Chapter 4. The Teaching Process

Description of the Skill or Behavior

The description of the skill or behavior explains the desired outcome of the instruction. It is actually a learned capability, which may be defined as knowledge, a skill, or an attitude. The description should be in concrete terms that can be measured. Terms such as “knowledge of ...” and “awareness of ...” cannot be measured very well, and words like this should be avoided. Phrases like “able to select from a list of ...” or “able to repeat the steps to ...” are better because they describe something that can be measured. Furthermore, the skill or behavior described should be logical and within the overall instructional plan.


Conditions are necessary to specifically explain the rules under which the skill or behavior is demonstrated. If a desired capability is to navigate from point A to point B, the objective as stated is not specific enough for all students to do it in the same way. Information such as equipment, tools, reference material, and limiting parameters should be included. For example, inserting conditions narrows the objective as follows: “Using sectional charts, a flight computer, and Cessna 172, navigate from point A to point B while maintaining standard hemispheric altitudes.” Sometimes, in the process of writing the objective, a difficulty is encountered. This might be someone saying, “But, what if ...?” This is a good indication that the original version was confusing to that person. If it is confusing to one person, it will be confusing to others and should be corrected.


Criteria are the standards that measure the accomplishment of the objective. The criteria should be stated so that there is no question whether the objective has been met. In the previous example, the criteria may include that navigation from point A to point B be accomplished within 5 minutes of the preplanned flight time and that en route altitude be maintained within 200 feet. The revised performance-based objective may now read, “Using a sectional chart and a flight computer, plan a flight and fly from point A to point B in a Cessna 172. Arrival at point B should be within 5 minutes of planned arrival time and cruise altitude should be maintained within 200 feet during the en route phase of the flight.” The alert reader has already noted that the conditions and criteria changed slightly during the development of these objectives, and that is exactly the way it will occur. Conditions and criteria should be refined as necessary. As noted earlier, a PTS already has many of the elements needed to formulate performance-based objectives. In most cases, the objective is listed along with sufficient conditions to describe the scope of the objective. The PTS also has specific criteria or standards upon which to grade performance; however, the criteria may not always be specific enough for a particular lesson. An instructor should write performance-based objectives to fit the desired outcome of the lesson. The objective formulated in the last few paragraphs, for instance, is a well-defined lesson objective from the task, Pilotage and Dead Reckoning, in the Private Pilot PTS.

The Importance of the PTS in Aviation Training Curricula

PTS hold an important position in aviation training curricula because they supply the instructor with specific performance objectives based on the standards that must be met for the issuance of a particular aviation certificate or rating. [Figure 4-5] The FAA frequently reviews the test items in an attempt to maintain their validity in the current aviation environment. It is a widely accepted belief in the aviation community that test items included as part of a test or evaluation should be both content valid and criterion valid. Content validity means that a particular maneuver or procedure closely mimics what is required. Criterion validity means that the completion standards for the test are reflective of acceptable standards.

For example, in flight training, content validity is reflected by a particular maneuver closely mimicking a maneuver required in actual flight, such as the student pilot being able to recover from a power-off stall. Criterion validity means that the completion standards for the test are reflective of acceptable standards in actual flight. Thus, the student pilot exhibits knowledge of all the elements involved in a power-off stall as listed in the PTS.

As discussed in chapter 2, humans develop cognitive skills through active interaction with the world. This concept has led to the adoption of scenario-based training (SBT) in many fields, including aviation. An effective aviation instructor uses the maneuver-based approach of the PTS but presents the objectives in a scenario situation.

It has been found that flight students using SBT methods demonstrate stick-and-rudder skills equal to or better than students trained under the maneuver-based approach only. Of even more significance is that the same data also suggest that SBT students demonstrate better decision-making skills than maneuver based students—most likely because their training occurred while performing realistic flight maneuvers and not artificial maneuvers designed only for the test.

Research also indicates SBT may lead to improved piloting and navigation skills over traditional maneuver-based training techniques. SBT trained participants demonstrated the same skills and knowledge as the maneuver-based trained participants, but the maneuvers were practiced in the context of a scenario. Many scenarios were coupled to the maneuver until the student not only had the requisite skills, but also related them to many conditions where they would be needed. The data also support that when a condition occurs requiring a maneuver, the SBT participant responded quickly and more accurately than the participant trained only under the maneuver-based approach. A participant lacking SBT instruction must search his or her memory to link a maneuver to a situation.

The incorporation of SBT as part of the lesson is discussed in more detail later in this chapter, as well as in Chapter 6, Planning Instructional Activity.

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