Author:
Richard Barrett

In December 2018, the Commander of the Australian Defence College, Major General Mick Ryan, released the Australian Joint Professional Military Education Continuum. This continuum is designed to create ‘an enduring framework for future-proofing Australia’s intellectual edge in warfighting’.[1] Endorsed by the Chief of Defence Force and Secretary of the Department of Defence, the JPME Continuum is the authoritative document that creates a joint educational framework for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Australian Public Service. The continuum provides a sophisticated framework to develop an educational structure and standard across the joint force.

The continuum defines four core areas of study required for lifelong joint education. Each area of study builds across five levels of learning: from Professional Foundation through to National Security Leadership. Importantly, the continuum also defines the joint attributes and behaviours required within each area of study to successfully build to the next level of expertise. As such, the continuum deliberately links learning outcomes to developmental improvements in our people, and thus the ability of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to deliver strategic defence objectives as directed by government. This comprehensive approach is a critical component to the ongoing journey, started by General John Baker, to make the ADF a truly joint organisation.

The continuum uses the Australian Council of Professions’ definition of a profession as ‘a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards and who are accepted as possessing special knowledge and skills.’[2] Throughout the document, the continuum emphasises the professional nature of the ADF. As professionals, the document outlines the requirement for Defence Force members to maintain a ‘commitment to continuous learning and honing skills, knowledge and practice.’ The continuum further identifies the requirement for personnel to pursue ‘intellectual development throughout their career’ and to ‘foster a behaviour and culture of continuous learning and intellectual curiosity.’ However, such a culture is hard to generate without organisational support and an individual’s drive to achieve professional mastery.

A Lot of Professional Development Without Structure – Defence’s JPME Problem

The majority of professional development within Defence remains primarily based on structured collective training packages. Many of these packages rely on physical student attendance, with students receiving training delivered by instructors. Attendance at these professional development courses and training events is an integral and accepted part of service life. . In addition to this, there are significant training and educational offerings available online, on CAMPUS, or through civilian courses with financial assistance via the Defence Assisted Study Scheme. Such offerings could be better supported through small group and individual development programs.

While professional development does occur within units; with command led training opportunities, reading lists and discussions; these non-structured offerings vary between units. Nor are there significant supporting frameworks to help guide such non-structured offerings. Given this, these non-structured professional development opportunities are often undertaken at different rates by different units, sub-units, and individuals.. Although there is a vibrant online community discussing current military trends, challenges and historical examples; such communities are small. Essentially, there is a lot of professional development going on within Defence. There are also a lot of opportunities. However, it has no structure. There is no framework to tie an individual’s learning journey to their own professional development and the broader professional continuum.

Many members of Defence do conduct additional learning and professional development outside these defined offerings. However there is no Defence wide framework to structure, encourage and indeed verify that all members engage in a process of life-long, or at least career-long, continuous learning as a member of their profession. 

An Australian Defence Organisation Continuous Professional Development program.

The development of an Australian Defence Organisation Continuous Professional Development (CPD) program would provide a structure that links the formal training and educational offerings with the individual learning journey of its members. Currently, Defence mandates attendance at career and specialist courses for ADF personnel. The Department also encourages attendance on professional development courses for the Australian Public Service (APS). However, Defence does not mandate that continuous professional development occurs, nor provides a mechanism to track and manage such development.

Individual responsibility is the missing part in the JPME Continuum, ADF doctrine and many other nations’ learning publications. The United States Marine Corps Doctrine Publication (MCDP) 7 Learning[3] identifies that learning is a professional responsibility that must be conducted throughout an individual’s career. Yet the document does not define how that continuous learning journey can be managed. Publications such as the JPME Continuum and ADF Doctrine[4] are disseminated by the strategic centre, but do not include a feedback mechanism to ensure continuous individual learning. MCDP 7 describes the responsibility of the person to conduct continuous learning, but it too falls short of creating a mechanism for verification and command support. MCDP 7 employs the very relevant example of mission command: the requirement for a commander to define a subordinate’s mission, but enable the subordinate to define the means. However, mission command also requires the commander to check that the mission is being conducted. Furthermore, mission command can quickly disintegrate without adequate back-briefs and confirmation checks to generate trust and ensure that a task is completed. Mission command entails both a trust and a ‘verify’ requirement. Many JPME continuums around the world appear to be missing this verify requirement.

