Developing Principles of Outcome-based Education Based on the Basic Rifle Marksmanship Training Syllabus


  • Allar Eesmaa
  • Svetlana Ganina




basic rifle marksmanship training syllabus, syllabus, curriculum, curriculum evaluation, curriculum development, Defense Forces


Conscription and the reserve army is one way the Estonian Defence Forces guarantees national military protection. Therefore, the conscript and the efficiency of his training play a crucial role in preparing for the enforcement of defence related tasks of national importance. General Knud Bartels said in Kosovo that basic skills, weapon handling, shooting skills and first aid skills are the most important skills for a soldier. Effective use of small arms and equipment is a prerequisite for successful combat. As there is currently no common ground document (syllabus) for basic rifle marksmanship training, there is inconsistency between rifle and shooting training provided by the Estonian Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League. Learning materials for rifle training and shooting exercises do not cover live fire exercise skills, which are of critical and major importance for a shooter. The shooting skills level has been previously addressed in the theses of the Estonian National Defence College Military Academy. The papers brought out that the shooting skills level in both the Defence Forces and the Defence League remains low and needs to be improved. Feedback from live fire exercises of the Battle School point to weak weapon handling skills and low hit rate (one in 10 shots hit a stationary target) among shooters. The Military Intelligence Battalion (today the Estonian Special Operations Force) in its presentation to the Commander of the Defence Forces on the state of play in shooting training indicated that the current shooting training and personal equipment do not provide sufficient support for the combat efficiency of soldiers. In order to improve the present situation and further develop shooting training, a special staff officer was employed in the Training Department (J7) of the Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces. Due to insufficient human and time resources, however, improvements in the shooting training have not been fast enough. The aim of this study is to develop a syllabus for basic rifle marksmanship training and evaluate the efficiency of its implementation. The paper includes an analysis of the efficiency of the basic rifle marksmanship training (analysis of both the Syllabus as well as its learning outcomes) and suggestions on the implementation of the work and for further research. The research paper does not reflect on the study methods nor study content used in specific classes. The efficiency of the above-mentioned aspects would need to be studied in future research. The research has been prepared in close cooperation with the Training Department of the Headquarters of the Defence Forces to improve the overall weapon handling and shooting skills of the Estonian Defence Forces and the Defence League. During the first phase of the research, a working group was formed who also set the final goal – namely, after completing the Syllabus, the learner is familiar enough with safe, efficient and tactically proper weapon handling practices to take skilful action as a unit member during live fire and field exercises. For the assessment of skills level, a number of Estonian and international research papers on shooting skills were examined. Right sight picture, stable shooting position, breath control and trigger pressing technique have been identified as the basic skills of a shooter. In addition, shooting skills tests of special military units of the Estonian Defence Forces, Estonian Police and Border Guard Board from the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, Poland and Germany were studied. Finally a list of 21 skills that a shooter must have obtained before taking part in a live fire exercise was compiled. On the basis of selected skills, the following four learning outcomes were defined: 1. Handles a weapon with safety in every situation; 2. Applies the principles of tactical weapon handling; 3. Hits the target quickly and with precision in different situations; 4. Reflects on (analyses, reasons) his own weapon handling skills. Assessment criteria were developed from the learning outcomes. Subsequently, the criteria were grouped into three tests. Test 1 is about weapon handling and gun safety. Test 2 is used for the formative assessment of weapon handling and shooting skills. Most important, however, is the evaluation of Test 3 as it measures all the above-named four skills and assesses the soldier’s readiness for live fire exercises. All tests were subjected to validation and pilot tests were carried out in various subunits of the Defence Forces. After feedback assessment, corrections were made to the Syllabus. Subsequently, the Syllabus project was developed and subjected to validation and pilot tests among active servicemen of the Kuperjanov Infantry Battalion (21 participants) and officers of the Non-commissioned Officers’ School of the Estonian National Defence College (63 participants). Again, feedback was analysed and further corrections made to the Curriculum. Next, the Syllabus was tested among two groups (Test Group and Control Group) of main draft conscripts of the Kuperjanov Infantry Battalion. Conscripts in the Control Group (130 shooters) were taught using the existing weapon handling and shooting training curriculum while conscripts in the Test Group (150 shooters) followed the newly developed Syllabus. Learning outcomes of the two groups were compared against Test 3 results, as the test measures all the above-mentioned four learning outcomes (safety, accuracy of fire, efficiency and self-reflection). Following the testing, the Syllabus was assessed against the following four assessment criteria: results of the final evaluation, feedback from shooters, feedback from instructors, and classroom observation summary. Ultimately, suggestions for future research and on the implementation of the new Syllabus were made. The potential impact of group membership on soldiers’ weapon handling skills, conforming to the four learning outcomes, was controlled with a chi square test. It emerged that the group membership has impact on safe (p=6,6*10–5 ( χ2 = 15,90, df = 1, p <0,001)) and efficient (p=3,4*10–11 (χ2 = 43,95, df = 1, p <0,001)) weapon handling but not on the accuracy of fire (test 3 result; p=1,0*10–2 (χ2 = 6,58, df = 1, p>0,001); also existing shooting skills test showed that there is no difference in accuracy (p=1,7*10–2 (χ2 = 5,69, df = 1, p>0,001)). The fourth learning outcome (selfreflection) could not be assessed in the current paper as it came out during the classroom observation that instructors did not bring out the self-reflection aspect during Test 3. As a result, the self-reflection requirement was added to the Test 3 assessment guide. Considering that the shooters in the Control Group reflected upon their own performance, it could be assumed that the Test Group would have done that as well. In view of the above information, it is possible to claim that in comparison to the current firearms and shooting training, studying under the new Basic Rifle Marksmanship Training Syllabus creates conditions for safer and more efficient weapon handling. Therefore, the proposed Syllabus provides better support to the shooters’ skills development than the existing study programme. In order to evaluate the functioning of the new programme as a whole, the following four aspects were considered: learning outcomes, feedback from students, feedback from instructors and classroom observation summary. From the analysis of the four core elements (learning outcome, feedback from students, feedback from instructors and classroom observation summary) on the functioning of the programme, it is possible to conclude that studying under the new Basic Rifle Marksmanship Training Syllabus is more efficient in equipping the shooter with proper weapon handling skills during live fire exercises than following the current Curriculum. The results received demonstrated that the Basic Rifle Marksmanship Training Syllabus is well-functioning and that the final evaluation (Test 3) is appropriate for assessing a student’s attainment of the learning outcomes and readiness for live fire exercises.


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