5 Types of Difficult Trainees and Tips on Effective Training

Sep 2, 2022 Uncategorized

WRITTEN BY: Captain Robert Fanelli

One of the most important skills a trainer can have is the ability to adjust and adapt the training environment to the trainee. I will always argue that our goal as trainers is to provide the “best chance” for success to our trainees by giving the best training experience possible. In my years of training I have found that there are some categories of what we will call “difficult trainees”. So what are they and how do we adjust our training for success:

  • The Know-It-All Trainee– They seem confident and knowledgeable however they are tough to train because they think they have all the answers already. The trouble with this trainee is that they have an attitude of arrogance which puts up roadblocks to learning.
    • It is important that you allow this trainee to experience failure and capitalize on mistakes as learning opportunities. Focus on their decision making process and go beyond the actual decision asking them often, “Why did you decide to do that?” 
  • The Unconfident Trainee– In police work this type of trainee makes up for their lack of confidence by being rude or overly aggressive.
    • This requires a focus on empathy based training and ethics. This requires a major attitude adjustment and needs to be addressed immediately.
  • The Distracted Trainee– This type of trainee brings their home-life troubles to the job. A resulting symptom becomes difficulty communicating and concentrating that results in a Failure to Respond to Training issue.
    • Goal-setting is a critical task when responding to this type of trainee. Establish clear, simple, and achievable goals to help this type of training see their accomplishments, become goal oriented and improve their focus.
  • The Processor– This type of trainee internalizes the learning process and shows signs of “slow learning”. Their “slow learning” is not because they are unintelligent, distracted, or uncaring but it is quite the opposite. Their “slow learning” is because they are thinking through each concept taught and are being intentional in their learning of new ideas and concepts.
    • You have to be patient with this type of trainee because they often become very good employees.  Focus on the structure of training and expose them to different types of teaching techniques hitting on cognitive and sensory forms of learning styles.
  • The One Task Trainee– This type of training is overwhelmed by multi-tasking. In law enforcement this may result in officer safety issues simply because they can’t focus on investigating and maintaining tactical advantages at the same time.
    • This type of trainee should be exposed to scenario based training. Scenarios should be structured with singular goals in mind and conducted in a step-by-step approach. Focus on one element of the scenario at a time before moving to the next step.

Seek to understand the root of your trainee’s problems and work to adjust training- this is the mark of an excellent trainer. I hope this article adds to your trainer playbook. If you have other experiences, thoughts and training hacks please share!

For more great insights, check out the Southeastern Field Training Officers Association (SEFTOA).

Michael Schentrup

Captain Mike Schentrup retired in 2021 as a Bureau Commander for the Gainesville (FL) Police Department, where he had worked for almost 25 years. The majority of his career was spent in investigative units, including major case detective, gang and burglary unit sergeant, and ultimately the division commander for detectives. Captain Schentrup taught extensively in various investigative fields and is the owner/lead trainer of Advanced Police Concepts, LLC (AdvancePoliceConcepts.com). In 2020, he established the APC Online Academy, to bring the investigative curriculum to those who are unable to travel. Captain Schentrup is an accomplished instructor in both in-person and virtual formats. He is an adjunct master instructor for law enforcement for the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence and is a member of its statewide policy group. Captain Schentrup was part of End Violence Against Women’s Cadre of Experts from 2019-2023, where he instructed on trauma informed response and assisted with content development.