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Comparing the effects of academy training models on recruit competence: does curriculum instruction type matter?

Richard H. Donohue (RAND Corporation, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Nathan E. Kruis (Penn State Altoona, Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 30 December 2020

Issue publication date: 27 May 2021




The purpose of this paper is to determine if a police academy using adult learning techniques instills higher levels of perceived competence in recruits than an academy using traditional pedagogical methods.


The study took advantage of a timeframe when two academy models using different approaches to learning were employed in Massachusetts. Recruits (N = 97) were surveyed before entering the academy and just prior to graduation to assess their levels of perceived competence across three domains of training topics (i.e. “Policing in Massachusetts,” “Investigations” and “Patrol Procedures”).


Results were mixed in terms of the academy model's effects on recruit competence levels. In terms of investigations, participants experienced a greater level of growth in an adult-learning setting. Regarding general topics grouped into the “Policing in Massachusetts” category, such as constitutional law, recruits taught with traditional pedagogy experienced more growth. For patrol procedures, taught using similar hands-on methods, results showed comparable levels of growth for all recruits over time. Overall, recruits in both the traditional and adult-learning-based academy experienced similar growth trajectories in self-perceived levels of competence. Findings suggest that a mixed approach to training may provide optimal results for police recruits.


Prior research on academy curricula has been limited to cross-sectional analyses. Further, little effort has been made to analyze the impacts of academy training from an andrological and/or “adult learning” theoretical lens. This study evaluated the effects of a new, overhauled recruit academy curriculum over time to expand the literature in both of these areas.



Donohue, R.H. and Kruis, N.E. (2021), "Comparing the effects of academy training models on recruit competence: does curriculum instruction type matter?", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 44 No. 3, pp. 361-376.



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