Law Enforcement Trainers May Benefit from the “85 Percent Rule”


According to a recent article by Sergeant Kris Allshouse in The Police Chief magazine, a new teaching style, known as the “85 Percent Rule,” is being implemented to help law enforcement trainers better convey course material or training to students and is shown to be far more effective than the traditional lecturing routine. The 85 Percent Rule focuses on letting the class learn the course material by asking the students questions that cultivate critical thinking and intellectual discussion, pushing them to discover the answers for themselves.

critical thinking

As an example, the article discusses a California police agency that chose to teach their new recruits about less-lethal munitions by allowing them hands-on experience with the devices instead of covering all the topics in lecture format. The students were told they could collaborate with their peers and were asked to examine and manipulate each launcher and the munitions provided, as well as come up with a department-wide policy regarding the use of the launchers. Even though the students were not given the information beforehand, by the end of the exercise they covered over 85% of the course material, which included agency policy, legality, nomenclature, and deployment tactics.

Instead of answering every question and reading off PowerPoint slides, the 85 Percent Rule states that instructors should be the one to ask questions of the students, playing the role of devil’s advocate. The entire class should actively participate in the discussion, allowing students to learn from their peers’ questions, insights, and opinions. Even when students do not have a substantial pool of knowledge regarding a certain topic, instructors can carefully craft questions that will stimulate critical thinking and discovery in a process known as “facilitated question mapping.” Instructors guide students to solutions while serving as a source that can stimulate their cognitive reasoning when they seem to get “stuck.”

The article reports that in order to change the current dynamic of teaching styles, instructors must start working on transferring knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSAs) instead of just giving the information to students or trying to be the entertaining instructor. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with this method of teaching, studies show that students retain the information far better and longer when they hold an interactive part in the learning process as opposed to a passive one commonly found in lecture courses.

Click here to learn more about the 85 Percent Rule and how it helped a California police agency effectively teach a less-lethal munitions course to police recruits.