Improving Defence’s understanding and application of the SADL

Author: Group Captain Cameron Neill
Director, Defence Education, Learning and Training Authority

67% believe they need to improve their understanding of SADL.

An ineffective understanding and application of the Systems Approach to Defence Learning (SADL) method will jeopardise the ability to deliver outstanding, high-quality training and education that generates a competitive advantage for Defence.

What is SADL?

The SADL uses the ADDIE systems approach to learning. It incorporates five phases: Analyse, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate, and their inherent processes and products consistent with an instructional design method. It aims to apply consistent processes across the Defence organisation to produce cost-effective, results-oriented learning solutions to new and existing performance requirements. It supports the principle that Defence Learning and Development activities develop Defence capability by preparing the work force for the roles, duties and tasks assigned and anticipated.

Why we did the research

Understanding the current SADL gaps in knowledge and application skills, and how best to support them has been identified as the leading priority to be resolve by Defence. As such, this project requires a more in-depth discovery phase building on previous interviews and workshops run by DELTA and ADFTSS that aimed at uncovering the needs of users. This work was conducted from 2016 through to 2022.

Those surveyed will directly affect the creation, improvement, and enhancement of up to 6,800 courses in the next two years, a third of which will be new courses requiring a new LMP. Their knowledge and application skills will directly affect Defence capability.

While there is a sound understanding and application of the system approach to Defence learning (SADL) method across the groups and services, the underpinning enterprise products and training accessibility it not optimised to meet the emerging needs of the Defence Learning Environment.

The initial discovery phase identified three key insights:

  1. There is an organisational gap with the understanding and application of the SADL not the system itself.
  2. Greater access to resources and support at point of need is required.
  3. Three key user personas (Leader, Expert and Trainer) have been identified and validated.

The survey aims

The survey aimed to determine what is the solution to best deliver the outcomes of better understanding and application of the SADL. Is it more accessible training? A portal? Decisioning support tool? A better guide? Is it best aimed at our Leaders, Experts or Trainers?

544 respondents

Feedback was quantified in a survey of 544 respondents across Air Force, Navy, Army, Joint and APS, segmented by Leader, Expert and Trainer. It benchmarked participants confidence in their SADL knowledge and ability to apply it. It also sought to quantify the importance of different resources to each segment and service.

66% of all respondents thought it necessary to improve their ability to apply the SADL method.

Overview of key results

Army respondents were 45% of the total, 20% from Navy and 12% from Air Force. Joint, APS and industry contractors made up 16% of the total. Respondents were asked if they identified with being either 1) a SADL phase authority or Training school commander, 2) a training advisor, expert, training or learning specialist and so classed as an ‘Expert’, 3) an educator, instructor, trainer, or facilitator and therefore classed as a ‘Trainer’ or 4) Other.

Leaders were 7% of participants, Experts were 50% and trainers were 43%. Figure 1 shows the persona breakdown across Air force, Navy, Army, Joint and APS.

Graph of respondant breakdown: 50% Experts, 43% trainers, 7% leaders

Figure 1. Breakdown of respondents by service and persona.

Leader: SADL phase authority or Training school commander.
Expert: Training advisor, expert, training or learning specialist.
Trainer: Educator, instructor, trainer, or facilitator.

Of those that rated themselves having no idea of how to apply SADL or ambitious beginners 61% were Trainers and 26% were Experts. They rated themselves this way predominantly in the Analyse (100%) and Evaluate (77%) phases. To learn more about each persona (leader, Expert and Trainer) and the results of the survey into their knowledge and ability to apply across each phase and the elements of support they believed important use the links below.

Leader persona Expert persona Trainer persona

70% of Experts have strong knowledge and expertise in SADL.

Whilst at an individual level their knowledge and understand and ability to apply SADL differed across various phases [see infographics on each persona] 70% of Experts across all services had a strong theoretical and working knowledge of SADL and considered themselves having a working knowledge or seasoned expert when applying SADL.

66% of Trainers are strong in the implement phase.

Only half of Trainers across all services believed that had a working knowledge of how to apply SADL. One third considered themselves ambitious beginners and around one in ten believed they were seasoned experts.

What support do we need?

Respondents were asked to rate the importance of a range of support options. Whilst more than 70 to 80% rated all options as important or somewhat important, more than half of Navy rated Guide reference book, Open training ADELE, Network of experts or SMEs, A portal of Info and knowledge and a Decisioning tool to mitigate risk as very important to improve their current level of SADL understanding and application. This reflected other services as seen in Figure 2 below.

complex breakdown of survey fogures

Figure 2. How respondents across all services rated the importance of various support elements.

What’s in the full report

The full 44-page report provides an overview of the research journey beginning with the policy review in 2016, ADFTSS framing discussions and the survey and results. This was followed by a workshop which aimed to provide a perspective on solution design. It explored challenges, pain points and solution ideas for each persona.

  • Executive summary.
  • The problem statement.
  • Research phase overview.
  • Policy review, framing discussions and research.
  • Results of the workshop on solution design.
  • Challenges, pain points and ideas from each persona.

See the full report on ADELE(O:S)