Five Mile Final | An Aviation Sandbox

Aviation Instructor's Handbook

The Four Teaching Skills

Good teachers select and organize worthwhile course material, lead learners 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.

Four essential skills good teachers have include

Instructor's Code of Ethics

The aviation instructor has the added responsibility of molding an aviation citizen. The following code describes the concept of a good aviation citizen:

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

Course of Training

A course of training is a complete series of studies leading to attainment of a specific goal. Other terms closely associated with a course of training include curriculum, syllabus, and lesson plan.

A curriculum for pilot training usually includes courses for the various pilot certificates and ratings.

A syllabus is a summary or outline of an individual course of study that generally contains multiple lessons. The syllabus contains a description of each lesson, including objectives and completion standards.

A lesson plan is a detailed plan for how a specific lesson will be conducted. It includes the lesson objectives, organization of material being covered, description of teaching aids, instruction and learner actions, and evaluation criteria and completions standards.

Preparation of a Lesson

Prior to instruction, an instructor should determine both objectives and standards.

Training Objectives and Standards

Performance-based objectives help define exactly what needs to be done and how it is done during each lesson

Decision-based training objectives rely on a more dynamic training environment and are ideally suited to scenario-based training and teach aviation learners critical thinking skills, such as risk management and aeronautical decision-making (ADM).

As the learner progresses through higher levels of performance and understanding, the instructor should shift the training focus to decision-based training objectives.

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.

A broad, overall objective of any pilot training course is to qualify the learner to be a competent, efficient, safe pilot for the operation of specific aircraft types under stated conditions.

Professional instructors should not limit their objectives to meeting the minimum published requirements. By incorporating ADM and risk management into each lesson, the aviation instructor helps the learner understand, develop, and reinforce the decision-making process which ultimately leads to sound judgment and good decision-making skills.

Performance-Based Objectives

Performance-based objectives consist of three elements: description of the skill or behavior, the conditions, and the criteria.

The description of the skill or behavior explains the desired outcome of the instruction as a change in knowledge, skill, or attitude. The skill or behavior should be in concrete and measurable terms. "Knowlege" and "awareness" cannot be measured well and should be avoided. The learner should be able to make selections or repeat steps.

Conditions explain the rules for demonstration of the skill. Variables can incude equipment, tools, reference material, and limiting parameters, among other things.

Criteria are the standards that measure the accomplishment of the objective. Good criteria define performance so there can be no question whether or not the performance meets the objective.

The Importance of the ACS in Aviation Training Curricula

Airmen Certification Standards (ACS) documents hold an important position in aviation training curricula because they supply the instructor with specific performance objectives based on the standards for the issuance of a particular aviation certificate or rating.

Humans develop cognitive skills through active interaction with the world. It has been found that flight learners using SBT methods demonstrate flying skills equal to or better than those trained under the maneuver-based approach only.

Of even more significance is that the same data also suggest that SBT learners demonstrate better decision-making skills than maneuver-based learners — most likely because their training occurred while performing realistic flight maneuvers and not artificial maneuvers designed only for teaching that maneuver.

Decision-Based Objectives

The design and use of decision-based objectives specifically develops pilot judgment and ADM skills.

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.

Presentation of a Lesson

Before the lesson:

During the lesson:

After the lesson:

Organization of Material

After determining objectives and standards, an instructor formulates a plan of action to lead learners through the course in a logical manner toward the desired goal, such as a certificate or rating.

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

Lesson Introduction

The lesson introduction is made up of three elements: attention, motivation, and an overview.


With development, the instructor develops the subject matter in a manner that helps the learners achieve the desired outcomes. The instructor may show 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.

Training Delivery Methods

Presentation can be done via lecture, demonstration-performance, or guided discussion:

Other options include problem-based learning, group learning and e-learning.

Lecture Method

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.

Cooperative Method

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:

Guided Discussion Method

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.

Demonstration-Performance Method

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.

Problem-Based Learning

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) shifts the focus of learning from an instructor-centered approach to a learner-centered approach. Learners are presented with problems encountered in real life. They then are asked to find 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 improving his or her ability to recall the information. This problem type encourages the development of High-Order Thinking Skills (HOTS).

Effective PBL problems…

An instructor should incorporate analysis, synthesis, and evaluation into lessons using PBL:

The Scenario-Based Training Method (SBT) uses a highly structured script of real-world experiences to address aviation training objectives in an operational environment. Realistic situations allow learners to rehearse mentally and explore practical application of various bits of knowledge.

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:

With the Collaborative Problem-Solving Method, the instructor provides a problem to a group who then solves it. This method can be modified for an interactive one-on-one learning situation — for example, the instructor provides the problem to the learner and participates in finding solutions by offering limited assistance as the learner solves it

The Case Study Method contains a story relative to the learner that forces him or her to deal with situations encountered in real life. The instructor presents the case to the learners who then analyze it, come to conclusions, and offer possible solutions.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) descriptions of aviation accidents provide an excellent source of real-world case studies for flight instructors. By removing the NTSB determination of probable cause, a flight instructor can use the description as a case study and allow the learners to discuss probable cause without bias.

