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Chapter 4 | The Teaching Process

Chapter 4

The Teaching Process


Bob, an aviation maintenance instructor, arrives thirty minutes before a scheduled class to prepare for the lesson he plans to present that day. A quick visual scan tells him the classroom is well lit, the desks are in order, and the room presents a neat overall appearance. He places his lecture notes on the podium, checking to make sure they are all there and in the correct order. Then, he turns on the computer and projector to ensure the audio visual components are working correctly. A quick run of his visual presentation reassures him this portion of his lecture is ready. Next, he counts the handouts he plans to distribute to the class. By now, students are beginning to filter into the classroom. With his preparations made, Bob is free to greet the students, chat with them socially, or answer any questions they might have about the previous class.

Today’s class is Bob’s introductory lecture on aircraft weight and balance. Using a software program, he has created a slide show featuring examples of safety problems caused by out-of-balance aircraft. He uses these images to introduce the class to the importance of aircraft weight and balance in safe flying. Then, Bob teaches the class how to compute weight and balance for a generic aircraft. To reinforce the lecture, Bob divides the class into small groups and distributes the handouts which contain sample weight and balance problems. Working as a group, the students solve the first weight and balance problem. During this time, Bob and the students freely discuss how to figure weight and balance for that particular aircraft. Once the problem is solved, Bob reiterates the steps used to calculate weight and balance. Now Bob assigns another problem to the students to be solved independently in the class. After each student complete this assignment, Bob is confident they will be able to successfully complete the remaining three weight and balance problems as homework for the next class.

By using a combination of teaching methods (lecture, group learning, and discussion) and instructional aids (audio/visual and handouts), Bob achieves his instructional objective, which is for the students to learn how to compute weight and balance. In order to present the lesson on weight and balance, Bob has taken the theoretical information presented in previous chapters—concepts and principles pertinent to human behavior, how people learn, and effective communication—into the classroom. He has turned this knowledge into practical knowledge utilized in the teaching process. Drawing on previously discussed theoretical knowledge, this chapter discusses specific recommendations on how to use this information to teach aviation students.

What Is Teaching?

Teaching is to instruct or train someone, or the profession of someone who teaches. Someone who teaches is, of course, a teacher or, for the purposes of this handbook, an instructor. Measured in number of people in the profession, teaching is one of the world’s largest professions. To be a teacher implies one has completed some type of formal training, has specialized knowledge, has been certified or validated in some way, and adheres to a set of standards of performance. Defining a “good instructor” has proven more elusive, but in The Essence of Good Teaching (1985), psychologist Stanford C. Ericksen wrote “good teachers select and organize worthwhile course material, lead students to encode and integrate this material in memorable form, ensure competence in the procedures and methods of a discipline, sustain intellectual curiosity, and promote how to learn independently.”

Essential Teaching Skills

Much research has been devoted to trying to discover what makes a “good” or effective instructor. This research has revealed that effective instructors come in many forms, but they generally possess four essential teaching skills: people skills, subject matter expertise, management skills, and assessment skills. [Figure 4-1]

Figure 4-1. A good aviation instructor organizes worthwhile course material and ensures competence in the procedures and methods used to promote learning.

People Skills

People skills are the ability to interact, talk, understand, empathize, and connect with people. Effective instructors relate well to people. Communication, discussed in Chapter 3, Effective Communication, underlies people skills. It is important for instructors to remember:

  • Technical knowledge is useless if the instructor fails to communicate it effectively.

  • The two-way process of effective communication means actively listening to the student, as well as teaching him or her.

In the previous scenario, Bob uses the guided group discussion period to listen to his students discuss the weight and balance problem. By listening to their discussion and questions, he can pinpoint problem areas and explain them more fully during the review of the solved problem.

People skills also include the ability to interact respectfully with students, pick up when students are not following along, motivate students to learn, and adapt to the needs of the student when necessary. Another important people skill used by effective instructors is to challenge students intellectually while supporting their efforts to learn. Effective instructors also display enthusiasm for their subject matter and express themselves clearly. The willingness to look for ways to match student learning styles to personal instructional style is another element of effective instruction.

Subject Matter Expertise

A subject matter expert (SME) is a person who possesses a high level of expertise, knowledge, or skill in a particular area. For example, the instructor in the opening scenario is an aviation maintenance SME.

Effective instructors are not only knowledgeable about aviation, they are also knowledgeable about teaching. As mentioned earlier, possession of a high level of technical knowledge does not equate to the ability to teach it. An effective instructor possesses a strong motivation to teach, as well as a positive attitude toward learning. Research into how people learn has been ongoing for almost one hundred years. This handbook is a compilation of that research and is designed to help aviation instructors become experts in the field of education.

Effective instructors have a sincere interest in learning and professional growth. There are a number of professional development opportunities for aviation instructors, such as Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seminars, industry conventions, professional organizations, and online classes. Networking with and observing other instructors to learn new strategies is also helpful. By being a lifelong learner, the aviation professional remains current in both aviation and education. This topic is explored more thoroughly in Chapter 9, Professional Development.

Management Skills

Management skills generally include the ability to plan, organize, lead, and supervise. For the effective instructor, these skills are reflected in the ability to plan, organize, and carry out a lesson. A well-planned lesson means the instructor is also practicing time management skills and ensures the time allocated for the lesson is well used. As discussed in Chapter 1, Human Behavior, the average age of aviation students is 34 years old. Unlike younger students, no law requires they attend school, they are paying for the training, and they expect the instructor to make wise use of their time.

To manage time well, it is important that an instructor look at the time available and plan how to use the time to achieve the lesson goals. An effective instructor understands what can be realistically achieved within the allotted time, makes the best use of the time available, allows enough time for what must be done, preserves contingency time to handle the unexpected, and minimizes stress by not planning too much for the allotted time.

Management skills also come into play for the aviation instructor who is teaching a class of students. For this instructor, effective management of the classroom promotes learning. Consider the opening scenario in which Bob arrived early for the class and ensured the classroom was well lit, the desks in order, and that the room presented a neat overall appearance. He also made sure the computer and projector were in working order. These steps contribute to a positive learning environment.

Another management skill that enhances the effectiveness of aviation instructors is supervision of the students. For the flight instructor, this may entail overseeing the preflight procedures. For the maintenance instructor, this may mean monitoring the replacement of a carburetor. While it is important to provide hands-on tasks in the lesson plan to engage students in active learning, it is also important to ensure the tasks are completed safely and correctly. 

Assessment Skills

In Chapter 2, The Learning Process, learning was defined as “a change in the behavior of the learner as a result of experience. The behavior can be physical and overt, or it can be intellectual or attitudinal.” This change is measurable and therefore can be assessed.

Assessment of learning is a complex process and it is important to be clear about the purposes of the assessment. There are several points at which assessments can be made: before training, during training, and after training. Learning assessment is another important skill of an effective instructor. [Figure 4-2] This topic is discussed in detail in Chapter 5, Assessment.

Figure 4-2. An effective instructor uses a variety of tools to evaluate how students learn, as well as what they know.

Instructor’s Code of Conduct

While many of the characteristics of effective instructors discussed in the previous paragraphs hold true for any instructor, the aviation instructor has the added responsibility of molding an aviation citizen—a pilot or maintenance technician the instructor feels confident will be an asset to the rest of the aviation community. The following code describes the concept of an aviation citizen.

An aviation instructor needs to remember he or she is teaching a pilot or technician who should:

  • Make safety the number one priority,

  • Develop and exercise good judgment in making decisions,

  • Recognize and manage risk effectively,

  • Be accountable for his or her actions,

  • Act with responsibility and courtesy,

  • Adhere to prudent operating practices and personal operating parameters, and

  • Adhere to applicable laws and regulations.

In addition, the Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) needs to remember he or she is teaching a pilot who should:

  • Seek proficiency in control of the aircraft,

  • Use flight deck technology in a safe and appropriate way,

  • Be confident in a wide variety of flight situations, and

  • Be respectful of the privilege of flight.

The teaching process organizes the material an instructor wishes to teach in such a way that the learner understands what is being taught. The teaching process consists of four steps: preparation, presentation, application, and assessment. Regardless of the teaching or training delivery method used, the teaching process remains the same. To be effective, an instructor utilizes people skills, subject matter expertise, management skills, and assessment skills.

This chapter explores the teaching process in general terms of how to prepare, present, apply, and assess lesson material. Teaching methods or training delivery methods are discussed, as well as the use of instructional aids.

Course of Training

In education, a course of training is a complete series of studies leading to attainment of a specific goal. The goal might be a certificate of completion, graduation, or an academic degree. For example, a student pilot may enroll in a private pilot certificate course, and upon completion of all course requirements, be awarded a graduation certificate. A course of training also may be limited to something like the additional training required for operating high-performance airplanes.

Other terms closely associated with a course of training include curriculum, syllabus, and training course outline. In many cases, these terms are used interchangeably, but there are important differences.

A curriculum is a set of courses in an area of specialization offered by an educational institution. A curriculum for a pilot school usually includes courses for the various pilot certificates and ratings, while the curriculum for an aviation maintenance technician (AMT) addresses the subject areas described in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 147. A syllabus is a summary or outline of a course of study that generally contains a description of each lesson, including objectives and completion standards. In aviation, the term “training syllabus” is commonly used and in this context it is a step-by-step, building block progression of learning with provisions for regular review and assessments at prescribed stages of learning. [Figure 4-3] And, finally, a training course outline within a curriculum is the content of a particular course. It normally includes statements of objectives, descriptions of teaching aids, definitions of assessment criteria, and indications of desired outcome.

Figure 4-3. The syllabus defines the unit of training, states by objective what the student is expected to accomplish during the unit of training, shows an organized plan for instruction, and dictates the assessment process for either the unit or stages of learning.

Preparation of a Lesson

A determination of objectives and standards is necessary before any important instruction can be presented. Although some schools and independent instructors may develop their own syllabus, in practice, many instructors use a commercially developed syllabus that already has been selected by a school for use in their aviation training program. For the aviation instructor, the objectives listed in the syllabus are a beginning point for instruction.

Training Objectives and Standards

Aviation training involves two types of objectives: performance based and decision based. Performance-based objectives are essential in defining exactly what needs to be done and how it is done during each lesson. As the student progresses through higher levels of performance and understanding, the instructor should shift the training focus to decision-based training objectives. Decision-based training objectives allow for a more dynamic training environment and are ideally suited to scenario type training. The instructor uses decision-based training objectives to teach aviation students critical thinking skills, such as risk management and aeronautical decision-making (ADM).

The desired level of learning should also be incorporated into the objectives, and these level of learning objectives may apply to one or more of the three domains of learning—cognitive (knowledge), affective (attitudes, beliefs, and values), and psychomotor (physical skills). Normally, aviation training aspires to a level of learning at the application level or higher.

Standards are closely tied to objectives since they include a description of the desired knowledge, behavior, or skill stated in specific terms, along with conditions and criteria. When a student is able to perform according to well-defined standards, evidence of learning is apparent. Comprehensive examples of the desired learning outcomes, or behaviors, should be included in the standards. As indicated in chapter 2, standards for the level of learning in the cognitive and psychomotor domains are easily established. However, writing standards to evaluate a student’s level of learning or overt behavior in the affective domain (attitudes, beliefs, and values) is more difficult.

