Developing Critical Thinking Skills via Table-Top Exercises

Developing Critical Thinking Skills via Table-Top Exercises

← Back to Risk Management for Forensic Laboratories Webinar Series

This webinar originally occurred on August 23, 2022
Duration: 1 hour


Good decision-making in times of crisis and high stress can be the difference between success and failure. It's relatively easy to learn the routine parts of most jobs, and many problems a manager faces are just a small variation of a previous experience. It's important to prepare your leadership team to make tough decisions in real-time when a truly unique emergency strikes. When faced with a situation that defies any existing policy or experience, managers need to be ready to lead their teams and/or calmly advise and guide their own commanders. Many laboratory directors do not have access to training that will improve the critical thinking skills of their team, especially training that creates decision-making scenarios in a semi-stressful, but safe, environment. Table-top exercises are an efficient way to deliver this training.

Through table-top exercises, managers can quickly and easily develop situations that will 1) evaluate their team's preparedness level; 2) test their policies and procedures for completeness and accuracy; 3) clarify roles, responsibilities, authority, and expectations in an emergency; 4) validate disaster recovery and business continuity plans; and 5) identify weaknesses in their decision-making process. Using table-top exercises, a team’s critical thinking skills can be stretched in a controlled way, building confidence and competence to handle real-life emergencies when they emerge. This will reinforce the need to act responsibly in an emergency and give teams the confidence to do so without hesitation, when the time comes. When these exercises are conducted with a group, they naturally encourage teamwork and improve trust levels.

This presentation will share and explain table-top exercises conducted by the Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division operational leadership team. The presenter will explore the benefits of this format for encouraging a team to think outside their normal range and discuss ways attendees can build table-top exercises with their own teams. The presenter will also provide suggestions for conducting these exercises as casual training sessions which are not complicated or difficult to produce and can be completed in as little as an hour.

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. Attendees will learn to clarify roles, responsibilities, authority, and expectations for emergencies.
  2. Attendees will validate their own disaster recovery and business continuity plans and identify weaknesses in their organizational decision-making process.
  3. Attendees will learn to evaluate and improve their team's emergency preparedness levels.


  • Inspector John Bowen | Assistant Division Commander, Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division

Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence webinar has been provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this webinar are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Contact us at with any questions and subscribe to our newsletter for notifications.

Related Content

2022 Update: 3D Imaging Technologies and Virtual Comparison Microscopy for Firearms Examination, A Landscape Study

Date August 2022 Overview The National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE), led by RTI International, provides resources that promote the use of technologies in the forensic community. This report is an update to a 2016…

FLN-TWG: Updating Data Collection for Digital Evidence Casework in Project FORESIGHT

← Back to FLN-TWG Main Page  Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG) The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), in partnership with the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) at RTI International, formed the Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group…

Guidance Document on Considerations for Photographic Documentation in Sexual Assault Cases

Date August 2022 Overview Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are medical professionals with specialized training and expertise in medicine, psychology, and forensic science and are qualified to conduct sexual assault forensic examinations. During the sexual assault forensic examination, SANEs may…