For the emerging leaders who will guide policing in Canada in the next decade, there is perhaps no more fitting challenge than that of the “constructivism” that underlies PBL. There are no easy answers, there are few if any “experts” who can point the way, and it is more critical than ever before that the police community collectively examine itself in relationship to the “subject matter” of a changing Canada in a changing world.
Much has been written and studied about the nature of knowledge and information in the post-modern world. Sociologist and humanist Jurgen Habermas (1984) identified the three forms of intentional learning as instrumental (learning to control and manipulate one's tools, technologies and environment), communicative (learning to understand the meaning of what is being communicated in social discourse), and emancipatory or critical-reflective (learning to understand oneself and one's own perspectives on life and its myriad experiences). There is little doubt that instrumental learning will continue to hold an important place in police, military and technological environments, as time-proven knowledge, science and procedural skills must be efficiently passed on to new generations of professionals. But, with the rapid obsolescence of socio-cultural knowledge amid constantly shifting and increasingly global political and economic realities, it is increasingly essential that leaders in these fields continue to advance their ability to learn in the other two domains. This challenge is the foundation upon which ISIS was created.
The ISIS learning model combines the principles and practices of problem-based learning (PBL), experiential learning design, interpretive social science research, and computer-mediated conferencing.
Participants in ISIS are engaged in a dedicated online learning forum over a period of several months where they challenge one another, share career insights and experiences, and contribute to collective knowledge construction related to their assigned theme. The full team comes together for its first week-long residential working session in February, where experts from policing, public policy and academia engage with the team and offer informed perspectives on the research theme.
In parallel, with the help of a research coach, the team must interpret and refine its assigned topic and develop new abilities to target and conduct its field studies within a disciplined research framework. Global scanning and site selection work begins early and extends through the online periods and the first two workshops. By the second workshop in March, after additional expert inputs and practice exercises, the team will have refined its study plan to the extent that it can be presented to a VIP panel representing the leadership community. The panel offers guidance and commentary on the focus of the team's studies.
Field studies of about 12 days duration are conducted during the months of April and May in sub-teams. Each sub-team is responsible to focus its efforts on areas identified and approved by the full team as part of the overall study plan, and to capture and synthesize its findings as much as possible during and after the study tours. The full team assembles again in late May, and the true challenge of PBL emerges as the team attempts to draw collective and meaningful inferences from the large and disparate body of field study findings. By Friday morning of the final week, the full team must be ready to present its preliminary findings and recommendations to an invited panel representing the CACP Executive.
In the weeks following the May workshop, a volunteer sub-team with representation from each of the study teams works to refine the team's findings and to compose the final report and other communication products. ISIS culminates with a live presentation before the assembled CACP membership during the Annual Conference, delivered by volunteer members of the full ISIS team.