The overall objective of an aviation training course is usually well established, and the general standards are included in various rules and related publications. For example, eligibility, knowledge, proficiency, and experience requirements for pilots and AMT students are stipulated in the regulations, and the standards are published in the applicable PTS or oral and practical tests (O&Ps). It should be noted that PTS and O&P standards are limited to the most critical job tasks. Certification tests do not represent an entire training syllabus.

A broad, overall objective of any pilot training course is to qualify the student to be a competent, efficient, safe pilot for the operation of specific aircraft types under stated conditions. The established criteria or standards to determine whether the training has been adequate are the passing of knowledge and practical tests required by 14 CFR for the issuance of pilot certificates. Similar objectives and standards are established for AMT students. Professional instructors should not limit their objectives to meeting only the published requirements for pilot or AMT certification.

Instructional objectives should also extend beyond those listed in official publications. Successful instructors teach their students not only how, but also why and when. By incorporating ADM and risk management into each lesson, the aviation instructor helps the student learn, develop, and reinforce the decision-making process which ultimately leads to sound judgment and good decision-making skills.

Performance-Based Objectives

Performance-based objectives are used to set measurable, reasonable standards that describe the desired performance of the student. This usually involves the term behavioral objective, although it may be referred to as a performance, instructional, or educational objective. All refer to the same thing, the behavior of the student.

These objectives provide a way of stating what performance level is desired of a student before the student is allowed to progress to the next stage of instruction. Again, the objectives must be clear, measurable, and repeatable. In other words, they must mean the same thing to any knowledgeable reader. The objectives must be written. If they are not written, they become subject to the fallibility of recall, interpretation, or loss of specificity with time.

Performance-based objectives consist of three elements: description of the skill or behavior, conditions, and criteria. Each part is required and must be stated in a way that leaves every reader with the same picture of the objective, how it is performed, and to what level of performance. [Figure 4-4]

Figure 4-4. Performance-based objectives are made up of a description of the skill or behavior, conditions, and criteria.

Description of the Skill or Behavior

The description of the skill or behavior explains the desired outcome of the instruction. It is actually a learned capability, which may be defined as knowledge, a skill, or an attitude. The description should be in concrete terms that can be measured. Terms such as “knowledge of ...” and “awareness of ...” cannot be measured very well, and words like this should be avoided. Phrases like “able to select from a list of ...” or “able to repeat the steps to ...” are better because they describe something that can be measured. Furthermore, the skill or behavior described should be logical and within the overall instructional plan.


Conditions are necessary to specifically explain the rules under which the skill or behavior is demonstrated. If a desired capability is to navigate from point A to point B, the objective as stated is not specific enough for all students to do it in the same way. Information such as equipment, tools, reference material, and limiting parameters should be included. For example, inserting conditions narrows the objective as follows: “Using sectional charts, a flight computer, and Cessna 172, navigate from point A to point B while maintaining standard hemispheric altitudes.” Sometimes, in the process of writing the objective, a difficulty is encountered. This might be someone saying, “But, what if ...?” This is a good indication that the original version was confusing to that person. If it is confusing to one person, it will be confusing to others and should be corrected.


Criteria are the standards that measure the accomplishment of the objective. The criteria should be stated so that there is no question whether the objective has been met. In the previous example, the criteria may include that navigation from point A to point B be accomplished within 5 minutes of the preplanned flight time and that en route altitude be maintained within 200 feet. The revised performance-based objective may now read, “Using a sectional chart and a flight computer, plan a flight and fly from point A to point B in a Cessna 172. Arrival at point B should be within 5 minutes of planned arrival time and cruise altitude should be maintained within 200 feet during the en route phase of the flight.” The alert reader has already noted that the conditions and criteria changed slightly during the development of these objectives, and that is exactly the way it will occur. Conditions and criteria should be refined as necessary. As noted earlier, a PTS already has many of the elements needed to formulate performance-based objectives. In most cases, the objective is listed along with sufficient conditions to describe the scope of the objective. The PTS also has specific criteria or standards upon which to grade performance; however, the criteria may not always be specific enough for a particular lesson. An instructor should write performance-based objectives to fit the desired outcome of the lesson. The objective formulated in the last few paragraphs, for instance, is a well-defined lesson objective from the task, Pilotage and Dead Reckoning, in the Private Pilot PTS.

The Importance of the PTS in Aviation Training Curricula

PTS hold an important position in aviation training curricula because they supply the instructor with specific performance objectives based on the standards that must be met for the issuance of a particular aviation certificate or rating. [Figure 4-5] The FAA frequently reviews the test items in an attempt to maintain their validity in the current aviation environment. It is a widely accepted belief in the aviation community that test items included as part of a test or evaluation should be both content valid and criterion valid. Content validity means that a particular maneuver or procedure closely mimics what is required. Criterion validity means that the completion standards for the test are reflective of acceptable standards.

Figure 4-5. Examples of Practical Test Standards.

For example, in flight training, content validity is reflected by a particular maneuver closely mimicking a maneuver required in actual flight, such as the student pilot being able to recover from a power-off stall. Criterion validity means that the completion standards for the test are reflective of acceptable standards in actual flight. Thus, the student pilot exhibits knowledge of all the elements involved in a power-off stall as listed in the PTS.

As discussed in chapter 2, humans develop cognitive skills through active interaction with the world. This concept has led to the adoption of scenario-based training (SBT) in many fields, including aviation. An effective aviation instructor uses the maneuver-based approach of the PTS but presents the objectives in a scenario situation.

It has been found that flight students using SBT methods demonstrate stick-and-rudder skills equal to or better than students trained under the maneuver-based approach only. Of even more significance is that the same data also suggest that SBT students demonstrate better decision-making skills than maneuver based students—most likely because their training occurred while performing realistic flight maneuvers and not artificial maneuvers designed only for the test.

Research also indicates SBT may lead to improved piloting and navigation skills over traditional maneuver-based training techniques. SBT trained participants demonstrated the same skills and knowledge as the maneuver-based trained participants, but the maneuvers were practiced in the context of a scenario. Many scenarios were coupled to the maneuver until the student not only had the requisite skills, but also related them to many conditions where they would be needed. The data also support that when a condition occurs requiring a maneuver, the SBT participant responded quickly and more accurately than the participant trained only under the maneuver-based approach. A participant lacking SBT instruction must search his or her memory to link a maneuver to a situation.

The incorporation of SBT as part of the lesson is discussed in more detail later in this chapter, as well as in Chapter 6, Planning Instructional Activity.

Decision-Based Objectives

Decision-based objectives are designed specifically to develop pilot judgment and ADM skills. Improper pilot decisions cause a significant percentage of all accidents, and the majority of fatal accidents in light single- and twin-engine aircraft. Often combined with traditional task and maneuver training within a given scenario, decision-based objectives facilitate a higher level of learning and application. By using dynamic and meaningful scenarios, the instructor teaches the student how to gather information and make informed, safe, and timely decisions.

Decision-based training is not a new concept. Experienced CFIs have been using scenarios that require dynamic problem solving to teach cross-country operations, emergency procedures, and other flight skills for years.

Decision-based learning objectives and the use of flight training scenarios do not preclude traditional maneuver-based training. Rather, flight maneuvers are integrated into the flight training scenarios and conducted as they would occur in the real world. Those maneuvers requiring repetition may still be taught during concentrated settings. However, once they are learned, they are integrated into more realistic and dynamic flight situations.

Decision-based objectives are also important for the aviation instructor planning AMT training. An AMT uses ADM and risk management skills not only on the job site but also in the repair and maintenance of aircraft.

Other Uses of Training Objectives

Performance-based and decision-based objectives are also helpful for an instructor designing a lesson plan. Having decided on the objectives, an instructor can use this information to complete many of the steps on the lesson plan. For example, once the instructor decides how the student will accomplish the objective, most of the work that determines the elements of the lesson and the schedule of events has been done. The equipment necessary and the instructor and student actions anticipated during the lesson have also been specified. By listing the criteria for the training objectives, the instructor has already established the completion standards normally included as part of the lesson plan.

Use of training objectives also provides the student with a better understanding of the big picture, as well as knowledge of what is expected. This overview can alleviate a significant source of uncertainty and frustration on the part of the student.

As indicated in chapter 1, training objectives apply to all three domains of learning—cognitive (knowledge), affective (attitudes, beliefs, values), and psychomotor (physical skills). In addition, since each domain includes several educational or skill levels, training objectives may easily be adapted to a specific performance level of knowledge or skill. Clearly defined training objectives that the student understands are essential to the teaching process regardless of the teaching technique used.

Presentation of a Lesson

Research into how people learn has led many experts to recommend ways to present lessons that keep the attention of a class. The steps in Figure 4-6 form a guideline for lesson presentation. Many of them can be combined during the actual presentation. For example, consider a video presentation given during the weight and balance lecture. The video adds a multimedia element to the lecture, is a good attention getter, and can be used to visually demonstrate the learning objective.

Figure 4-6. Guidelines for presenting lessons.

Organization of Material

Even the most knowledgeable instructor must properly organize the material. Once a determination of objectives and standards has been made, an instructor formulates a plan of action to lead students through the course in a logical manner toward the desired goal. Usually the goal for students is a certificate or rating. It could be a private pilot certificate, an instrument rating, or an AMT certificate or rating. In all cases, a systematic plan of action requires the use of an appropriate training syllabus. Generally, the syllabus contains a description of each lesson, including objectives and completion standards. Refer to Chapter 6, Planning Instructional Activity, for detailed information on requirements for an aviation training syllabus and the building-block concept for curriculum development.

The main concern of the instructor is usually the more manageable task of organizing a block of training with integrated lesson plans. The traditional organization of a lesson plan is introduction, development, and conclusion.


The introduction sets the stage for everything to come. Efforts in this area pay great dividends in terms of quality of instruction. In brief, the introduction is made up of three elements: attention, motivation, and an overview of what is to be covered.


The purpose of the attention element is to focus each student’s attention on the lesson. The instructor begins by telling a story, showing a video clip, asking a question, or telling a joke. Any of these may be appropriate at one time or another. Regardless of which is used, it should relate to the subject and establish a background for developing the learning outcomes. Telling a story or a joke that is not related in some way to the subject distracts from the lesson. The main concern is to gain the attention of everyone and concentrate on the subject. [Figure 4-7]

Figure 4-7. The attention element causes students to focus on the upcoming lesson.


The purpose of the motivation element is to offer the students specific reasons why the lesson content is important to know, understand, apply, or perform concepts of Thorndike’s law of readiness. For example, the instructor may talk about an occurrence where the knowledge in the lesson was applied. Or the instructor may remind the students of an upcoming test on the material. This motivation should appeal to each student personally and engender a desire to learn the material.


Every lesson introduction should contain an overview that tells the group what is to be covered during the period. A clear, concise presentation of the objective and the key ideas gives the students a road map of the route to be followed. A good visual aid can help the instructor show the students the path that they are to travel. The introduction should be free of stories, jokes, or incidents that do not help the students focus their attention on the lesson objective. Also, the instructor should avoid a long apologetic introduction, because it only serves to dampen the students’ interest in the lesson.


