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NCOA instructors help overhaul curriculum

  • Published
  • By Brian Ferguson
  • Barnes Center for Enlisted Education

Non-commissioned officer academy instructors converged on Gunter Annex, Ala., this week to learn and discuss how to develop curriculum, as the Air Force plans to update this level of enlisted professional military education next year.

The first of its kind four-day Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education workshop began Nov. 28, with the goal of increasing instructor knowledge of curriculum development to enhance the quality of future changes.

The workshop included 12 professional military educators from bases in Alaska, Germany, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Florida, and seven dedicated PME writers from the Barnes Center.

“The folks [course writers] who do this full time do a fantastic job, but instructors see students every day who bring different questions, concepts and concerns to the classroom,” Col. Anthony Babcock, Barnes Center commander, said. “We need to bring those things together.”

The workshop also gave the Barnes Center, the organization responsible for creating and providing enlisted PME to Air Force, the opportunity to “crowdsource” information and ideas directly from classroom instructors, Dr. Patricia Maggard, dean of Enlisted Professional Military Education at the Barnes Center, said.

“What we find is that it’s harder to teach something if you don’t have input,” she said. “This will allow instructors the opportunity to have that voice, as they are closer to the academy students.”

The NCO Academy is the second level of enlisted PME and develops technical sergeants who are close to entering the senior NCO tier to be professional, war-fighting Airmen who can manage and lead teams in the employment of airpower.

The new overarching curriculum for the 25-day academy will focus on developing skills necessary to be successful as a team leader, strategic thinker and joint warfighter. The current curriculum is academically sound, Maggard explained, but the Barnes Center is looking for enduring outcomes more closely tied to enhancing military readiness.

Instructors and Barnes Center staff say they want to design course material geared toward characteristics and traits NCOs need, rather than developing lessons and making them fit.

Assessments will also change, and academy students may see a reduction in speeches and written reports.

“We are also focusing on how we assess performance,” Master Sgt. Jon Reed, PME operation superintendent at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, said. “For example, is watching someone give a presentation the best way to measure leadership? We want students to demonstrate leadership, not just define it.”

The changes will come gradually over the course of 2023, as each new lesson will be evaluated individually. The Center is also looking to improve development across all enlisted ranks, so that the force is more prepared for the challenges ahead.

“People do amazing things when they are invested, and the people that are in this room right now are invested,” Reed said. “We want to make this the best it can be, because it’s going to impact thousands of NCOs and the way they operate.”

Instructors will go back to their individual bases at the end of the conference but will continue working with the Barnes Center as certified course writers.