Chapter 2. The Learning Process


Insight involves the grouping of perceptions into meaningful wholes. Creating insight is one of the instructorís major responsibilities. To ensure that this occurs, it is essential to keep each student constantly receptive to new experiences and to help the student understand how each piece relates to all other pieces of the total pattern of the task to be learned.

For example, during straight-and-level flight in an aircraft with a fixed-pitch propeller, the revolutions per minute (rpm) increase when the throttle is opened and decrease when it is closed. On the other hand, rpm changes can also result from changes in aircraft pitch attitude without changes in power setting. Obviously, engine speed, power setting, airspeed, and aircraft attitude are all related.

True learning requires an understanding of how each factor may affect all of the others and, at the same time, knowledge of how a change in any one of them may affect all of the others. This mental relating and grouping of associated perceptions is called insight.

Insight almost always occurs eventually, whether or not instruction is provided. For this reason, it is possible for a person to become an electrician by trial and error, just as one may become a lawyer by reading law. Instruction, however, speeds this learning process by teaching the relationship of perceptions as they occur, thus promoting the development of the studentís insight.

As perceptions increase in number, the student develops insight by assembling them into larger blocks of learning. As a result, learning becomes more meaningful and more permanent. Forgetting is less of a problem when there are more anchor points for tying insights together. It is a major responsibility of the instructor to organize demonstrations and explanations, and to direct practice so that the student has better opportunities to understand the interrelationship of the many kinds of experiences that have been perceived. Pointing out the relationships as they occur, providing a secure and nonthreatening environment in which to learn, and helping the student acquire and maintain a favorable self-concept are key steps in fostering the development of insight.

Acquiring Knowledge

Part of an aviation instructorís job is helping students acquire knowledge. In this context, knowledge refers to information that humans are consciously aware of and can articulate. For example, knowledge of the fuel capacity of a particular aircraft, understanding how an internal combustion engine works, and the ability to determine the weight and balance of an aircraft are examples of knowledge.

Figure 2-6 shows the three phases of knowledge, a progression of how students acquire knowledge. Some practical considerations about learning new knowledge and instructor actions that help students acquire knowledge are summarized.


A studentís first attempt to acquire knowledge about a new topic amounts to memorizing facts about steps in a procedure. For example, when Beverly is learning to use an altimeter, she may have memorized that the knob on the instrument is used to dial the current barometric pressure and that this number must be obtained from the recorded broadcast and set prior to flight.

Memorizing facts and steps has an advantage: it allows students to get started quickly. For example, as soon as Beverly memorizes the purpose of the knob on the altimeter and the procedure for obtaining the current barometric pressure, she is able to properly configure the instrument for flight.

The limitations of memorization become apparent when a student is asked to solve a problem or provide an explanation of something that is not covered by the newly acquired knowledge. For example, when asked whether she would rather have the altimeter mistakenly set too high or too low when flying in mountainous terrain, Beverly may not have an answer.

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