Development is the main part of the lesson. Here, the instructor develops the subject matter in a manner that helps the students achieve the desired learning outcomes. The instructor must logically organize the material to show the relationships of the main points. The instructor usually shows these primary relationships by developing the main points in one of the following ways: from past to present, simple to complex, known to unknown, and most frequently used to least used.

Past to Present

In this pattern of development, the subject matter is arranged chronologically, from the present to the past or from the past to the present. Time relationships are most suitable when history is an important consideration, as in tracing the development of radio navigation systems.

Simple to Complex

The simple-to-complex pattern helps the instructor lead the student from simple facts or ideas to an understanding of the phenomena or concepts involved. In studying jet propulsion, for example, the student might begin by considering the action involved in releasing air from a toy balloon and finish by taking part in a discussion of a complex gas turbine engine.

Do not be afraid to omit “less important” information at first in order to simplify the learning process. If Class D, E, and G airspace are the only airspace types being utilized by a student, save the discussion of A, B, and C airspace until they have operating familiarity with the other types. Less information at first is easier to absorb.

Known to Unknown

By using something the student already knows as the point of departure, the instructor can lead into new ideas and concepts. For example, in developing a lesson on heading indicators, the instructor could begin with a discussion of the vacuum-driven heading indicator before proceeding to a description of the radio magnetic indicator (RMI).

Most Frequently Used to Least Used

In some subjects, certain information or concepts are common to all who use the material. This fourth organizational pattern starts with common usage before progressing to the rarer ones. Even though most aircraft are equipped with some sort of navigational system, instructors should teach students the basics of navigation. For example, basic map reading is a perishable skill that should be practiced often. Another example is dead reckoning, which forces pilots to be aware of there surroundings at all times. Basic VOR/NDB radio navigation procedures are also perishable and could save lives if proficiency is maintained. Before using a global positioning system (GPS) as the sole means of navigation, students should be taught the basics.

Under each main point in a lesson, the subordinate points should lead naturally from one to another. With this arrangement, each point leads logically to and serves as a reminder of the next. Meaningful transition from one main point to another keeps the students oriented, aware of where they have been, and where they are going. This permits effective sorting or categorizing chunks of information in the working or short-term memory. Organizing a lesson so the students grasp the logical relationships of ideas is not an easy task, but it is necessary if the students are to learn and remember what they have learned. Poorly organized information is of little or no value to the student because it cannot be readily understood or remembered.


An effective conclusion retraces the important elements of the lesson and relates them to the objective. This review and wrap-up of ideas reinforces student learning and improves the retention of what has been learned. New ideas should not be introduced in the conclusion because at this point they are likely to confuse the students.

By organizing the lesson material into a logical format, the instructor maximizes the opportunity for students to retain the desired information. Since each teaching situation is unique, the setting and purpose of the lesson determines which teaching method is used.

Training Delivery Methods

Today’s instructor can choose from a wealth of ways to present instructional material: lecture, discussion, guided discussion, problem based, group learning, demonstration-performance, or e-learning. It is important to remember that a training delivery method is rarely used by itself. In a typical lesson, an effective instructor normally uses a combination of methods. For example, Bob lectures in the opening scenario, but after giving the students knowledge of how to compute weight and balance, he uses group learning to reinforce the lecture. To be an effective instructor, it is important to determine which teaching methods best convey the information being taught.

Lecture Method

In the lecture method, the instructor delivers his knowledge via lectures to students who are more or less silent participants. Lectures are best used when an instructor wishes to convey a general understanding of a subject that students lack. While this is the most widely used form of presentation and instructors should know how to develop and present a lecture, they also should understand the advantages and limitations of this method.

Lectures are used for introduction of new subjects, summarizing ideas, showing relationships between theory and practice, and reemphasizing main points. The lecture method is adaptable to many different settings, including small or large groups. Lectures also may be used to introduce a unit of instruction or a complete training program. Finally, lectures may be combined with other teaching methods to give added meaning and direction.

The lecture method of teaching needs to be very flexible since it may be used in different ways. For example, there are several types of lectures, such as the illustrated talk where the speaker relies heavily on visual aids to convey ideas to the listeners. With a briefing, the speaker presents a concise array of facts to the listeners who normally do not expect elaboration of supporting material. During a formal lecture, the speaker’s purpose is to inform, to persuade, or to entertain with little or no verbal participation by the students. When using a teaching lecture, the instructor plans and delivers an oral presentation in a manner that allows some participation by the students and helps direct them toward the desired learning outcomes.

In general lectures, begin with an introduction of the topic to be discussed. It is also a good idea at this time to let students know whether or not questions during the lecture are welcomed. The body of the lecture follows with a summary of the lecture’s main points at the end.

Teaching Lecture

The teaching lecture is favored by aviation instructors because it allows some active participation by the students. The instructor must determine the method to be used in developing the subject matter. The instructor also should carefully consider the class size and the depth of the presentation. As mentioned in chapter 3, covering a subject in too much detail is as bad or worse than sketchy coverage. Regardless of the method of development or depth of coverage, the success of the teaching lecture depends upon the instructor’s ability to communicate effectively with the class.

In other methods of teaching such as demonstration-performance or guided discussion, the instructor receives direct reaction from the students, either verbally or by some form of body language. However in the teaching lecture, the feedback is not nearly as obvious and is much harder to interpret. In the teaching lecture, the instructor must develop a keen perception for subtle responses from the class—facial expressions, manner of taking notes, and apparent interest or disinterest in the lesson. The effective instructor is able to interpret the meaning of these reactions and adjust the lesson accordingly.

Preparing the Teaching Lecture

Careful preparation is one key to successful performance as a classroom lecturer. This preparation should start well in advance of the presentation. The following four steps should be followed in the planning phase of preparation:

  • Establishing the objective and desired outcomes

  • Researching the subject

  • Organizing the material

  • Planning productive classroom activities

In all stages of preparing for the teaching lecture, the instructor should support any point to be covered with meaningful examples, comparisons, statistics, or testimony. The instructor should consider that the student may neither believe nor understand any point without the use of testimony from SMEs or without meaningful examples, statistics, or comparisons. While developing the lesson, the instructor also should strongly consider the use of examples and personal experiences related to the subject of the lesson.

After completing the preliminary planning and writing of the lesson plan, the instructor should rehearse the lecture to build self-confidence. Rehearsals, or dry runs, help smooth out the mechanics of using notes, visual aids, and other instructional devices. If possible, the instructor should have another knowledgeable person, preferably another instructor, observe the practice sessions and act as a critic. This critique helps the instructor judge the adequacy of supporting materials and visual aids, as well as the presentation. [Figure 4-8]

Figure 4-8. Instructors should try a dry run with another instructor to get a feel for the lecture presentation.

Suitable Language

In the teaching lecture, simple rather than complex words should be used whenever possible. Good newspapers offer examples of the effective use of simple words. Picturesque slang and free-and-easy colloquialisms, if they suit the subject, can add variety and vividness to a teaching lecture. The instructor should not, however, use substandard English. Errors in grammar and vulgarisms detract from an instructor’s dignity and insult the intelligence of the students.

If the subject matter includes technical terms, the instructor should clearly define each one so that no student is in doubt about its meaning. Whenever possible, the instructor should use specific rather than general words. For example, the specific words, “a leak in the fuel line” tell more than the general term “mechanical defect.”

Another way the instructor can add life to the lecture is to vary his or her tone of voice and pace of speaking. In addition, using sentences of different length helps, since consistent use of short sentences results in a choppy style. On the other hand, poorly constructed long sentences are difficult to follow and can easily become tangled. To ensure clarity and variety, the instructor should normally use sentences of short and medium length.

Types of Delivery

Depending on the requirements of any particular circumstances, a lecture is usually delivered in one of four ways:

  • Reading from a typed or written manuscript

  • Reciting memorized material without the aid of a manuscript

  • Speaking extemporaneously from an outline

  • Speaking impromptu without preparation

The teaching lecture is probably best delivered in an extemporaneous manner. The instructor speaks from a mental or written outline, but does not read or memorize the material to be presented. Because the exact words to express an idea are spontaneous, the lecture is more personalized than one that is read or spoken from memory.

Since the instructor talks directly to the students, their reactions can be readily observed, and adjustments can be made based on their responses. The instructor has better control of the situation, can change the approach to meet any contingency, and can tailor each idea to suit the responses of the students. For example, if the instructor realizes from puzzled expressions that a number of students fail to grasp an idea, that point can be further elaborated until the reactions of the students indicate they understand. The extemporaneous presentation reflects the instructor’s personal enthusiasm and is more flexible than other methods. For these reasons, it is likely to hold the interest of the students.

Use of Notes

An instructor who is thoroughly prepared or who has made the presentation before can usually speak effectively without notes. If the lecture has been carefully prepared, and the instructor is completely familiar with the outline, there should be no real difficulty.

Notes used wisely can ensure accuracy, jog the memory, and dispel the fear of forgetting. They are essential for reporting complicated information. For an instructor who tends to ramble, notes are a must because they help keep the lecture on track. The instructor who requires notes should use them sparingly and unobtrusively, but at the same time should make no effort to hide them from the students. Notes may be written legibly or typed, and they should be placed where they can be consulted easily, or held, if the instructor walks about the room. [Figure 4-9]

Figure 4-9. Notes allow the accurate dissemination of complicated information.

Formal Versus Informal Lectures

The lecture may be conducted in either a formal or an informal manner. The informal lecture includes active student participation. The primary consideration in the lecture method, as in all other teaching methods, is the achievement of desired learning outcomes. Learning is best achieved if students participate actively in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Therefore, the use of the informal lecture is encouraged. At the same time, it must be realized that a formal lecture is still to be preferred on some subjects and occasions, such as lectures introducing new subject matter.

The instructor can achieve active student participation in the informal lecture through the use of questions. In this way, the students are encouraged to make contributions that supplement the lecture. The instructor can use questions to determine the experience and background of the students in order to tailor the lecture to their needs, and/or to add variety, stimulate interest, and check student understanding. However, it is the instructor’s responsibility to plan, organize, develop, and present the major portion of a lesson.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Lecture

There are a number of advantages to lectures. For example, a lecture is a convenient way to instruct large groups. If necessary, a public address system can be used to amplify the speaker’s voice. Lectures can be used to present information that would be difficult for the students to get in other ways, particularly if the students do not have the time required for research, or if they do not have access to reference material. Lectures also can usefully and successfully supplement other teaching devices and methods. A brief introductory lecture can give direction and purpose to a demonstration or prepare students for a discussion by telling them something about the subject matter to be covered.

In a lecture, the instructor can present many ideas in a relatively short time. Facts and ideas that have been logically organized can be concisely presented in rapid sequence. Lecturing is unquestionably the most economical of all teaching methods in terms of the time required to present a given amount of material.

The lecture is particularly suitable for introducing a new subject and for explaining the necessary background information. By using a lecture in this way, the instructor can offer students with varied backgrounds a common understanding of essential principles and facts. Although the lecture method is useful in providing information, it is not an effective method of learning large amounts of information in a short time. Nor do lectures easily allow an instructor to estimate student understanding of the material covered. Within a single period, the instructor may unwittingly present more information than students can absorb, and the lecture method provides no accurate means of checking student progress.

