Holistic professional military development : growing strategic artists : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Professional military education is a well‐established system in most modern militaries.
Like all things though, incremental and ad hoc improvements to legacy approaches
typically lead to reduced quality. It is therefore, essential to periodically review the
entire system for holistic effectiveness. For military education, this need is particularly
important when the global security environment is experiencing such rapid change.
Added to this is the emerging understanding of the ‘new sciences’ that provides a
unique opportunity to improve cognitive agility when confronting complex adaptive
systems. There is also an urgent need to acknowledge and enhance the intangible
dimension of professional military education beyond mere content‐centric subject
expertise. From the literature on hidden learning and constructivism, there are a
number of opportunities available for modernizing the legacy paradigm of professional
This study investigated the role of holistic learning (formal, non‐formal, informal, selfdirected,
and incidental learning) in the professional development of 29 mid‐career
military officers. It involved detailed study of their participation on the seven‐month
staff course at the New Zealand Defence College from May to December 2008. Mixed
methodology data collection included observations, interviews, questionnaires, focus
groups, and document analysis. Analytic procedures ranged from statistical
comparisons through to qualitative theme constructs. The study found a number of
dimensions (sources and influences) contributing to holistic learning. It also identified a
number of opportunities to improve the learning experience.
The findings identify a number of important factors in developing strategic artists. Of
these, the greatest need is for a strategic plan to extend the current content‐centric
syllabus into a full curriculum with intangible traits clearly linked to formal and
informal learning activities. Specific components required in this strategic plan include
an academic philosophy and a cross‐referencing matrix. The study also recommends
reviewing time allocated to cross‐discipline learning of the profession and cognitive
agility focused on deep learning. There is also a need to re‐examine the directing staff
requirements, management of learner stress, and shaping practical‐value motivation
strategies through cultural artefacts. Collectively, the findings recommend shifting
from the traditional vessel‐filling paradigm of formal courses to a sociological
approach of growing strategic leaders.