A Mixed Method Investigation of Past Trainees’ Perceptions of a Critical Incident Situational Awareness Training Program

Abstract

In the arena of skills training for acting in complex, high-stress environments, situation awareness has been identified as a key characteristic of successful operators. The definition of situation awareness has evolved over time to include psychophysiological state management, stress inoculation, and cognitive components. This paper utilizes a mixed methods design to examine a training program, which claims to combine the aforementioned situation awareness components in protocols developed for military, law enforcement, and private security personnel. Four past participants of the training program completed in-depth, semi-structured interviews about their experience with the training. Subsequently, a training-specific survey was developed to more thoroughly investigate trainees’ experiences. Survey responses of the program’s trainees (n = 32) were compared to non-program trainees from similar fields (n = 35) on quantitative measures. Open-ended responses of the program’s trainees were qualitatively analyzed. Overall, program trainees were found to perceive the training as positively impacting their situation awareness ability in stressful/threatening situations and non-stressful situations compared to the non-program trainees. Qualitative analyses conducted with the interviews and on open-response survey items provide descriptive explanations for how the training program is perceived to be influencing situation awareness abilities.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    To investigate if the large amount of the SAS training group that were non-US nationals influenced the effects, we also compared the responses of US only nationals from each group. Fifteen participants that were US nationals had complete data for each group. No significant group differences were found for PA-S, STAI or PSS. The non-SAS group was found to perceive their performance in non-stressful situations (PS-NS) as significantly better (M = 35.47, SD = 3.78) compared to the SAS group (M = 32.33, SD = 4.22), t(28) = −2.14, p = 0.04. This effect was not found in the overall group data. Importantly, the SAS group still perceived the impact of the SAS training to be significantly better in stressful (M = 37.40, SD = 6.59), t(28) = 2.32, p = 0.03, and non-stressful (M = 30.67, SD = 6.22), t(28) = 2.38, p = 0.03, situations compared to the non-SAS group (stressful M = 31.13, SD = 8.11; non-stressful M = 24.80, SD = 7.27).

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Appendices

Appendix 1

Introductory Protocol

Could we first have you verbally confirm that you are aware that we are recording this conversation and have given us your consent to do so?

We would first like to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. As you have been informed, you were selected because of the training you have completed with Marcus Wynne. We are going to go over some logistics before we get started. Is that ok?

We want to remind you that recordings will be kept in a secure location accessible only to researchers on the project. Further, the recording will be destroyed following transcription. We also want to remind you that all information will be held confidential and that you are free to end participation at any time or refrain from answering any questions you are uncomfortable with. Finally, we will do our best not to use your name throughout the remainder of the interview to ensure confidentiality of your responses. If for any reason we slip and use your name it will be replaced with a pseudonym in the transcript.

We have planned this interview to last approximately 30–45 min. Although we have a few specific questions we’d like to ask, this interview is primarily unstructured and informal and many of our questions will evolve from the information that you provide. We will do our best to cover as much as possible in the time allotted.

Do you have any questions about the logistics? We’d like to give you a little more information about the purpose of the interview and then hear from you.

This preliminary research is aimed at exploring training participants’ experiences with training provided by Marcus Wynne. Our goal is to understand the training experience from the participant’s perspective and to utilize this information to help guide further research into the mechanisms impacted by this training. There are no right or wrong answers, and this study is primarily exploratory. We want to encourage you to be as honest as possible, and ensure you that only the themes and data that emerge from these interviews will be shared outside of the primary research team. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today.

Do you have any questions before we begin?

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Appendix 2

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O’Hare, A.J., Beer, A. A Mixed Method Investigation of Past Trainees’ Perceptions of a Critical Incident Situational Awareness Training Program. J Police Crim Psych 35, 13–34 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-018-9291-z

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Keywords

  • Situation awareness
  • State management
  • Stress inoculation
  • Cognitive skills
  • Mixed methods