Most civilian professions require their members to conduct ongoing continuous professional development. Professions such as medicine, engineering, and law each include a defined, but flexible, CPD requirement.[5] This requirement is normally of between 10-50 hours per year that must be recorded by the individual and produced on request to the professional body if an audit is required.[6] Indeed, many Defence members already undertake these CPD requirements as a part of their additional professions such as medicine and engineering. Arguably, there should be a similar requirement for members of the Profession of Arms.

Defence can, and should, ‘close the loop’ on the requirement for continuous learning through a mandatory CPD program. Such a program would enable the ‘verify’ element of mission command, enable the individual to set their own learning journey, and support supervisor and individual discussions. An initial method of achieving this ‘verify’ element could be conducted as a part of the extant annual reporting process. Many members and their supervisors already establish individual learning goals for the year. However, this approach is currently unstructured and inconsistent. A formal CPD framework would enable each member, supported by their supervisor, to define the professional development goals for the year at the start of the report. Throughout the year the member would conduct the identified experiences, training, and opportunities. The individual would then reflect on each event’s relevance to their professional learning and records it in a CPD journal. At the end of the reporting period the supervisor engages with the member to ensure that the training has been done. Together, they can collaboratively explore each event’s, and the collective experiences, impact, meaning and implications. Such an approach provides both guidance to learning and structure to reflection, thereby reinforcing the JPME’s areas of study and levels of learning.

The JPME Continuum provides a structure for professional development and reflection. The four core study areas (National Security Policy and Strategy; Command, Leadership and Ethics; Joint Warfare; and Technology and Capability) provide a framework for guided individual learning. The level of analysis required for each area of study is already specified within the document by rank or experience level. As a minimum, an individual’s CPD Record should be structured to reflect how their development activities relate to the JPME’s four core study areas.[7] Such a CPD framework may also guide effort within each area of study.

Structuring a Defence CPD Framework – Leveraging Best Practice

The structure of the CPD framework can also leverage civilian best practice. As an example, the Engineers Australia CPD requirement sets out an example CPD Record that captures, as a minimum: Risk Management; Business and Management; and Related Areas of Practice. Critically, the Engineers Australia CPD Record clearly defines the requirement to not only conduct CPD, but to reflect on how that learning has extended the Engineer’s knowledge.

Ref

Date

Type

CPD activity / topic / provider

How activity has extended knowledge

Risk Management

Business & Management

Related Area of Practice

Hours

 

Minimum: 10 hours

Minimum: 15 hours

Minimum: 50 hours

 

 

The reflection requirement of a CPD program is critical in closing the learning cycle. Reflection enables an individual to consider how a period of training, education, personal reading, discussion contribution and, most importantly, regular workplace experience relates to their broader professional growth. The reflection component of a CPD program is critical in conceptually synthesising the individual’s experiences with their professional development, or what John Dewey defined as the experiential continuum.[8]

The methods for achieving CPD for each individual will be almost infinitely variable. But some simple methods will provide an excellent start point. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Gilchrist provides a succinct example in his article ‘Why We Read’ in The Cove.[9] He notes:

            If a soldier, having completed ab initio training, were to read 20 pages of professional development material each day, she would be reading 140 pages each week and 280 pages between pay days. This equates to roughly 25 books a year and 500 books over a 20-year career. The cumulative impact of this knowledge is immense, particularly when compared to colleagues who might read only one or two books each year. Indeed, after only a few years, the knowledge gained from such a small investment would be almost impossible for peers to match.

