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Fundamentals of Learning…What’s that?

Posted 8 years 280 days ago ago by Randy Rowles

Over the years, I have developed a few instructional techniques that I use when teaching students. One such technique has proven beneficial time after time, and begins at the first meeting with the student. Once a student is assigned to me, I’ll reach out to them to introduce myself, and schedule their first ground school session. I request they bring their spouse or significant other, and let them know that this first ground school session is on me…as in FREE!

This meeting is designed to introduce the student to the training course outline (TCO) and any associated requirements. We discuss homework assignments, ground school sessions, and flight training periods as outlined within the TCO. It is important that your new student knows that flight training is an educational process requiring their full participation. This is where having their spouse or significant other attend the meeting is crucial. Since we are only with our students while at the airport, I engage those at their home to assist me in the learning process. I want someone that lives with them to understand the level of work required in flight training, and to fully understand the fact that this course is an educational process. I detail how they can play a significant role in the success of this person, and their desire to be a safe pilot. Once I mention that their assistance would make them a safer pilot, and the fact they will be riding along with them in an aircraft after training…they find motivation to help out.

It is now that I introduce Fundamentals of Learning. As a flight instructor, we are required to be trained and tested on Fundamentals of Instruction, however this doesn’t occur until 150 flight hours or more into our professional flight training program. I believe that each student should be aware of the emotional roller coaster they will experience throughout their program of flight instruction at the beginning of flight training, not the end. The student should know that learning is an active process, that learning plateaus are normal, and that homework represents Rote learning and must be completed before a ground school session can begin. I make sure they understand if they do not complete their homework assignment, they’ll have to complete it during our scheduled ground school. I haven’t met student yet that likes completing self-study while paying an instructor to watch them work.

Other topics include defense mechanisms, levels of learning, principles of learning, and the list goes on and on. The student’s knowledge of these topics are not at the same level of a flight instructor, but their understanding of these basic fundamentals required to learn are crucial. This knowledge of the learning process will benefit them, and make your job as an Instructor much easier.

Lastly, I write out a personal contract on paper between me and the student. I will start by asking them “What are your expectations of me as your flight instructor”. They usually give me that RCA dog look…so I make a few suggestions. Do you expect me to be on time? Do you expect me to be prepared? Do you expect me to give you all of my attention by turning off my cell phone and not texting during class? By now they get the point. Now I address my expectations of them. The list is almost identical. In all my years of flight training, I’ve only had to pull out the contract two times.  

Remember, the pilot that you present to the industry is how you will be judged as a flight instructor. By engaging and educating the student on their role in the educational process, they become a more stable student, thus a more predictable student. You can’t ask for anything more than that!

About Randy: Randy Rowles has been a FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds a FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award.  Randy is currently  Director of Training at Epic Helicopters in Ft. Worth, Texas.