Individual Differences

  1. You are likely to be discouraged when you discover that a well-planned lesson does not teach all students with equal effectiveness. Usually, however, you soon see that this is natural. One manifestation of the difference among students is that they seldom learn at the same rate. Differences in rates of learning are based on differences in intelligence, background, experience, interest, desire to learn, and countless psychological, emotional, and physical factors. You must recognize that students are different. You must recognize that this fact dictates how much you can teach, at what rate, and when.


2. Attitude: - Students have their own personal attitudes and methods of thinking. Thinking patterns and reactions to the various philosophies and types of training must be reconciled. The instructor must consider if the attitude is caused by hereditary or environmental factors. The root of attitude problems may sometimes be found in the general attitude of the school staff.

3. Interest: - People sense ideas and activities that possess special values, uses or attractions for them. Three general categories of interest are the vocational, educational, and avocational. The interests of students in different aspects of flying will differ. Efforts should be made to take advantage of these, and to channel students into different areas as needed.


4. Emotions play an important part in the training of a student. You must know the kinds of emotions and techniques for controlling them. Most of us think of emotion as overpowering feelings such as passion, hatred, or grief.These are not typical of the entire range of emotions. Everything we do, or with which we come in contact, is coloured by some emotional feeling. Emotions vary from mildly pleasant or unpleasant feelings, all the way up to feelings so intense that physical and mental activity is paralyzed. All of us experience a wide variety of emotions every day. Rarely do they bother us or interfere with our ability or willingness to do our job. However, students in flight training are in an abnormal emotional condition. Students are in unfamiliar situations where accelerated pressures are experienced over a long period of time. The learning situation tends to intensify the students' emotional problems more than we would expect in everyday life. You cannot ignore this problem but must learn how to recognize and overcome it.


For our purposes, we will divide the various levels of emotion into 3 categories:

5. Mild Emotion: - This is the everyday type of emotion such as a small amount of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with our jobs, our personal lives, or with other people. Mild emotions affect motivation.

6. Strong Emotion: - This degree of emotion is not felt very often in everyday life, but causes most of our emotional problems in flying training. Strong emotions cause a large amount of tension in an individual, and no one can live or work normally with prolonged tension; however, strong emotion can be coped with.

7. Disruptive Emotion: - These are very severe, deep-rooted emotional tensions which will disrupt logical action and clear thinking. Persons suffering disruptive emotions usually require the assistance of a psychiatrist; however, they occur so rarely that you need only be aware that they exist.


8. A person cannot tolerate strong emotional tension over any length of time. It causes extreme nervousness, irritability, and an inability to relax. It interferes with normal eating and sleeping habits, and makes the subject generally miserable. Everyone either consciously or subconsciously, tries to relieve prolonged emotional tension.

9. The effect of emotional tension on learning depends on the method chosen by the student for relieving it. If the problem is attacked directly, and solved, then learning is enhanced. For example, students may have strong feelings of frustration or worry due to deficiency in one phase of the flight training program. If they work harder, study more, and receive extra instruction, progress will probably become satisfactory and tension will disappear. On the other hand, if the real problem is avoided, an escape mechanism may be used to reduce tension and learning will suffer.


10. Students in flight training will often use the following escape mechanisms. Occasional use of escape mechanisms is normal in everyone, but their over-use indicates strong emotional problems. You, therefore, must learn to identify the symptoms which indicate that a student is using escape mechanisms.

  1. PROJECTION - transferring the blame from oneself to someone or something else.
  2. RATIONALIZATION - finding a believable excuse for one's actions or failure; trying to justify unjustifiable behaviour.
  3. RESIGNATION - becoming resigned to the situation; giving up.
  4. FLIGHT - physically or mentally removing oneself from the tension producing situation.
  5. AGGRESSION - taking one's tension out on someone else by becoming belligerent or argumentative.

11. A student's over-use of one or more of the escape mechanisms, along with other symptoms, may indicate an emotional problem. You should not wait until emotional tension becomes extreme before taking corrective action.


12. You must be aware of the differences in aptitude, personality, and emotions among your students, and understand the necessity to treat students as individuals. When you have analyzed the situation and determined the differences, seek assistance from more experienced instructors or supervisors when it is necessary. You will attempt to equalize the different levels of understanding, ideally raising the level of some without retarding the progress of others. Coping with differences among students is perhaps the greatest challenge of instructing, and finding the correct approach for each student is essential.

13. Some traits and faults of students are fairly common and can be recognized easily. These are discussed in the following paragraphs, together with suggested corrective actions. (Refer to Table 2)

  1. NERVOUS OR UNDERCONFIDENT. Nervousness or underconfidence in a student is a trait which may or may not disappear. Instruction may be too rapid and material may not be absorbed. Repeating the fundamentals and ensuring mastery will often alleviate this condition. You must ensure that this type of student receives deserved praise whenever possible. Harsh rebukes should be avoided. Patience is very necessary when dealing with a student of this nature. The student must be aware that you are trying to help. Nervous students may be so apprehensive that they may not be suitable for pilot training. You should avoid manoeuvres involving extreme aircraft attitudes, unless they are essential to the lesson being taught. Take the time to build the student up to exercises involving extreme aircraft attitudes.
  2. OVER-CONFIDENT OR CONCEITED. You must first ensure that this type of student has the ability to match the confidence and, if so, set more difficult tasks that require greater accuracy. More criticism of imperfections is advisable. If the student has little ability, counselling may be required. Any signs of familiarity must be discouraged.


C. FORGETFUL OF INSTRUCTION. At the beginning of training, students may forget previous instruction. Students with this problem require a great deal of patience and probably need more review than the average student. Extra time spent in briefing and debriefing, and more study on the student's part should be rewarding for all concerned.

D. INCONSISTENT. Many students, at one time or another throughout the course, appear to lack consistency in flying proficiency. There are many reasons for this and you must try to find the one that fits a particular student. You must look at yourself and your attitude towards the student. Most of us have good days and bad days, but when a student shows large fluctuations in proficiency the instructor must look closely at the teaching activities. A change in approach or even a change in instructors may be called for.

E. SLOW STARTERS. Slow starters are students who find difficulty doing more than one thing at a time. Again, patience is mandatory. Progress may be slow, but encouragement will help.

F. FAST STARTERS. Fast starters are usually students with previous exposure to flight training who quickly grasp the initial air exercises. You should not omit anything from the briefings. Watch for signs of weakness when new work is introduced. This type of student usually slows down to the level of the others shortly after going solo. A high degree of proficiency throughout the course should not be anticipated unless the student has above average ability.

G. IMMATURE. You must not be too harsh with students who appear immature. You will find that within a short time in the flying training environment, the students will attain a greater degree of maturity. Your attitude is of prime importance in setting an example. You must encourage and assist these students whenever possible.

H. AIRSICKNESS. Some students may suffer from airsickness induced by motion, negative G, apprehension, claustrophobia, tensions or excitement. You must attempt to determine what affects the student. When signs of airsickness show up, try methods of prevention such as letting the student fly straight and level, stopping instruction, inducing relaxation, making conversation about something else, or whatever will keep a particular student from becoming airsick.