which they had revised for the exam have been forgotten. This leads to additional time being put aside to re-cover material students should already have an understanding of.

Constructional Alignment


Inclusive Curricula

Our classrooms are microcosms of the diverse society in which we live. The aim of inclusive curriculum design is to anticipate this diversity and use it in the curriculum to improve the learning of all students.  This approach acknowledges that students fall along a continuum of diversity and though some may learn differently, they are not necessarily less capable. 

Inclusive curricula provide the opportunity for students from diverse backgrounds to access, participate and succeed, building on the life experiences and differing points of view of students to enhance the learning of all, not just those with a 'disability'. Good course design builds in flexibility to accommodate a range of abilities, cultural backgrounds, and learning styles without lowering academic standards by providing a range of learning opportunities. 

A large amount of research has been conducted into the inclusivity within formal education of people with disabilities. The Tomlinson Report (1996) was specifically looking at inclusivity at further education level. It promoted a student-centred approach that makes learners' individual needs the starting point for developing a responsive, 'tailor-made' curriculum.

By inclusive learning we mean the greatest degree of match or fit between how learners learn best, what they need and want to learn, and what is required from the sector, a college and teachers for successful learning to take place

Professor John Tomlinson (HMSO 1996)

This involves identifying learners' specific and additional needs, providing resources and appropriate support, meeting their preferred learning styles and giving them access to fair assessment. Although the report focused in particular on ways of helping students with learning difficulties or disabilities to succeed, it highlighted the relevance of inclusive approaches to all adult learners

The MacPherson Report (1999) into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and the labelling of the Metropolitan Police as "institutionally racist", made the police look closely at how they dealt with situations and training around race and other diversity issues. As a result of the police, as a whole, are at the forefront of inclusive curriculum with regards to issues around equality and diversity

It is important to look at the learners that undertake the ICIDP course when designing an inclusive curriculum. As described by Werth (2009) one of the recent changes to Policing as a whole is at what point in their lives a "new recruit" join the police. The trend back in the 70's and 80's was that the Police was a career you joined having left school where you then spent the next 30 years. Young police officers gained experience and, after a number of years in a uniformed role, if they showed a competence in the investigation of crime they were invited into CID.

Today's new recruits come from a much more diverse background, with some joining the police in their 40's. For some, therefore, it may well have been a number of years since any formal educational training has been undertaken. The work-life balance of the police is also an issue for many students, with partners or children taking priority. There can be a range of academic qualifications within the students, with some having left school after GCSE's or A-Levels, with some even having done Law, Psychology or Criminology at degree level or above. With this range of new recruits comes a range of values and experiences outside of the police. This can play a major part in the reasons behind why they joined the police, their personal motivation and any subliminal biases or issues.

The ICIDP course is designed by the NPIA at a national level, with the learning outcomes of the course directly linked to the NOS's that students will need to show competence for back in the workplace. As such, there is little involvement from SYP into what this contains, nor do the students have any involvement in what they want to learn which can affect their motivation (Marion 1998).

However, the "how" these learning outcomes are realised is more flexible, enabling trainers to select the methodology for achieving these outcomes. SYP currently utilises a range of teaching methods and the trainers use facilitation to value contributions from the experiences of students to develop learning. The course utilises case-studies based on real incidents which involve the diverse society that we police, for example the investigation into human trafficking, involving issues around culture, language and prostitution, which brings out students values, biases and promotes discourse.