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Technique

Instructional Technique

Introduction

The task of teaching someone how to fly requires an instructor to be able to do more than simply fly an aircraft. Possessing the skills to do a job does not necessarily mean that one can teach those skills to someone else. Just as it requires training to fly an aircraft, it requires training to teach someone how to fly. Skills such as lesson planning, use of training aids and questioning techniques are required. All of these skills will need to be utilised by the flying instructor along with the ability to develop and enhance practical skills to be imparted to the student.

The CAA has developed a Flight Instructors Guide which is available on their web site or free th instructors through RAANZ. This document has comprehensive reading on instructor teaching skills along with all the practical lessons required to be taught.

The following is a précis on the instructional processes required:

The phases of Flying Instruction

The process of teaching someone to fly consists of a number of different phases.

  • Initially the theory of the discipline must be taught.
  • After the student has grasped the theory then the application to a specific aircraft must be considered. This is using the pre-flight brief prior to getting airborne.
  • Once in the air the instructor teaches how the knowledge is applied. This phase in itself requires the application of a number of specific skills on the part of the instructor.
  • Satisfied that the student understands the skill the instructor then allows the student to practise.
  • But then there is more.
  • It cannot be assumed that because the instructor has taught the skill that the student is now able to replicate it at each performance. Time must be allowed for the student to consolidate and naturalise the skill before the final stage of the process when the instructor evaluates whether or not the student has obtained the skill.

A good instructor is able to ensure that the student is relaxed and is able to enjoy the process.

There are therefore four phases to flying instruction.

  1. Teaching the theory
  2. Teaching the skill
  3. Consolidation
  4. Evaluation

Airborne Instruction-Teaching the skill

The phase of “teaching the skill” has within it several steps:

  1. Pre-Flight Brief
  2. Show
  3. Demonstrate
  4. Teach
  5. Student practise
  6. Fault analysis (assessment)
  7. Debrief

Although these steps can be identified individually some of them do at times merge. E.g. While the student is practising the instructor is simultaneously assessing. It may be necessary at times for the instructor to demonstrate the skill more than once or to repeat the teach step.

Pre-Flight Brief

The pre-flight brief has a two-fold purpose.

  • Firstly it gives the instructor the opportunity to state the objective of the exercise.
  • Secondly it allows the instructor to check the students understanding of the theory behind the exercise.

This can therefore be considered a mini lesson, the components of which are an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Its prime purpose is to check on the students understanding and that they have grasped the basics.

It is important that the lesson is only on what is pre-briefed and that other phases of flying are not introduced into the lesson. The lesson should be of a period that is not too long, especially in the early stages as it can be quite a stressful time for the student trying to absorb new skills.

Show

During this step the instructor simply shows the student the skill that is to be taught.

The student plays a fairly passive part in this step and if the pre-flight brief was conducted correctly then the student should be watching the instructor’s actions, the attitude of the aircraft and getting the ‘feel’ of the aircraft. (This will obviously be a little more difficult in tandem seated aircraft).

The student’s reactions will of course vary with the skill being taught. e.g. showing the student straight and level will never excite the student the same way as showing a wing drop stall for the first time. It is important to never assume – e.g. show how to hold/grip/manipulate the controls correctly, how to sit and position their feet etc.

It is during the next two steps, demo and teach, that the passing of the skill to the student is going to take place. It is important that during these steps that the instructor covers all aspects of the skill in the correct sequence. Failure to do this will cause confusion for the student and may result in the instructor having to un-teach some of the incorrect procedures.

The instructor must therefore have analysed the skill and broken it into the appropriate number of steps before taking to the air. These steps should have been rehearsed to ensure that they completely cover the skill.

Demo.

The Demo step is similar to show in that the instructor repeats the skill again.

However, this time the instructor draws the student’s attention to the points that would have been covered in the pre-flight brief. It is at this step that such points as the attitude of the aircraft, instrument readings, what to look for/how/ when and what to feel will be explained.

Teach

During this step the instructor has the opportunity to bring out the specifics of the skill in more detail. More importantly this is where the student can first try out the skill.

If necessary the student can follow the instructor through on the controls. In doing so the student can get the feel for how far the controls must be moved, what force is needed to move them and what reaction time is needed before the affect takes place. It is important to take the initial steps easy so as not to scare the student.

