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Aviation Instructor's Handbook

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Communication takes place when one person transmits thoughts or feelings to another person or group; effectiveness is measured by similarity between that which is transmitted and received.

There are three basic elements of communication: Source, symbols, and receiver

The source is the speaker, sender, transmitter, or instructor. Effective instructors need to select and use meaningful language. It is the responsibility of the speaker or writer, as the source of communication, to realize that the effectiveness of the communication is dependent on the receiver's understanding of the symbols or words being used.

communicators consciously or unconsciously reveal information about themselves. Instructors should reveal positive attitudes about themselves, their students, and the ideas discussed. And they should use accurate, up-to-date, stimulating material.

Symbols are simple oral and and visual cues. The words in the vocabulary constitute a basic code, as are common gestures and facial expressions. Complex concepts are communicated only when symbols are combined in meaningful wholes as ideas, sentences, paragraphs, speeches, or chapters that mean something to the receiver.

An instructor should constantly monitor feedback from the learner in order to identify misunderstandings and tailor the presentation of information. Periodically asking the learner to explain his or her understanding of new information while it is being conveyed is one way to obtain such feedback.

The Receiver is the listener, reader, or student. In order to understand the process of communication, three characteristics of receivers need to be understood:

The viewpoint and background of people may vary because of prior experiences or cultural differences.

Barriers to effective communication

Barriers to effective communication can include:

Developing Communication Skills

Communication skills result from experience and are enhanced by additional training. Communication skills need to be developed — they do not occur automatically.

Communication has occured when the desired result of communication is observed.

Communication begins with role playing during the instructor's training and continues into actual instruction.

Current FAA training emphasis has moved from a maneuvers-based training standard to what is called Scenario-Based Training (SBT). This method of instruction and learning allows learners to move from theory to practical application of skills during their training.

Instructional Communication

Instruction has taken place when the instructor explains a particular procedure and subsequently determines that the learner exhibits the desired response.

Principles of good communication include talking about deep knowledge and personal experience. The instructor should not be afraid to use examples of past experiences to illustrate particular points. An instructor's personal experiences make instruction more valuable than reading the same information in a textbook.

The instructor needs some way of determining results, and the method used should be related to the expected outcome. In the case of flight training, the instructor can judge the actual performance of a maneuver.

It is essential that students know the meaning of knowledge rather than facts and figures — for example, why an airplane stalls and how it stalls, rather than simply memorizing stall speeds.


Good instructors work to master listening ability and frequently self-evaluate in this area. Instructors can use a number of techniques to become better at listening.

The Instructor's Toolbox includes several listening techniques:

When the learner hears something being communicated, he or she may or may not comprehend what is being transmitted. On the other hand, when the learner truly hears the communication, he or she then interprets the communication based on their knowledge to that point, processes the information to a level of understanding, and attempts to make a correlation of that communicated information to the task at hand.

Instructors can help students listen as well. Rules of Listening for students include:

Nobody can remember everything. Note taking allows the learner to use an organized system to reconstruct what was said during the lesson.


Good questioning also aids understanding. Instructors should ask both open-ended and focused questions. Open-ended questions are designed to encourage full, meaningful answers using the learner's own knowledge and perceptions. Closed-ended questions encourage a short or single-word answer.

Two ways of confirming that the learner and instructor understand things in the same way are the use of paraphrasing and perception checking. The instructor can use paraphrasing to show what the learner's statement meant to the instructor. In this way, the learner can then make any corrections or expansions on the statement in order to clarify.

Perception checking gets to the feelings of the learner, again by stating what perceptions the instructor has of the behavior that the learner can then clarify as necessary.

Instructional Enhancement

An instructor never stops learning. Knowledge of the subject material and skill at instructional communication are necessary to be an instructor. Increasing the depth of knowledge in either area makes the instructor more effective.

Flight Instructor Test Questions

Effective communication has taken place when, and only when, the receivers react with understanding and change their behavior accordingly.

To communicate effectively, instructors must reveal a positive attitude while delivering their message.

To be more likely to communicate effectively, an instructor should speak or write from a background of up-to-date, stimulating material, and not from technical expertise.

A communicator's words cannot communicate the desired meaning to another person unless the listener or reader has had some experience with the objects or concepts to which these words refer.

Student confidence tends to be destroyed if instructors bluff whenever in doubt about some point.

Practical Test Standards: Flight Instructor

I. Fundamentals of Instructing
Task A: Human Behavior and Effective Communication

Objective: To determine that the applicant exhibits instructional knowledge of human behavior and effective communication and how these impact effective learning by describing:

  1. Definitions of human behavior
  2. Human needs and motivation
  3. Defense mechanisms
  4. Student emotional reactions
  5. Basic elements of communication
  6. Barriers to effective communication
  7. Developing communication skills

Oral Exam Questions

  1. What are the three basic elements of communication?
  2. Explain the three characteristics that instructors must understand about their students before effective communication can take place.
  3. What are the barriers to effective communication?
  4. How can flight instructors develop their instructional communication skills?
  5. Name several techniques instructors can use to become better at listening to their students.
  6. What is the difference between an open-ended and close-ended question? What is the purpose of each?

Robert Wederquist   CP-ASEL - AGI - IGI
Commercial Pilot • Instrument Pilot
Advanced Ground Instructor • Instrument Ground Instructor

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