Training Effective Performance
Queries, Dilemmas, and
Tel Aviv University
The training of soldiers, police officers, firemen, deep-sea divers, and athletes comprises just a few examples of the numerous instances where persons are trained to perform stressful tasks. In all these instances, the effectiveness of training is judged according to standards set in extremely stressful criterion situations (e.g., combat). These present problems and requirements that seldom exist when persons are trained to perform tasks that are not inherently stressful. Most notably, adequate training requires not only the acquisition of basic skills such as marksmanship, map reading, or pure oxygen breathing, but also the ability to cope with and withstand intense stressors.
The double requirement alluded to here justifies a distinction between skills training and stress training. Skills training should be, and normally is, conducted under conditions that are designed to promote skills acquisition and retention; that is, conditions that maximize learning. These include presentations in quiet and comfortable classrooms, the use of teaching aids, uniform presentations, and opportunities to practice skills and tasks repeatedly, under standards and predictable conditions, in environments insulated from task-irrelevant stimuli. However, skills acquired under such conditions might not be sufficiently transferable to the "noisy," dangerous, and unpredictable stressful environments in which they would have to be performed eventually. Therefore, skills training has to be combined or supplemented with stress training that aims at assuring the retention of effective performance under stress. To this end, trainees have to be exposed, in the course of training, to simulated aspects and features of the stressful environment.
Although skills training and stress training are essential elements of the overall training process, the requirements that have to be satisfied in order to maxi