Nowadays in the annals of academia and in the wards of professional schools, there is a commotion about the concept of lifelong learning and adult education in designing program curricula and in defining degree requirements. The former is generally defined as the process of acquiring knowledge or skills throughout life via education, training, work and general life experiences. The latter is generally defined as the art and science of teaching adult learners, also known as andragogy.
Much of what the fire service relies on in terms of knowledge derives from experience, not empirical research conducted by trained scientists in academic settings. We often hear fire service personnel saying in response to a complex problem, “This is how we do it around here.” Lately, however, the fire service has evolved from an occupation into a profession; a discipline that demands more complexity in the skills, ability and knowledge acquired in academic and formal training settings.
We all know of someone who has taken fire science courses at a two-year college; taken courses at state and local fire training academies and through the National Fire Academy (NFA); and achieved various levels of certification. However, these combined achievements have not evolved in a coherent and planned path. The professional development inherent in these combined achievements is usually uncoordinated and fragmented, resulting in duplications of effort and inefficiencies for students. Although the fire service offers numerous certifications, education and training entities, not all of them collaborate with one another. Most fire service agencies adhere to the same standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), but their application of the standards varies, as funding and local politics vary.