Many instructors find it difficult to hold the attention of all students in a lecture throughout the class period. To achieve desired learning outcomes through the lecture method, an instructor needs considerable skill in speaking. As indicated in chapter 2, a student’s rate of retention drops off significantly after the first 10-15 minutes of a lecture and improves at the end. The pure lecture format also inhibits student participation. Research has shown that learning is an active process—the more involved students are in the process, the better they learn. On the other hand, a student needs knowledge in order to build understanding of a subject.

One last disadvantage of the lecture is that it does not foster attainment of certain types of learning outcome, such as motor skills, need to be perfected via hands-on practice. Thus, an instructor who introduces some form of active student participation in the middle of a lecture greatly increases student retention. One way to increase retention during a lecture is to use the discussion method of training delivery.

Discussion Method

The discussion method modifies the pure lecture form by using lecture and then discussion to actively integrate the student into the learning process. In the discussion method, the instructor provides a short lecture, no more than 20 minutes in length, which gives basic knowledge to the students. This short lecture is followed by instructor-student and student-student discussion.

This method relies on discussion and the exchange of ideas. Everyone has the opportunity to comment, listen, think, and participate. By being actively engaged in discussing the lecture, students improve their recall and ability to use the information in the future.

It is important for the instructor to play the part of guide, keeping the discussion focused on the subject matter. That may mean the instructor needs to initiate leading questions, referee if the discussions cause conflict, ensure that all students participate, and at the end summarize what has been learned.

Tying the discussion method into the lecture method not only provides active student participation, it also allows students to develop higher order thinking skills (HOTS). The give and take of the discussion method also helps students learn to evaluate ideas, concepts, and principles. When using this method, instructors should keep their own discussion to a minimum since the goal is student participation.

Instructors can also use another form of discussion, the guided discussion method, to ensure the student has correctly received and interpreted subject information.

Guided Discussion Method

The guided discussion method relies on student possession of a level of knowledge about the topic to be discussed, either through reading prior to class or a short lecture to set up the topic to be discussed. This training method employs instructor-guided discussion with the instructor maintaining control of the discussion. It can be used during classroom periods and preflight and postflight briefings. The discussions reflect whatever level of knowledge and experience the students have gained.

The goal of guided discussions is to draw out what the students know. The instructor should remember that the more intense the discussion and the greater the participation, the more effective the learning. All members of the group should follow the discussion. The instructor should treat everyone impartially, encourage questions, exercise patience and tact, and comment on all responses. Sarcasm and/or ridicule should never be used, since they inhibit the spontaneity of the participants. In a guided discussion, the instructor guides the discussion with the goal of reinforcing a learning objective related to the lesson. The instructor acts as a facilitator to encourage discussion between students.

Use of Questions in a Guided Discussion

In the guided discussion, learning is achieved through the skillful use of questions. Questions can be categorized by function and by characteristics. Understanding these distinctions helps the instructor become a more skilled user of questions.

The instructor often uses a question to open up an area for discussion. This is the lead-off question and its purpose is to get the discussion started. After the discussion develops, the instructor may ask a follow-up question to guide the discussion. The reasons for using a follow-up question may vary. The instructor may want a student to explain something more thoroughly, or may need to bring the discussion back to a point from which it has strayed.

In terms of characteristics, questions can be identified as overhead, rhetorical, direct, reverse, and relay. The overhead question is directed to the entire group to stimulate thought and response from each group member. The instructor may use an overhead question to pose the lead-off question. The rhetorical question is similar in nature, because it also spurs group thought. However, the instructor provides the answer to the rhetorical question. Consequently, it is more commonly used in lecturing than in guided discussion.

The instructor who wants to phrase a question for follow-up purposes may choose the overhead type. If, however, a response is desired from a specific individual, a direct question may be asked of that student. A reverse question is a question asked by a learner and the instructor returns the question to the same learner for response. A relay question is asked by a learner and the instructor requests another student to respond.

Questions are so much a part of teaching that they are often taken for granted. Effective use of questions may result in more student learning than any other single technique used by instructors. Instructors should avoid questions that can be answered by short factual statements or yes or no responses and ask open-ended questions that are thought provoking and require more mental activity. Since most aviation training is at the understanding level of learning or higher, questions should require students to grasp concepts, explain similarities and differences, and to infer cause-and-effect relationships. [Figure 4-10]

Figure 4-10. If the objectives of a lesson are clearly established in advance, instructors will find it much easier to ask appropriate questions that keep the discussion moving in the planned direction.

Planning a Guided Discussion

Planning a guided discussion is similar to planning a lecture. Instructors will find the following suggestions helpful in planning a discussion lesson. (Note that these same suggestions include many that are appropriate for planning cooperative learning, to be discussed later in the chapter.)

  • Select a topic the students can profitably discuss. Unless the students have some knowledge to exchange with each other, they cannot reach the desired learning outcomes by the discussion method. If necessary, make assignments that give the students an adequate background for discussing the lesson topic.

  • Establish a specific lesson objective with desired learning outcomes. Through discussion, the students develop an understanding of the subject by sharing knowledge, experiences, and backgrounds. Consequently, the objective normally is stated at the understanding level of learning. The desired learning outcomes should stem from the objective.

  • Conduct adequate research to become familiar with the topic. While researching, the instructor should always be alert for ideas on the best way to tailor a lesson for a particular group of students. Similarly, the instructor can prepare the prediscussion assignment more effectively while conducting research for the classroom period. During this research process, the instructor should also earmark reading material that appears to be especially appropriate as background material for students. Such material should be well organized and based on fundamentals.

  • Organize the main and subordinate points of the lesson in a logical sequence. The guided discussion has three main parts: introduction, discussion, and conclusion. The introduction consists of three elements: attention, motivation, and overview. In the discussion, the instructor should be certain that the main points discussed build logically with the objective. The conclusion consists of the summary of the main points. By organizing in this manner, the instructor phrases the questions to help the students obtain a firm grasp of the subject matter and to minimize the possibility of a rambling discussion.

  • Plan at least one lead-off question for each desired learning outcome. In preparing questions, the instructor should remember that the purpose is to stimulate discussion, not merely to get answers. Lead-off questions should usually begin with how or why. For example, it is better to ask “Why does an aircraft normally require a longer takeoff run at Denver than at New Orleans?” instead of “Would you expect an aircraft to require a longer takeoff run at Denver or at New Orleans?” Students can answer the second question by merely saying “Denver,” but the first question is likely to start a discussion of air density, engine efficiency, and the effect of temperature on performance.

Student Preparation for a Guided Discussion

It is the instructor’s responsibility to help students prepare themselves for the discussion. Each student should be encouraged to accept responsibility for contributing to the discussion and benefiting from it. Throughout the time the instructor prepares the students for their discussion, they should be made aware of the lesson objective(s). In certain instances, the instructor has no opportunity to assign preliminary work and must face the students for the first time. In such cases, it is practical and advisable to give the students a brief general survey of the topic during the introduction. Normally, students should not be asked to discuss a subject without some background in that subject.

Guiding a Discussion—Instructor Technique

The techniques used to guide a discussion require practice and experience. The instructor needs to keep up with the discussion and know when to intervene with questions or redirect the group’s focus. The following information provides a framework for successfully conducting the guided discussion.


A guided discussion lesson is introduced in the same manner as the lecture. The introduction should include an attention element, a motivation element, and an overview of key points. To encourage enthusiasm and stimulate discussion, the instructor should create a relaxed, informal atmosphere. Each student should be given the opportunity to discuss the various aspects of the subject, and feel free to do so. Moreover, the student should feel a personal responsibility to contribute. The instructor should try to make the students feel that their ideas and active participation are wanted and needed.


The instructor opens the discussion by asking one of the prepared lead-off questions. Discussion questions should be easy for students to understand, put forth decisively by the instructor, and followed by silence. An instructor should also be patient and give students a chance to react. While the instructor should have the answer in mind before asking the question, the students need to think about the question before answering. Keep in mind that it takes time to recall data, determine how to answer, or to think of an example.

The more difficult the question, the more time the students need to answer. If the instructor sees puzzled expressions, denoting that the students do not understand the question, it should be rephrased in a slightly different form. The nature of the questions should be determined by the lesson objective and desired learning outcomes.

Once the discussion is underway, the instructor should listen attentively to the ideas, experiences, and examples contributed by the students during the discussion. Remember that during the preparation, the instructor listed some of the anticipated responses that would, if discussed by the students, indicate that they had a firm grasp of the subject. As the discussion proceeds, the instructor may find it necessary to guide the direction to stimulate the students to explore the subject in greater depth or to encourage them to discuss the topic in more detail. By using “how” and “why” follow-up questions, the instructor should be able to guide the discussion toward the objective of helping students understand the subject.

When it appears the students have discussed the ideas that support this particular part of the lesson, the instructor should summarize what the students have accomplished using an interim summary. This type of summary is one of the most effective tools available to the instructor. It can be made immediately after the discussion of each learning outcome to bring ideas together and help in transition, showing how the ideas developed by the group relate to and support the idea discussed. The interim summary may be omitted after discussing the last learning outcome when it is more expedient for the instructor to present the first part of the conclusion. An interim summary reinforces learning in relation to a specific learning outcome. In addition to its uses as a summary and transitional device, the interim summary may also be used to keep the group on the subject or to divert the discussion to another member.


A guided discussion is closed by summarizing the material covered. In the conclusion the instructor should tie together the various points or topics discussed, and show the relationships between the facts brought forth and the practical application of these facts. For example, in concluding a discussion on density altitude, an instructor might give a fairly complete description of an accident which occurred due to a pilot attempting to take off in an overloaded airplane from a short runway at a high-altitude airport on a hot day.

The summary should be succinct, but not incomplete. If the discussion has revealed that certain areas are not understood by one or more members of the group, the instructor should clarify or cover this material again.


As with any training method that involves discussion, students are encouraged to listen to and learn from their instructor and/or each other. Also as mentioned earlier, discussion involves critical thinking skill. Open-ended questions of the type used in guided discussion lend themselves readily to concepts of risk management and ADM. The constant use of “What If?” discussions provide the student with increased exposure to proper decision-making.

From the description of guided discussion, it is obvious this method works best in a group situation, but it can be modified for an interactive one-on-one learning situation. [Figure 4-11] Planning the guided discussion as well as learning how to ask the type of questions used in guided discussions are assets for any aviation instructor.

Figure 4-11. As the student grows in flight knowledge, he or she should be able to lead the postflight review while the instructor guides the discussion with targeted questions.

Problem-Based Learning

In 1966, the McMaster University School of Medicine in Canada pioneered a new approach to teaching and curriculum design called problem-based learning (PBL). In the intervening years, PBL has helped shift the focus of learning from an instructor-centered approach to a student-centered approach. (See Appendix F.) There are many definitions for PBL, but for the purposes of this handbook, it is defined as the type of learning environment in which lessons are structured in such a way as to confront students with problems encountered in real life that force them to reach real world solutions.