The student at this stage is imitating the instructor and being corrected as required. It is important to repeat the actions with the instructor giving guidance until confidence is gained with the skill. Once confidence is gained, time must be allowed to practice it over and over until it becomes naturalised. It may become repetitive and boring for the instructor during this time but it is vitally important that these consolidation periods are not cut short.

Fault Analysis

At all stages of the lesson the instructor should be monitoring what the student is doing.

This can be a difficult task at times. Apart from teaching the student to fly the instructor must be aware of the safety aspects of the flight and monitor the aircrafts performance. To assist in the task of assessment a check list can be used. This may list the elements of the skill being taught to which the instructor can refer to and ensure the student has mastered all the elements required. If required the instructor can make short notes on the students’ performance.

The main concern during this step is to determine whether or not the student is performing correctly. If not, why? Is it because the instructor has not explained the skills correctly, has the student misunderstood or are there other reasons?

Whatever reason the instructor must make a decision as to the action required. This may mean having to repeat one or more of the earlier steps in the process.

Perhaps another demo may solve the problem or have the student follow through again on the controls. It is important not to assume, get impatient, aggressive or officious. It is at this point that the instructor has to use the skills of intervention.

Intervention

It would be simple for the instructor to take control every time the student makes a mistake. This will not do much for the student’s confidence.

There are intervention techniques that can be used before reaching the stage where the instructor has to take over.

  1. Question – Ask the student about the objectives and conditions of the lesson. They may have forgotten some aspects. Be passive.
  2. Direct – If the student does not take corrective action the instructor then directs the student to carry out the appropriate corrective action. It may be such that they start again at the beginning.
  3. Takeover – If the student is having difficulty following the ‘direction’ then the instructor would take control.

By following this process the student remains in control of the situation with credibility and confidence intact. Additionally this teaches the student to think their own way out of a problem.

Safety must at all times be foremost in the mind of the instructor. It is also important to remember that as an instructor you have long ago mastered a skill, you may be teaching, that has become second nature to yourself and that the student requires time. i.e. practice makes perfect.

Debrief

Following the flight the instructor should debrief the student.

Some instructors employ the chronological order approach. This however, can have the effect of presenting the student with an up and down re-enactment of the flight which makes it difficult to focus in on a particular problem or trend. Other instructors have debriefed all the negative points about the flight first and then focus on the positive points.

The best approach is to start the debrief with a general opening statement related to the exercise. E.g. “the objective of today’s exercise was to fly straight and level. Generally you did well but there are some points that we need to consider.”

Never start with the question “Well, how did you think you did” If the student answers with “That was the best flight I have had and owe my success to you. The best instructor in the world”, then it would be very difficult to tell the student his misgivings.

Following the opening statement the instructor covers the positive points of the flight. By the use of questioning the instructor then has the student identify the negative points of the flight and decide on the action that must be taken to correct the faults. In this way the student is taught to be self-critical.

The instructor should avoid raising every negative point that has been observed. Instead the debrief should concentrate on the major faults and leave the minor ones for correction at a later stage. The debrief finishes with the instructor summing up the positive points and the student summarising the negatives and reiterating the corrective action that has to be taken.

Consolidation

After the exercise has been taught the student has to be allowed the time to consolidate the skill.

The instructor now takes on the role of a monitor and evaluator. The student should be given as much freedom as is possible during this period. It should feel as though the instructor is not in the aircraft. This will allow the student to explore the boundaries of the correct technique and even learn from mistakes that are made. The instructor must be patient at this point and avoid intervening too soon.

Student consolidation can take place dual, solo and mutual sorties. In every case the student practice should be directed and subject to fault analysis. The brief and debrief can achieve these functions for non-dual sorties.

Evaluation

Evaluation of the air exercise is conducted after the student has been taught and after sufficient consolidation has taken place.

During this evaluation stage the instructor directs the student’s practice and conducts the assessment. The direction given must be precise and ensure that the exercise is performed in its entirety. The evaluation is an assessment of how well the student can perform the skill. The instructor must not talk through or attempt to influence the student’s actions. Fault analysis must be passive until the end of the evaluation.

Conclusion

The techniques mentioned here, just like flying skills, require constant application if an instructor is to be good at them.

Additionally the instructor must know when to use the correct technique. Perseverance at the application will not only produce an effective instructor but will assist in producing pilots with an attitude toward safe skills and who will thoroughly enjoy their flying.

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Page last modified on June 23, 2010, at 04:14 PM