Chapter 7. Instructor Responsibilities and Professionalism

Standards of Performance

An aviation instructor is responsible for training an applicant to acceptable standards in all subject matter areas, procedures, and maneuvers included in the tasks within each area of operation in the appropriate Practical Test Standard (PTS). It must be emphasized that the PTS book is a testing document, not a teaching document. [Figure 7-2]

When teaching a particular procedure, an instructor might be tempted to point out the consequences of doing it differently, perhaps telling the student that failure to perform the procedure as taught will court disaster. The instructor may believe this “consequence approach” is necessary to ensure the student commits the procedure to memory, but the stated reasons for performing the procedure a certain way must contribute to the learning situation to be effective.

Emphasizing the Positive

Aviation instructors have a tremendous influence on a student’s perception of aviation. The way instructors conduct themselves, the attitudes they display, and the manner in which they develop instruction all contribute to the formation of either positive or negative impressions by students. The success of an aviation instructor depends greatly on his or her ability to present instruction in a manner that gives students a positive image of aviation. [Figure 7-3]

Chapter 1, Human Behavior, emphasized that a negative self-concept inhibits the perceptual process, that fear adversely affects student perceptions, that the feeling of being threatened limits the ability to perceive, and that negative motivation is not as effective as positive motivation. Merely knowing about these factors is not enough. Instructors must be able to detect these factors in their students and strive to prevent negative feelings from undermining the instructional process.

Consider how the following scenarios conducted during the first lesson might influence and impress a new student pilot who has limited or no aviation experience:

  • An indoctrination in preflight procedures with emphasis on the critical precautions which must be taken before every flight because “… emergencies in flight can be caused by an improper preflight and are often disastrous.”
  • Instruction and hands-on training in the care that must be taken in taxiing an airplane because “… if you go too fast, you may lose directional control of the aircraft.”
  • Introduction and demonstration of stalls, because “… this is how so many people lose their lives in airplanes.”
  • Illustrating and demonstrating forced landings during the first lesson, because “… one should always be prepared to cope with a rope break in a glider.”

These new experiences might make the new student wonder if learning to fly is a good idea.

In contrast, consider a first flight lesson in which the preflight inspection is presented to familiarize the student with the aircraft and its components, and the flight is a perfectly normal one to a nearby airport, with return. Following the flight, the instructor can call the student’s attention to the ease with which the trip was made in comparison with other modes of transportation, and the fact that no critical incidents were encountered or expected.

This does not mean stalls and emergency procedures should be omitted from training. It only illustrates the positive approach in which the student is not overwhelmed with information that he or she may not be prepared to digest. Again, this reinforces the need for the instructor to employ a syllabus that makes sense and consider student ability to comprehend new information. The introduction of emergency procedures after the student has developed an acquaintance with normal operations is not as likely to be discouraging and frightening, or to inhibit learning by the imposition of fear.

There is nothing in aviation that demands that students must suffer as part of their instruction. Every effort should be made to ensure instruction is given under positive conditions that reinforce training conducted to standard and modification of the method of instruction when students have difficulty grasping a task. In essence, a student’s failure to perform is viewed as an instructor’s inability to transfer the information. Otherwise, the instructor fails to consider himself or herself as part of a broken learning chain. Emphasize the positive because positive instruction results in positive learning.

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