PBL starts with a carefully constructed problem to which there is no single solution. The benefit of PBL lies in helping the learner gain a deeper understanding of the information and in the learner improving his or her ability to recall the information. This results when the material is presented as an authentic problem in a situated environment that allows the learner to “make meaning” of the information based on his or her past experience and personal interpretation. This type of problem encourages the development of HOTS, which include cognitive processes such as problem solving and decision-making, as well as the cognitive skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

Developing good problems that motivate, focus, and initiate student learning are an important component of PBL. Effective problems:

  • Relate to the real world so students want to solve them.

  • Require students to make decisions.

  • Are open ended and not limited to one correct answer.

  • Are connected to previously learned knowledge as well as new knowledge.

  • Reflect lesson objective(s).

  • Challenge students to think critically.

Teaching Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)

Risk management, ADM, automation management, situational awareness, and Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT) awareness are the skills encompassed by HOTS. To teach the cognitive skills needed in making decisions and judgments effectively, an instructor should incorporate analysis, synthesis, and evaluation into lessons using PBL. HOTS should be taught throughout the curriculum from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract.

Basic approach to teaching HOTS:

  1. Set up the problem.

  2. Determine learning outcomes for the problem.

  3. Solve the problem or task.

  4. Reflect on problem-solving process.

  5. Consider additional solutions through guided discovery.

  6. Reevaluate solution with additional options.

  7. Reflect on this solution and why it is the best solution.

  8. Consider what “best” means (is it situational).

Types of Problem-Based Instruction

While there are many variations as to how a problem-based lesson might work, it usually involves an incentive or need to solve the problem, a decision on how to find a solution, a possible solution, an explanation for the reasons used to reach that solution, and then reflection on the solution. Three types of problem-based instruction are discussed: scenario based, collaborative problem-solving, and case study.

Scenario-Based Training Method (SBT)

SBT uses a highly structured script of real-world experiences to address aviation training objectives in an operational environment. It is a realistic situation that allows the student to rehearse mentally for a situation and requires practical application of various bits of knowledge. Such training can include initial training, transition training, upgrade training, recurrent training, and special training. Because improper pilot decisions cause a significant percentage of all accidents and the majority of fatal accidents in light single- and twin-engine aircraft, SBT challenges the student or transitioning pilot with a variety of flight scenarios with the goal of reducing accidents. These scenarios require the pilot to manage the resources available in the flight deck, exercise sound judgment, and make timely decisions. Since it has been documented that students learn more effectively when actively involved in the learning process, SBT is also used to train AMTs.

The aviation instructor is the key to successful SBT and the overall learning objective in this method of training delivery is for the student to be more ready to exercise sound judgment and make good decisions. The scenario may not have one right or one wrong answer, which reflects situations faced in the real world. It is important for the instructor to understand in advance which outcomes are positive and/or negative and give the student freedom to make both good and poor decisions without jeopardizing safety. This allows the student to make decisions that fit his or her experience level and result in positive outcomes.

Once the class has mastered the ability to compute weight and balance, Bob decides to give them the following scenario with the objective of teaching them how to reconfigure weight and balance in the real world. A customer wants a tail strobe light installed on his Piper Cherokee 180. How will this installation affect the weight and balance of the aircraft?

Since the student must remove the position light, install a power supply, and also install the tail strobe light, he or she needs to make several decisions that effect the final weight and balance of the aircraft. The real world problem forces the student to analyze, evaluate, and make decisions about the procedures required.

For the flight instructor, a good scenario tells a story that begins with a reason to fly because a pilot’s decisions differ depending on the motivation to fly. For example, Mark’s closest friends bought him a ticket for a playoff game at their alma mater and they paid him to rent an airplane. He is flying the four of them to the “big” football game. Another friend is planning to meet them at the airport and drive everyone to the game and back.

Mark has strong motivation to fly his friends to the game so he keys up College Airport AWOS which reports clear and unrestricted visibility. His flight is a go, yet, 15 miles from College Airport he descends to 1,000 feet to stay below the lowering clouds and encounters rain and lowering visibility to 3 miles. The terrain is flat farmland with no published obstacles. What will he do now?

Remember, a good inflight scenario is more than an hour of flight time; it is also a learning experience. SBT is a powerful tool because the future is unpredictable and there is no way to train a pilot for every combination of events that may happen in the future.

A good scenario:

  • Is not a test;

  • Will not have one, right answer;

  • Does not offer an obvious answer;

  • Should not promote errors; and

  • Should promote situational awareness and opportunities for decision-making.

Collaborative Problem-Solving Method

Collaboration (two or more people working together) to solve problems has been used throughout time. In education, the collaborative problem-solving method combines collaboration with problem solving when the instructor provides a problem to a group who then solves it. The instructor provides assistance when needed, but he or she needs to remember that learning to solve the problem or task without assistance is part of the learning process. This method uses collaboration and can be modified for an interactive one-on-one learning situation such as an independent aviation instructor might encounter. The instructor provides the problem to the student, offering only limited assistance as the student solves it, but participating in finding solutions. Once again, open-ended “what if” problems encourage the students an opportunity to develop HOTS.

Case Study Method

A case study is a written or oral account of a real world situation that contains a message that educates the student. An increasingly popular form of teaching, the case study contains a story relative to the student that forces him or her to deal with situations encountered in real life.

The instructor presents the case to the students who then analyze it, come to conclusions, and offer possible solutions. Effective case studies require the student to use critical thinking skills.

An excellent source of real-world case studies for flight instructors can be found at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) where descriptions of more than 140,000 aviation accidents are located. By removing the NTSB’s determination of probable cause, a flight instructor can use the description as a case study. The following paragraph is an example of one such accident.

“The private pilot was on a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country flight when he began encountering instrument conditions. The pilot continued into the instrument conditions for about 30 minutes before asking Atlanta Approach Control for directions to the nearest airport for landing. The controller directed the pilot to two different nearby airports, but both were below minimums. The pilot informed the controller that he was low on fuel and needed to land as soon as possible. The controller directed the pilot to the Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, Georgia. The pilot told the controllers that he would attempt an instrument approach. The pilot attempted four unsuccessful approaches with the controllers talking him through each approach. On the fifth approach, at five miles from the runway, the pilot stated that both engines quit due to fuel exhaustion. The pilot called “mayday” and during the forced landing the airplane collided with trees and the ground separating the right wing, half of the left wing, and coming to rest inverted. The pilot did not report any mechanical deficiencies with the airplane during the attempted approaches. Injuries: one serious, one minor, one uninjured.”

The flight instructor has the student analyze the information and suggest possible reasons for the accident. The instructor then shares the NTSB’s determination of probable cause: “The pilot’s inadequate decision to continue VFR flight into IMC conditions, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion” which can lead to further discussions of how to avoid this type of accident. Accident data is available at NTSB’s Aviation Accident Database & Synopses at

Electronic Learning (E-Learning)

Electronic learning or e-learning has become an umbrella term for any type of education that involves an electronic component such as the Internet, a network, a stand-alone computer, CD/DVDs, video conferencing, websites, or e-mail in its delivery. [Figure 4-12] E-learning comes in many formats. It can be a stand-alone software program that takes a learner from lecture to exam or it can be an interactive web-based course of instruction that involves a mixture of mandatory class attendance with e-mail discussions and assignments. E-learning can be as basic as an online college course taken via e-mail or as sophisticated as refining flight techniques in a helicopter simulator.

Figure 4-12. E-learning encompasses a variety of electronic educational media.

Time flexible, cost competitive, learner centered, easily updated, accessible anytime, and anywhere, e-learning has many advantages that make it a popular addition to the field of education. Predictions are that more and more learning will take place via e-learning.

E-learning is now used for training at many different levels. For example, technology flight training devices and flight simulators are used by everyone from flight schools to major airlines, as well as the military. Fixed-base operators (FBOs) who offer instrument training may use personal computer-based aviation training devices (PCATDs) or flight training devices (FTDs) for a portion of the instrument time a pilot needs for the instrument rating. Major airlines have high-level flight simulators that are so realistic that transitioning crews meet all qualifications in the flight simulator. Likewise, military pilots use flight training devices or flight simulators to prepare for flying aircraft, such as the A-10, for which there are no two-seat training versions. With e-learning, sophisticated databases can organize vast amounts of information that can be quickly sorted, searched, found, and cross-indexed.

Due to the active nature of e-learning, the overall learning process is enhanced in several ways. Well-designed programs allow students to feel as if they are in control of what they are learning and how fast they learn it. They can explore areas that interest them and discover more about a subject on their own. In addition, e-learning often seems more enjoyable than learning from a regular classroom lecture. The main advantages are less time spent on instruction compared to traditional classroom training, and higher levels of mastery and retention.

Distance learning, or the use of electronic media to deliver instruction when the instructor and student are separated, is another advantage to e-learning. Participants in a class may be located on different continents, yet share the same teaching experience. Distance learning also may be defined as a system and process that connects students with resources for learning. As sources for access to information expand, the possibilities for distance learning increases.

While e-learning has many training advantages, it also has limitations which can include the lack of peer interaction and personal feedback, depending on what method of e-learning is used. For the instructor, maintaining control of the learning situation may be difficult. It also may be difficult to find good programs for certain subject areas, and the expense associated with the equipment, software, and facilities must be considered. In addition, instructors and students may lack sufficient experience with personal computers to take full advantage of the software programs that are available.

Improper or excessive use of e-learning should be avoided. For example, a flight instructor should not rely exclusively on a software program on traffic patterns and landings to do the ground instruction for a student pilot, then expect the student to demonstrate patterns and landings in the aircraft. Likewise, it would be unfair to expect a maintenance student to safely and properly perform a compression check on an aircraft engine if the student received only e-learning.

Along with the many types of e-learning, there are a variety of terms used to describe the educational use of the computer. While there are subtle nuances to the different terms which include computer-assisted learning (CAL), computer-assisted instruction (CAI), computer-based training (CBT), and computer-based instruction (CBI), this handbook will use the term “computer-assisted learning” in the following discussion.

Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL) Method

Computer-assisted learning (CAL) couples the personal computer (PC) with multimedia software to create a training device. For example, major aircraft manufacturers have developed CAL programs to teach aircraft systems and maintenance procedures to their employees, reducing the amount of manpower necessary to train aircrews and maintenance technicians on the new equipment. End users of the aircraft, such as the major airlines, can purchase the training materials with the aircraft in order to accomplish both initial and recurrent training of their personnel. Major advantages of CAL are that students can progress at a rate which is comfortable for them and are often able to access the CAL at their own convenience.

Another benefit of CAL is the test prep study guides, useful for preparation for the FAA knowledge tests. These programs typically allow the students to select a test, complete the questions, and find out how they did on the test. The student may then conduct a review of questions missed.

Some of the more advanced CAL applications allow students to progress through a series of interactive segments where the presentation varies as a result of their responses. If students wish to learn about a particular area, they do so by clicking the mouse on a particular portion of the screen. They can focus on the area they either need to study or want to study. For example, a maintenance student who wants to find information on the refueling of a specific aircraft could use a CAL program to access the refueling section, and study the entire procedure. If the student wishes to repeat a section or a portion of the section, it can be done at any time merely by clicking on the appropriate icon.

