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Five Mile Final | A Flight Instructor's Sandbox

Aviation Instructor's Handbook


Various teaching methods — lecture, guided discussion, demonstration-performance, group learning — are seldom used by themselves, but instead are integrated together (lecture may lead to guided discussion, for example).

No matter the method, and instructor must organize the material with a plan of action and a logical manner toward a desired goal. A systemic plan of action requires the use of a training syllabus.

Since most training programs include a commercially developed syllabus, the instructor will be concerned with organizing a block of training in the traditional organization — introduction, development, and conclusion.

The Introduction sets the stage for what follows, and includes attention, motivation, and overview:

  • Attention establishes common ground, captures the class's attention, and specifies benefits of instruction.
  • Motivation establishes a receptive attitude toward the lesson and creates a smooth transition into the lesson.
  • Overview indicates what is to be covered, relating it to the overall course.

Development is the main part of the lesson, logically connecting the material among its main points, which can be established in four ways:

  • Past to Present: Subject matter is arranged chronologically; suitable when history is a component of learning.
  • Simple to Complex: For example, introducing the concept of a turbojet engine by demonstrating with a toy balloon.
  • Known to Unknown: Capitalizing on a student's prior knowledge to introduce new concepts, such as comparing aircraft turbulence to a boat pitching on waves.
  • Most Frequently to Least Frequently Used: Introducing a common usage before a rarer one; students will begin learning navigation with a compass and dead reckoning before VOR-DME or GPS technologies.

Conclusion reinforces the points of the lesson with the overall objective. New ideas should not be introduced at the conclusion of the lesson, since they may confuse the student.

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The Lecture Method is the most widely used form of teaching, and it presents both advantages and limitations. Lectures can be used to present new subjects, summarize ideas, show relationships between theory and practice, and re-emphasize main points. Lectures are adaptable to different settings, can be used to introduce large blocks of material, and can be combined with other teaching methods. Different types of lecture include the teaching lecture, the illustrated talk, the formal lecture, and a briefing.

The Teaching Lecture allows active participation by students. Instructors must be able to gauge students' reactions and adjust accordingly. In order to prepare the teaching lecture, the instructor must establish the objectives, research the subject, organize the material, and plan productive classroom activities.

The teaching lecture is best delivered in an extemporaneous manner from an outline, although it also can rely on a manuscript, and memorization. The use of notes improves accuracy, dispels fear of forgetting, and keeps the lecturer on track.

The use of Formal Lecture is best reserved for introducing a new subject matter, and in general is less preferred than the teaching lecture.

The advantages of lecture include instructing large groups, presenting information that's not easily accessible (such as research), or as a supplement to other methods, such as discussion. The disadvantages of lecture include inhibition of student participation, fostering passiveness and teacher-dependence, and the inability to create certain types of learning outcomes, such as motor skills. Instructors also can have difficulty evaluating students' progress in large groups.

Instructors require oratory and presentation skills in lecture, which sees a drop in attention-span after 15 minutes and typically has a 5% retention rate after 24 hours, much lower than active learning. Student participation in lecture improves these numbers.

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The Cooperative or Group Learning method organizes students into small groups, a system supported by academic research. Among other benefits, it continually requires student participation. However, success depends on conditions and controls, including:

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The Guided Discussion Method relies on students to provide ideas, experiences, opinions, and information. It is the fundamental opposite of lecture, drawing out what students know rather than offering knowledge. Learning is increased with more intense discussion. The guided discussion includes the use of the lead-off question and follow-up questions. Other types of questions include:

Effective questions are a cornerstone of student learning and require a clear and specific purpose, clarity in meaning, a single idea, stimulation of thought, definitive answers, and a relationship with previously covered information.

Planning a guided discussion requires topic selection, a lesson objective, research, organization of points, and planning of lead-off questions.

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The Demonstration-Performance Method is based on the simple concept that people learn by doing. Required elements include explanation, demonstration, student performance (with) instructor supervision, and evaluation.

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Computer-Based Training (CBT) has advantages and limitations. Instructors should not rely excessively on CBT, or use it as a substitute for actual experience. CBT can be used as a form of student reference, like a textbook, with the instructor monitoring progress. A successful instructor must be familiar with as many teaching methods as possible.


Flight Instructor Test Questions

In organizing lesson material, the introduction sets the stage for everything to come.

The method of arranging lesson material from the simple to complex, past to present, and known to unknown, is one that shows the relationships of the main points of the lesson.

In developing a lesson, the instructor should organize explanations and demonstrations to help the student acquire new concepts, generally progressing from the known to the unknown.

The lecture is suitable for presenting new material, for summarizing ideas, and for showing relationships between theory and practice.

One advantage of a lecture is that it uses time economically.

The teaching lecture is the most economical in terms of the time required to present a given amount of material.

The main advantage(s) with heterogeneous groups are that students tend to interact and achieve in ways and at levels that are rarely found with other instructional strategies.

An instructional strategy which organizes students into small groups so that they can work together to maximize their own and each other's learning is called cooperative or group learning and not heterogeneous group learning.

A good lead-off question for guided discussion would be: "How does torque affect an airplane?"

When it appears students have adequately discussed the ideas presented during a guided discussion, one of the most valuable tools an instructor can use is an interim summary of what the students accomplished.

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