Electronic Learning (E-Learning)

Electronic learning or e-learning has become an umbrella term for any type of education that involves an electronic component. 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.

Flight training devices and flight simulators are used by everyone from flight schools to major airlines, as well as the military.

While e-learning has many training advantages, it also has limitations which can include the lack of peer interaction and personal feedback. Improper or excessive use of e-learning should be avoided.

Cooperative or Group Learning Method

Cooperative or group learning organizes learners into small groups who can work together to maximize understanding. The instructor should use clear and specific objectives to describe the knowledge and/or abilities the learners are to acquire and then demonstrate on their own

The following conditions and controls are useful for cooperative learning:

Demonstration-Performance Method

The demonstration-performance method is based on the principle that people learn by doing. It is best used for the mastery of mental or physical skills that require practice. In this method, learners observe the skill and then try to reproduce it.

In the Explanation Phase, explanations need to be clear, pertinent to the objectives of the particular lesson to be presented, and based on the known experience and knowledge of the learners.

In the Demonstration Phase, the instructor shows learners the actions necessary to perform a skill. Extraneous activity should be excluded from the demonstration.

In the Learner Performance and Instruction Supervision Phases, the learner's performance of the physical or mental skills that and the instructor's supervision occur at the same time.

In the Evaluation Phase, the learner displays whatever competence has been attained, and the instructor identifies how well the skill has been mastered. The instructor requires learners to work independently throughout this phase and makes some comment about how each performed the skill relative to the way it was taught.

Drill and Practice Method

Drill and practice is based on the "Law of Exercise," which states that connections are strengthened with practice.The human mind rarely retains, evaluates, and applies new concepts or practices after one exposure. Every time practice occurs, learning continues.

Effective use of drill and practice revolves around what skill is being developed. The instructor provides opportunities for learners to practice and while directing the process toward an objective.

Instructional Aids and Training Technologies

Instructional aids are not self-supporting — rather, they support, supplement, or reinforce what is being taught. They are distinct from training media, which includes any physical means that communicates an instructional message to learners.

The goal of instruction is for the learner to be able to retain as much knowledge of the subject as possible. Numerous studies have attempted to determine how well instructional aids serve this purpose. Indications from the studies vary greatly &mdahs; from 10 to 80 percent.

Good instructional aids also can help solve certain language barrier problems. Words or terms used in an instructional aid should be carefully selected to convey the same meaning for the learner as they do for the instructor.

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.

Instructional aids can help instructors teach more in a smaller time frame. Consequently, the learner gains knowledge faster and more accurately, and the instructor saves time in the process.

Types of instructional aids include:

Test Preparation Material

While test preparation materials may be effective in preparing for FAA tests, the danger is that learners may be able to pass a given test, but fail to learn other critical information essential to safe piloting practices. Learner applicants sometimes exhibit a lack of knowledge during oral questioning, even though many have easily passed the FAA knowledge test.

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.

Flight Instructor Test Questions

Evaluation of student performance and accomplishment during a lesson should be based on objectives and goals established in the lesson plan.

The use of instructional aids should be based on their ability to support a specific point in the lesson. The first step in determining if and where instructional aids are necessary is to clearly establish the lesson objective, being certain what must be communicated.

Instructional aids should be designed to cover the key points in a lesson (not "Instructional aids should not be used simply to cover a subject in less time.")

Instructional aids used in the teaching/learning process should be compatible with the learning outcomes to be achieved.

Instructional aids used in the teaching/learning process should not be used as a crutch by the instructor.

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.

Practical Test Standards: Flight Instructor

I. Fundamentals of Instructing
Task C: The Teaching Process

Objective: To determine that the applicant exhibits instructional knowledge of the teaching process by describing:

  1. Preparation of a lesson
  2. Organization of material
  3. Training delivery methods:
    1. Lecture method.
    2. Guided discussion method.
    3. Computer-assisted learning method.
    4. Demonstration-performance method.
    5. Drill and practice method.
  4. Problem based learning.
  5. Instruction aids and training technologies.

Oral Exam Questions

  1. What are the four teaching skills?
  2. What are the four steps of the teaching process?
  3. What steps are required to create a lesson plan?
  4. What are the elements of a lesson plan?
  5. The traditional organization for a lesson consists of which steps?
  6. Define the course of training, the curriculum, the training course outline, and the syllabus.
  7. What are the initial steps in planning a course of training?
  8. What are the two types of training objectives?
  9. What are several common teaching methods an instructor may use?
  10. Describe the lecture and guided discussion methods.
  11. What is the demonstration-performance method of teaching?
  12. What are the five phases of the demonstration-performance method?
  13. What is the telling-and-doing technique?
  14. What is the drill-and-practice method?
  15. Describe the problem-based approach to teaching.
  16. What are the three types of problem-based instruction?
  17. What are instructional aids? What is training media?
  18. What general guidelines may be used concerning the use of instructional aids?
  19. When are instructional aids appropriate? Why do they help students learn?

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

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