In teaching aviation students, CAL programs can be used by the instructor as another type of reference for students to study. Just as a student can reread a section in a text, a student can review portions of a CAL program until it is understood. The instructor must continue to monitor and evaluate the progress of the student as usual. This is necessary to be certain a student is on track with the training syllabus. At times, instructors may feel that they are doing more one-on-one instruction than in a normal classroom setting, but repetitive forms of teaching may be accomplished by computer. This actually gives the instructor more time for one-on-one teaching. Remember, the computer has no way of knowing when a student is having difficulty, and it will always be the responsibility of the instructor to provide monitoring and oversight of student progress and to intervene when necessary. [Figure 4-13]

Figure 4-13. The instructor must continually monitor student performance when using CAL, as with all instructional aids.

Real interactivity with CAL means the student is fully engaged with the instruction by doing something meaningful which makes the subject of study come alive. For example, the student controls the pace of instruction, reviews previous material, jumps forward, and receives instant feedback. With advanced tracking features, CAL also can be used to test the student’s achievement, compare the results with past performance, and indicate the student’s weak or strong areas.

For most aviation training, the computer should be thought of as a valuable instructional aid and entrusting an entire aviation training program to a computer is not practical. Even airline simulator programs require tailoring and hands-on interaction with a human instructor. On the other hand, CAL is a useful tool for aviation instructors. For example, in teaching aircraft maintenance, CAL programs produced by various aircraft manufacturers can be used to expose students to equipment not normally found at a maintenance school. Another use of computers would allow students to review procedures at their own pace while the instructor is involved in hands-on training with other students. The major advantage of CAL is that it is interactive—the computer responds in different ways, depending on student input. When using CAL, the instructor should remain actively involved with the students by using close supervision, questions, examinations, quizzes, or guided discussions on the subject matter to constantly assess student progress.

Simulation, Role-Playing, and Video Gaming

Simulation (the appearance of real life), role-playing (playing a specific role in the context of a real world situation), and video gaming have taken e-learning in new directions. [Figure 4-14] The popularity of simulation games that provide players with complex situations and opportunities to learn have drawn educators into the gaming field as they seek interactive educational games that help students retain subject matter learning.

Figure 4-14. Flight simulator.

The advantages of simulation/role-playing games come as the student learns new information, develops skills, connects and manipulates information. A game gives the learner a stake in the outcome by putting the learner into the shoes of a character (role playing) who needs to overcome a real world scenario. Learning evolves as a result of the student’s interactions with the game, and these games usually promote the development of critical thinking skills.

Not every aviation learning objective can be delivered via this teaching method, but it should prove to be a useful tool in the instructor’s tool box as the number and content of educational games increase.

Cooperative or Group Learning Method

Cooperative or group learning organizes students into small groups who can work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning. Research indicates that students completing cooperative learning group tasks tend to have higher test scores, higher self-esteem, improved social skills, and greater comprehension of the subjects they are studying. Perhaps the most significant characteristic of group learning is that it continually requires active participation of the student in the learning process.

Conditions and Controls

In spite of its advantages, success with cooperative or group learning depends on conditions and controls. First of all, instructors need to begin planning early to determine what the student group is expected to learn and to be able to do on their own. The group task may emphasize academic achievement, cognitive abilities, or physical skills, but the instructor must use clear and specific learning objectives to describe the knowledge and/or abilities the students are to acquire and then demonstrate on their own.

The following conditions and controls are useful for cooperative learning, but do not need to be used every time an instructor assigns a group learning project:

  1. Small, heterogeneous groups

  2. Clear, complete instructions of what students are to do, in what order, with what materials, and when appropriate—what students are to do as evidence of their mastery of targeted content and skills

  3. Student perception of targeted objectives as their own, personal objectives

  4. The opportunity for student success

  5. Student access to and comprehension of required information

  6. Sufficient time for learning

  7. Individual accountability

  8. Recognition and rewards for group success

  9. Time after completion of group tasks for students to systematically reflect upon how they worked together as a team

In practice, cooperative or group learning in aviation training is normally modified to adapt to school policy or for other valid reasons. For example, collaborative, student-led, instructor-led, or working group strategies are alternatives to a pure form of group learning. In these examples, the student leader or the instructor serves as a coach or facilitator who interacts with the group, as necessary, to keep it on track or to encourage everyone in the group to participate.

Demonstration-Performance Method

Best used for the mastery of mental or physical skills that require practice, the demonstration-performance method is based on the principle that people learn by doing. In this method, students observe the skill and then try to reproduce it. It is well suited for the aircraft maintenance instructor who uses it in the shop to teach welding, and the flight instructor who uses it in teaching piloting skills.

Every instructor should recognize the importance of student performance in the learning process. Early in a lesson that is to include demonstration and performance, the instructor should identify the most important learning outcomes. Next, explain and demonstrate the steps involved in performing the skill being taught. Then, allow students time to practice each step, so they can increase their ability to perform the skill.

The demonstration-performance method is divided into five phases: explanation, demonstration, student performance, instructor supervision, and evaluation. [Figure 4-15]

Figure 4-15. The demonstration-performance method of teaching has five essential phases.

Explanation Phase

Explanations must be clear, pertinent to the objectives of the particular lesson to be presented, and based on the known experience and knowledge of the students. In teaching a skill, the instructor must convey to the students the precise actions they are to perform. In addition to the necessary steps, the instructor should describe the end result of these efforts. Before leaving this phase, the instructor should encourage students to ask questions about any step of the procedure that they do not understand.

Demonstration Phase

The instructor must show students the actions necessary to perform a skill. As little extraneous activity as possible should be included in the demonstration if students are to clearly understand the instructor is accurately performing the actions previously explained. If, due to some unanticipated circumstances, the demonstration does not closely conform to the explanation, this deviation should be immediately acknowledged and explained.

Student Performance and Instructor Supervision Phases

Because these two phases, which involve separate actions, are performed concurrently, they are discussed here under a single heading. The first of these phases is the student’s performance of the physical or mental skills that have been explained and demonstrated. The second activity is the instructor’s supervision.

Student performance requires students to act and do. To learn skills, students must practice. The instructor must, therefore, allot enough time for meaningful student activity. Through doing, students learn to follow correct procedures and to reach established standards. It is important that students be given an opportunity to perform the skill as soon as possible after a demonstration. In flight training, the instructor may allow the student to follow along on the controls during the demonstration of a maneuver. Immediately thereafter, the instructor should have the student attempt to perform the maneuver, coaching as necessary. In the opening scenario, students performed a task (weight and balance computation) as a group, and prior to terminating the performance phase, they were allowed to independently complete the task at least once with supervision and coaching as necessary.

Evaluation Phase

In this phase, the instructor judges student performance. The student displays whatever competence has been attained, and the instructor discovers just how well the skill has been learned. To test each student’s ability to perform, the instructor requires students to work independently throughout this phase and makes some comment about how each performed the skill relative to the way it was taught. From this measurement of student achievement, the instructor determines the effectiveness of the instruction.

Drill and Practice Method

A time-honored training delivery method, drill and practice is based on the learning principle of exercise discussed in chapter 2, which holds that connections are strengthened with practice. It promotes learning through repetition because those things most often repeated are best remembered. The human mind rarely retains, evaluates, and applies new concepts or practices after a single exposure. Students do not learn to weld during one shop period or to perform crosswind landings during one instructional flight. They learn by applying what they have been told and shown. Every time practice occurs, learning continues. Effective use of drill and practice revolves around knowing what skill is being developed. The instructor must provide opportunities for students to practice and, at the same time, make sure that this process is directed toward a learning objective.


A successful instructor needs to be familiar with as many teaching methods as possible. Although lecture and demonstration-performance may be the methods used most often, being aware of other methods and teaching tools such as guided discussion, cooperative learning, and computer-assisted learning better prepares an instructor for a wide variety of teaching situations.

Obviously, the aviation instructor is the key to effective teaching. An experienced instructor’s knowledge and skill regarding methods of instruction may be compared to a maintenance technician’s toolbox. The instructor’s tools are teaching methods. Just as the technician uses some tools more than others, the instructor uses some methods more often than others. As is the case with the technician, there are times when a less used tool is the exact tool needed for a particular situation. The instructor’s success is determined to a large degree by the ability to organize material and to select and utilize a teaching method appropriate to a particular lesson.

Application of the Lesson

Application is student use of the instructor’s presented material. If it is a classroom presentation, the student may be asked to explain the new material. If it is a new flight maneuver, the student may be asked to perform the maneuver that has just been demonstrated. In most instructional situations, the instructor’s explanation and demonstration activities are alternated with student performance efforts. Usually the instructor has to interrupt the student’s efforts for corrections and further demonstrations. This is necessary because it is very important that each student perform the maneuver or operation the right way the first few times to establish a good habit. Faulty habits are difficult to correct and must be addressed as soon as possible. Flight instructors in particular must be aware of this problem since students often do a lot of their practice without an instructor. Only after reasonable competence has been demonstrated should the student be allowed to practice certain maneuvers on solo flights. Periodic review and assessment by the instructor is necessary to ensure that the student has not acquired any bad habits.

As the student becomes proficient with the fundamentals of flight and aircraft maneuvers or maintenance procedures, the instructor should increasingly emphasize ADM as a means of applying what has been previously learned. For example, the flight student may be asked to plan for the arrival at a specific nontowered airport. The planning should take into consideration the wind conditions, arrival paths, communication procedures, available runways, recommended traffic patterns, and courses of action in the event the unexpected occurs. Upon arrival at the airport the student makes decisions (with guidance and feedback as necessary) to safely enter and fly the traffic pattern.

Assessment of the Lesson

Before the end of the instructional period, the instructor should review what has been covered during the lesson and require the students to demonstrate how well the lesson objectives have been met. Review and assessment are integral parts of each classroom, and/or flight lesson. The instructor’s assessment may be informal and recorded only for the instructor’s own use in planning the next lesson for the students, or it may be formal. More often, the assessment is formal and results recorded to certify the student’s progress in the course. Assessment is explored in more detail in chapter 5.

Instructional Aids and Training Technologies

Instructional aids are devices that assist an instructor in the teaching-learning process. Instructional aids are not self-supporting; they support, supplement, or reinforce what is being taught. In contrast, training media are generally described as any physical means that communicates an instructional message to students. For example, the instructor’s voice, printed text, video cassettes, interactive computer programs, part-task trainers, flight training devices, or flight simulators, and numerous other types of training devices are considered training media.

In school settings, instructors may become involved in the selection and preparation of instructional aids, but they often are already in place. For the independent instructor setting, the instructor may need to select and prepare instructional aids. Whatever the setting, instructors need to learn how to effectively use them.

Instructional Aid Theory

For many years, educators have theorized about how the human brain and the memory function during the communicative process. There is general agreement about certain factors that seem pertinent to understanding the use of instructional aids.

  • During the communicative process, the sensory register of the memory acts as a filter. As stimuli are received, the individual’s sensory register works to sort out the important bits of information from the routine or less significant bits. Within seconds, what is perceived as the most important information is passed to the working or short-term memory where it is processed for possible storage in the long-term memory. This complex process is enhanced by the use of appropriate instructional aids that highlight and emphasize the main points or concepts.