The Law Society of Australia identifies various ways to gain meet their CPD requirements:

            These include seminars, workshops, lectures, conference, discussion groups, multimedia or web-based programs, private study of audio/visual material, postgraduate study, research, preparation and editing of articles, membership and attendance at committees of professional bodies, successful completion of specialist accreditation assessment process, preparation and presentation of seminars.[10]

The options available for any Defence member to achieve their CPD requirements are similarly expansive. Within Defence, the requirement is individual engagement with their profession. This requires personal motivation to participate in ongoing learning. Such motivation helps develop the necessary mental discipline to regularly translate t activities and experiences to into reflective learning. An Australian Defence Organisation’s CPD program could support this by achieving the following effects:

  • Assist Defence members to develop their own individual learning strategies
  • Assist Defence members to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses, seek areas of study to improve on, and to sustain strengths.
  • Provide a forum and a catalyst to reflect on experience, and then link that experience back to their learning journey. For instance, attendance at a major exercise could be reflected on, using the four core study areas, where the member then identifies where their role fits into the broader Defence mission (Strategy/Policy); has experienced Command/Lead/Manage challenges; conducted Joint Warfighting components; and utilised Capabilities and technologies. 

As mentioned above, much like many civilian professions, many day-to-day activities within Defence could be utilised as evidence for the CPD. If a member conducts a technical or promotion course, much of the CPD needs would be met for that year. If a member participates in unit training, that could be reflected in a CPD journal. Reading, blogging, contributing to publications would all be excellent evidence. The critical component of a CPD approach is the requirement for the individual to ‘land’ their experiences, reading and contributions back into a learning journey. It therefore records the experience more deeply, and consciously embodies them as learning experiences.

Conclusion

The development of an Australian Defence Organisation CPD program would ‘close the loop’ on the requirement for continuous learning as a member of the Profession of Arms. Such a program requires each member to identify their interests, strengths and weaknesses, and then seek opportunities to grow their professional expertise. With the guidance and coaching of their supervisor, a CPD program facilitates a self-directed learning journey, where new experiences are sought, and regular work experiences are reflected upon and internalised as learning. This does not need to be an onerous imposition, as the majority of members within Defence already engage in their own development. However, the formal adoption of a Defence-wide CPD program would help structure learning and motivate all our people to become more actively engaged in their own career-long development.

A Defence CPD program will close the loop on the requirement for continual improvement, and help in the development of an Australian Defence intellectual edge.

 

Some Australian CPD Resources as a start point:

The Central Blue - http://centralblue.williamsfoundation.org.au/

The Cove - https://cove.army.gov.au/  

Grounded Curiosity - https://groundedcuriosity.com/

The Forge - https://theforge.defence.gov.au/

The Runway https://runway.airforce.gov.au/

Sea Power Centre https://www.navy.gov.au/spc-a

Reading Lists:

Chief of Navy Reading List: https://www.navy.gov.au/media-room/publications/cn-resource-list-2019

Australian Army Reading List: https://researchcentre.army.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-12/army_reading_list_190328_combined_lo_res.pdf

Royal Australian Air Force Reading List: http://airpower.airforce.gov.au/Resources/CAF-Reading-List

Commander Australian Defence College Reading List: https://theforge.defence.gov.au/digital-library

 

Colonel Richard Barrett is an officer in the Australian Army, serving as the Director of Joint Processional Military Education at the Australian Defence College. His previous appointment was the Director Global Operations at Headquarters, Joint Operations Command. He has extensive experience in command, staff, operations, and training appointments.

 

[1] Commonwealth of Australia, The Australian Joint Professional Military Education Continuum, Defence Publishing Service, 2019, p. 1. 

[2] Australian Council of Professions 2018, What is a professional? www.professions.com.au, accessed Apr 2020; also found at Professional Standards Council, https://www.psc.gov.au/what-is-a-profession accessed Apr 2020.

[3] Marine Corps Doctrine Publication 7 Learning, accessed at https://www.marines.mil/Portals/1/Publications/MCDP%207.pdf?ver=2020-03-30-071343-193 Apr 2020

[4] Australian Defence Doctrine Publication 7 Learning 2011 , currently being updated and in draft.

 

[7] Each of the services may utilise slightly different frameworks as they saw fit, but ones that should broadly examine how the individual’s experience and learning fits into the larger Defence mission.

[8] Concept taken from Dewey, J., Experience and Education, accessed online http://www.schoolofeducators.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/EXPERIENCE-EDUCATION-JOHN-DEWEY.pdf, p.12