  • The working or short-term memory functions are limited by both time and capacity. Therefore, it is essential that the information be arranged in useful bits or chunks for effective coding, rehearsal, or recording. The effectiveness of the instructional aid is critical for this process. Carefully selected charts, graphs, pictures, or other well-organized visual aids are examples of items that help the student understand, as well as retain, essential information.

  • Ideally, instructional aids should be designed to cover the key points and concepts. In addition, the coverage should be straightforward and factual so it is easy for students to remember and recall. Generally, instructional aids that are relatively simple are best suited for this purpose.

Reasons for Use of Instructional Aids

In addition to helping students remember important information, instructional aids have other advantages. When properly used, they help gain and hold the attention of students. Audio or visual aids can be very useful in supporting a topic, and the combination of both audio and visual stimuli is particularly effective since the two most important senses are involved. Instructors should keep in mind that they are often salesmen of ideas, and many of the best sales techniques that attract the attention of potential clients are well worth considering. One caution—the instructional aid should keep student attention on the subject; it should not be a distracting gimmick.

Clearly, a major goal of all instruction is for the student to be able to retain as much knowledge of the subject as possible, especially the key points. Numerous studies have attempted to determine how well instructional aids serve this purpose. Indications from the studies vary greatly—from modest results, which show a 10 to 15 percent increase in retention, to more optimistic results in which retention is increased by as much as 80 percent. [Figure 4-16]

Figure 4-16. Studies generally agree that measurable improvement in student retention of information occurs when instruction is supported by appropriate instructional aids.

Good instructional aids also can help solve certain language barrier problems. Consider the continued expansion of technical terminology in everyday usage. This, coupled with culturally diverse backgrounds of today’s students, makes it necessary for instructors to be precise in their choice of terminology. Words or terms used in an instructional aid should be carefully selected to convey the same meaning for the student as they do for the instructor. They should provide an accurate visual image and make learning easier for the student.

Another use for instructional aids is to clarify the relationships between material objects and concepts. When relationships are presented visually, they often are much easier to understand. For example, the subsystems within a physical unit are relatively easy to relate to each other through the use of schematics or diagrams. Symbols, graphs, and diagrams can also show relationships of location, size, time, frequency, and value. By symbolizing the factors involved, it is even possible to visualize abstract relationships.

Instructors are frequently asked to teach more and more in a smaller time frame. Instructional aids can help them do this. For example, instead of using many words to describe a sound, object, or function, the instructor plays a recording of the sound, shows a picture of the object, or presents a diagram of the function. Consequently, the student learns faster and more accurately, and the instructor saves time in the process.

Guidelines for Use of Instructional Aids

The use of any instructional aid must be planned, based on its ability to support a specific point in a lesson. A simple process can be used to determine if and where instructional aids are necessary.

  • Clearly establish the lesson objective. Be certain of what is to be communicated.

  • Gather the necessary data by researching for support material.

  • Organize the material into an outline or a lesson plan. The plan should include all key points that need to be covered. This may include important safety considerations.

  • Select the ideas to be supported with instructional aids. The aids should be concentrated on the key points. Aids are often appropriate when long segments of technical description are necessary, when a point is complex and difficult to put into words, when instructors find themselves forming visual images, or when students are puzzled by an explanation or description.

Aids should be simple and compatible with the learning outcomes to be achieved. Obviously, an explanation of elaborate equipment may require detailed schematics or mock-ups, but less complex equipment may lend itself to only basic shapes or figures. Since aids are normally used in conjunction with a verbal presentation, words on the aid should be kept to a minimum. In many cases, visual symbols and slogans can replace in-depth explanations. The instructor should avoid the temptation to use the aids as a crutch. The tendency toward unnecessarily distracting artwork also should be avoided.

Instructional aids should appeal to the student and be based on sound principles of instructional design. When practical, they should encourage student participation. They also should be meaningful to the student, lead to the desired behavioral or learning objectives, and provide appropriate reinforcement. Aids that involve learning a physical skill should guide students toward mastery of the skill or task specified in the lesson objective.

Instructional aids have no value in the learning process if they cannot be heard or seen. Recordings of sounds and speeches should be tested for correct volume and quality in the actual environment in which they will be used. Visual aids must be visible to the entire class. All lettering and illustrations must be large enough to be seen easily by the students farthest from the aids. Colors, when used, should provide clear contrast and easily be visible.

The usefulness of aids can be improved by proper sequencing to build on previous learning. Frequently, good organization and natural patterns of logic dictate the sequence. However, use of standardized materials, including a syllabus, is recommended. Sequencing also can be enhanced simply by using overlays on transparencies, stripping techniques on charts and chalk or marker boards, and by imaginative use of magnetic boards. Sequencing can be emphasized and made clearer by the use of contrasting colors.

The effectiveness of aids and the ease of their preparation can be increased by initially planning them in rough draft form. Revisions and alterations are easier to make at that time than after their completion. The rough draft should be carefully checked for technical accuracy, proper terminology, grammar, spelling, basic balance, clarity, and simplicity. Instructional aids should also be reviewed to determine whether their use is feasible in the training environment and whether they are appropriate for the students. [Figure 4-17]

Figure 4-17. Guidelines for effective instructional aids.

In practice, the choice of instructional aids depends on several factors. Availability, feasibility, or cost may impose realistic limitations. The number of students in a class and the existing facilities are other considerations. In some school situations, the designers of the curriculum determine the use of instructional aids. In this case, the instructor may have little control over their use. On the other hand, an independent instructor may have considerable latitude, but limited resources. Often, instructors must improvise and adapt to the existing circumstances in order to incorporate quality instructional aids.

Types of Instructional Aids

Some of the most common and economical aids are chalk or marker boards, and supplemental print materials, including charts, diagrams, and graphs. Other aids, which are usually more expensive, are projected materials, video, computer-based programs, and models, mock-ups, or cut-aways.

Chalk or Marker Board

The chalk or marker board is a widely used tool for instructors. Its versatility and effectiveness provide several advantages for most types of instruction. First, the material presented can be erased, allowing the surface to be used again and again; and second, the boards serve as an excellent medium for joint student-instructor activity in the classroom. The following practices are fundamental in the use of the chalk or marker board:

  • Keep the chalk or marker board clean.

  • Erase all irrelevant material.

  • Keep chalk, markers, erasers, cleaning cloths, rulers, and related items readily available to avoid interruption of the presentation.

  • Organize and practice the chalk or marker board presentation in advance.

  • Write or draw large enough for everyone in the group to see.

  • Leave a margin around the material and sufficient space between lines of copy so the board is not overcrowded.

  • Present material simply and briefly.

  • Make only one point at a time. A complete outline tends to distract students and makes a logical presentation difficult. If writing has been previously prepared, it should be covered and then revealed one step at a time.

  • If necessary, use a ruler, compass, or other devices in making drawings.

  • Use colored chalk or marker for emphasis.

  • Underline statements for emphasis.

  • Use the upper part of the board. In many classrooms, students may not be able to see the lower half.

  • Stand to one side of the board to avoid hiding the essential information.

  • Use a pointer when appropriate.

  • Adjust lighting as necessary to remove glare.

Supplemental Print Material

Print media, including photographs, reproductions of pictures, drawings, murals, cartoons, and other print materials are valuable supplemental aids. Charts, diagrams, and graphs are also in this category. Many of these items are suitable for long-term use on bulletin boards and in briefing areas. Pictures, drawings, and photographs are especially effective because they provide common visual imagery for both instructors and students. In addition, they also provide realistic details necessary for visual recognition of important subject material. In many cases, this type of supplemental training media may be reproduced in a format for projection on a screen or other clear surface.

Charts, diagrams, and graphs include any printed material which gives information in tabular form. There are several types of charts that can be used in presenting data such as pie charts, flow charts, and organizational charts, among others. The type of chart selected for use depends largely on the type of information the instructor wants to convey. An important factor is chart format. Since charts may consist of a series of single sheets or be tied together in a flip-chart format with several pages, the location and handling of them should be planned in advance.

A graph is a symbolic drawing which shows relationships or makes comparisons. The most common types are the line graph and the bar graph. The selection of a graph for use in any given situation depends upon the type of information the instructor wants to convey.

Charts, diagrams, and graphs can be used effectively to show relationships, chronological changes, distributions, components, and flow. They are easy to construct and can be produced in the same manner as pictures. In addition, they can be drawn on a chalk or marker board and can be duplicated. Care must be taken to display only a small amount of material and to make the material as simple but meaningful as possible.

Numerous other useful print items may be considered as supplemental training aids. Some of these include study guides, exercise books, course outlines, and syllabi. Well-designed course outlines are especially useful to students because they list the key points and help students organize note taking during a lecture.

Enhanced Training Materials

Aviation instructors must cover a broad range of aeronautical knowledge and skill training for pilots and AMTs. The actual training requirements are based in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and other publications used by designated pilot and maintenance examiners when they conduct practical tests. While aviation instructors are expected to be familiar with all regulatory training requirements, use of instructor-oriented training materials which are enhanced for regulatory compliance can be very beneficial for ensuring required training is being accomplished, endorsed, and properly documented. Whether working as an individual instructor or employed by a flight or maintenance school, the instructor must ensure that each student accomplishes a number of important benchmarks. Enhanced training materials that include these benchmarks can help aviation instructors complete, endorse, and document required training.

For example, the training syllabi represent enhanced training material and contain provisions for instructor endorsements and recordkeeping. Such syllabi not only present the course of training in a logical step-by-step, building block sequence, they contain provisions to remind both students and instructors of critical regulatory training benchmarks which are approaching. Blocks for instructor endorsements also may be included at appropriate points. Provisions for logging training time can be incorporated so the syllabus could also serve as the training record for the student, instructor, or school. When required endorsements and recordkeeping provisions are designed into training syllabi, it is much easier, from the instructor’s standpoint, to conduct required training, track student progress, and certify records. The training record can be reviewed and the student’s training status easily assessed in case the student transfers to another school or instructor.

Another example of enhanced, instructor-oriented material for pilot training is a maneuvers guide or handbook which includes the PTS as an integral part of the description of maneuvers and procedures. Students learn from the beginning how to perform the maneuver or procedure and also become familiar with the performance criteria. Instructors need not refer to another document to evaluate student performance. The examiner for the Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) is required to ask four questions in each of the subject areas, which are required by the regulations to be taught. The examiner also is required to assign a practical project from each subject area. Individual maintenance instructors, as well as publishers, have compiled lists of typical questions and projects. Use of these questions and projects as part of the syllabus helps an instructor ensure that all subject areas for a particular class have been covered.

There are many ways to incorporate design features in training materials in order to facilitate regulatory compliance, required endorsements, and recordkeeping. Computer-based training also can be designed so the progress of the student can be tracked and documented. As training becomes more detailed and complex, instructor-oriented materials can be a valuable instructional aid for aviation instructors. More information on enhanced training materials is presented in chapter 6.

Projected Material

Traditional aids in this group include slides, filmstrips, and transparencies for overhead projection. In recent years, video (VHS, compact disks (CDs), digital video disks (DVDs), or computer files), and computer slide shows incorporating text, graphics, video, and animations, have pushed aside traditional training aids. Whatever type of projected training aid used, it is essential for the content to be current and support the lesson.

Use of projected materials requires planning and practice. The instructor should set up and adjust the equipment and lighting beforehand and then preview the presentation. During a classroom session, the instructor should provide students with an overview of the presentation before showing it. After the presentation, the instructor should allow time for questions and a summary of key points. 

Computer-generated slide shows have changed the way information is presented to today’s student. While a computer, screen, and projector may be needed for the classroom, a laptop computer may be all that is needed for the one-on-one presentation. These slide shows can be only bulleted information or incorporate animation and video clips. The instructor can tailor the presentation for the class and also include graphics at appropriate points. A wireless mouse can be used to activate the slide changes from anywhere in the room.

Another convenient and cost effective instructional aid is the overhead transparency and projector. Instructors can create their own overhead acetate or plastic transparencies, or they may purchase commercially produced ones. Material composed on a computer word processing and graphics program can also be printed onto transparencies.

The equipment can be placed at the front of the room, allowing the instructor to maintain eye contact with students. [Figure 4-18] The brilliant light source concentrated at a short distance makes it possible to use the projector in lighted areas. The instructor also can write on a blank transparency as the lesson progresses, much like a chalk or marker board. Additional transparencies can be overlaid onto the original to show development or buildup of an event or display. Overlays can also be cut into various shapes and moved about in relation to the base transparency. This is a useful technique for displaying dial indications or fitting several parts of a component together so relative motion can be simulated.

Figure 4-18. Interior of a lecture room designed for trainings with enhanced training materials utilizing projection equipment.

With any projection equipment, instructors should ensure the projector does not obstruct the students’ line of sight. The projection angle should be adjusted to eliminate image distortion. Finally, although the overhead projector is simple to operate and requires little maintenance, it has disadvantages. Most projectors are bulky to handle and store, and the projector cooling fan may be noisy.

Although vastly different from other projection equipment, the opaque projector reflects light from the surface of the picture or three-dimensional object onto a regular projection screen. The height of usable objects is limited to the space between the top of the lowered projection plate and the body of the projector, usually about two or three inches. The area of the picture or object is limited to approximately 10 inches by 10 inches.

Items which may be projected are practically limitless. A postage stamp, typed material, textbook illustrations, or a defective spark plug are representative of the items that may be projected. This equipment is especially adapted to enlarging diagrams and small charts for display purposes. Since the material projected requires no special preparation, the cost is very low. Many of the limitations of the overhead projector are also true of the opaque projector.


CDs and DVDs are today’s popular video instructional aids. Some educators believe that television and the film industry have produced a visual culture that has actually changed the way people learn.

Passive video, or video that the student watches like a movie, provide motion, color, sound, and in many cases, special effects with advanced graphic and animation techniques. High-quality, commercially produced CDs and DVDs are available for almost every aviation training subject. Consequently, CDs and DVDs have replaced many of the projection-type instructional aids.

For instructors, the convenience of CDs and DVDs is certainly an advantage. The capability to stop, freeze, and replay information is helpful for both instructors and students. CDs and DVDs and the associated equipment, although more expensive than some of the more basic instructional aid equipment, are fairly economical. Unlike other forms of projected material, CDs and DVDs can also be played on a laptop computer.

On the other hand, CDs and DVDs offer their own disadvantages. Students are often accustomed to dramatic, action-packed movies or games designed as entertainment. They also tend to watch movies or TV in a passive way without attempting to absorb what they are seeing and hearing. Instructional CDs and DVDs, in comparison, are perceived as much less exciting and less stimulating visually. This, coupled with an inattentive viewing style, can diminish the instructional value of the CD or DVD.

As is true for any instructional aid, instructors need to follow some basic guidelines when using CDs and DVDs. For example, the presentation is not designed to replace the instructor. Prior planning and rehearsal will help determine the important points and concepts that should be stressed, either during the presentation or as part of a summary. Instructors should also try to prepare students for viewing CD/DVD programs by telling them what to watch carefully, what is important or, possibly, what is incorrect. In addition, instructors should be available to summarize the presentation and answer any questions students may have regarding content.

Interactive CDs and DVDs

“Interactive” refers broadly to computer software that responds quickly to certain choices and commands by the user. A typical system consists of a CD or DVD and a computer. A major advantage of CDs and DVDs is the capability to store enormous amounts of information. As an example, a single CD or DVD may contain all pertinent aviation regulations, plus the complete AIM. With search-and-find features incorporated, a CD or DVD is a powerful information source. The software may include additional features such as image banks with full color photos and graphics, as well as questions or directions which are programmed to create interactivity for students as they progress through the course.

The questions or directions are programmed using a branching technique, which provides several possible courses of action for the user to choose in order to move from one sequence to another. For example, a program may indicate, “That was incorrect. Go back to … and try again.”

Interactive CDs and DVDs solve one of the main problems of passive video in that it increases involvement of the student in the learning process. Well-designed interactive video, when properly used, is highly effective as an instructional aid. Each student essentially receives a customized learning experience.

Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL)

As mentioned earlier, CAL has become a popular training delivery method. In its basic form, CAL is a combination of more than one instructional media, such as audio, text, graphics, and video (or film) usually shown on a PC.

With CAL, the roles of both student and instructor change. Students become more involved in their own learning, and instructors may no longer occupy a center-stage position in a typical classroom setting. Instead, instructors become supportive facilitators. As such, they serve as guides or resource experts and circulate among students who are working individually or in small groups. This results in considerable one-on-one instructor-student interaction. Thus, the instructor provides assistance, reinforcement, and answers for those who need it most.

In this situation, the CAL should still be considered as an add-on instructional aid to improve traditional classroom instruction. The instructor, although no longer the center of attention, must continue to maintain complete control over the learning environment to ensure learning objectives are being achieved. [Figure 4-19]

Figure 4-19. In a computer-assisted learning environment, the instructor must still ensure that learning objectives are being achieved.

A more advanced application of computer-based training may involve less instructor control. For example, a laboratory-type environment may be configured with separate study areas for each student. With this setup, the physical facility is usually referred to as a learning center or training center. Students in these centers are often monitored by a teacher’s aide or other trained personnel who can provide guidance, answer questions, and act as a conduit to the instructor who is responsible for the training. In this case, the responsible instructor needs to establish procedures to make sure the required training is accomplished, since he or she must certify student competency at the end of the course.

Models, Mock-ups, and Cut-Aways

Models, mock-ups, and cut-aways are additional instructional aids. A model is a copy of a real object. It can be an enlargement, a reduction, or the same size as the original. The scale model represents an exact reproduction of the original, while simplified models do not represent reality in all details. Some models are solid and show only the outline of the object they portray, while others can be manipulated or operated.

Although a model may not be a realistic copy of an actual piece of equipment, it can be used effectively in explaining operating principles of various types of equipment. Models are especially adaptable to small group discussions in which students are encouraged to ask questions. A model is even more effective if it works like the original, and if it can be taken apart and reassembled. With the display of an operating model, the students can observe how each part works in relation to the other parts. When the instructor points to each part of the model while explaining these relationships, the students can better understand the mechanical principles involved. As instructional aids, models are usually more practical than originals because they are lightweight and easy to manipulate.

A mock-up is a three-dimensional or specialized type of working model made from real or synthetic materials. It is used for study, training, or testing in place of the real object, which is too costly or too dangerous, or which is impossible to obtain. The mock-up may emphasize or highlight elements or components for learning and eliminate nonessential elements.

Cut-aways, another type of model, are built in sections and can be taken apart to reveal the internal structure. Whenever possible, the various parts should be labeled or colored to clarify relationships.

Production and equipment costs are limiting factors to consider in developing and using models, mock-ups, and cut-aways. Depending on the nature of the representation, cost can vary. For instance, scale replicas are often very expensive. In general, if a two-dimensional representation will satisfy the instructor’s requirement, it should be used.

Test Preparation Material

Test preparation material applies to an array of paper, video, and computer software products that are designed by commercial publishers to help student applicants prepare for FAA tests. While test preparation materials may be effective in preparing students for FAA tests, the danger is that students may learn to pass a given test, but fail to learn other critical information essential to safe piloting and maintenance practices. In addition, FAA inspectors and designated examiners have found that student applicants often exhibit a lack of knowledge during oral questioning, even though many have easily passed the FAA knowledge test. A major shortcoming of test preparation materials is that the emphasis is on rote learning, which is the lowest of all levels of learning.

Test preparation materials, as well as instructors, that dwell on teaching the test are shortchanging student applicants. All instructors who use test preparation publications should stress that these materials are not designed as stand-alone learning tools. They should be considered as a supplement to instructor-led training.

Future Developments

Electronic communications, including use of computer databases, voice mail, e-mail, Internet, World Wide Web, and satellite-based, wireless communications, are routine and this explosion of information access affects aviation training. It will be even more significant in the future.

Computer technology continues to advance in quantum leaps, challenging traditional ways of teaching. For example, voice-recognition technology, which lets computers accept spoken rather than keyed input, is highly effective for technical training.

Miniature electro-optical devices allow computer-aided information to be projected electronically on sunglass-style eye wear which is connected to a lightweight, belt mounted computer. Computer-aided information is particularly useful for aviation maintenance activities. For example, it would be possible for a technician’s eyes to easily move back and forth from computer-generated technical data to the actual hardware while diagnosing and correcting a maintenance problem.

Trends in training indicate a shift from the typical classroom to more extensive use of a lab-type environment with computer work or study stations. Using simulation devices, computer networks, and multimedia programs, students become more actively involved and responsible for their own training. Aviation-related learning centers are usually associated with colleges, universities, and research centers. The airlines, as well as aeronautical programs at some colleges and universities, have used similar facilities for many years.

Another type of computer-based technology, virtual reality (VR), creates a sensory experience that allows a participant to believe and barely distinguish a virtual experience from a real one. VR uses graphics with animation systems, sounds, and images to reproduce electronic versions of real-life experience. Despite enormous potential, VR, in its current stage of development, has drawbacks. It is extremely expensive, and versions with a head-mounted display sometimes produce unfavorable side effects.

For those engaged in aviation training, the challenge is staying abreast of technological changes that apply to training and adopting those that are the most useful and cost effective. Since much of the new technology is based on computer technology, instructors with well-developed computer skills are in demand.

Although the explosion of training technology offers new opportunities, instructors must remember their main teaching goals and be selectively receptive to new possibilities. Electronic information on computer networks and bulletin boards is from commercial providers, as well as community, state, and national government agencies. There is no guarantee that all of this information is current, or even accurate.

Chapter Summary

As indicated by this discussion, the teaching process organizes the material an instructor wishes to teach in such a way that the learner understands what is being taught. An effective instructor uses a combination of teaching methods as well as instructional aids to achieve this goal.

By being well prepared, an effective instructor presents and applies lesson material, and also periodically assesses how well the learner is learning. An effective instructor never stops learning. He or she maintains currency in the subject matter being taught, as well as how to teach it by reading professional journals and other aviation publications, many of which can be viewed or purchased via the Internet, another source of valuable aviation information for professional instructors.