Instructional Techniques Summary and Guide

  1. The following techniques, if applied in a conscientious manner, will assist the flight instructor in giving effective instruction. Because most flight instructors also carry out some, if not all of the ground school training, references to classroom type instruction are included in this summary. The techniques of instruction, questioning techniques, lesson planning, etc., are equally applicable for providing large group instruction or on a one-to-one basis for air instruction, individual preparatory ground instruction, or pre-flight briefings.
  2. To present a lesson in a professional manner, you must prepare in advance and proceed as follows:
      1. Reason: A lesson plan acts as a guide and keeps you on track during your presentation. It also ensures that important points are covered and not neglected because of poor memory.
      2. What to include: Headings of main points - sufficient notes to jog memory on talking points - specific questions and answers to confirm student learning - visual aid instructions (including a chalkboard plan) - a well thought out opening and closing statement - estimates of the amount of time to be spent on each major idea or item - a visual aids plan - any other point that you feel will help to get the lesson across.
      3. What to avoid: Writing material out in full detail (this promotes reading the material while in front of the class); using single space format (this does not allow for revising notes next time the lesson is to be given); writing in longhand unless you are able to read your notes at a distance of three feet (this makes you appear not to know your material because of having to look closely at your lesson plan rather than just glance at it to jog your memory).
      1. Reason: The class must be arranged for best student learning. If students cannot see all the aids, they may miss a point. Lesson preparation appears more professional if no time is wasted organizing aids or re-arranging seating.
      1. Reason: It avoids embarrassment should an item not work, or if any chart, slide or graph were to be shown in the wrong order. Always ensure you have extra light bulbs for any projection device.
      1. Reason: If students are to learn, they must be physically, mentally and emotionally ready to do so.
      2. How to do it:
        1. Tell students specifically what is required of them during the lesson and what they will be able to do at the end of the lesson.
        2. Tell students why they should take part in the lesson and how the new skill or knowledge will benefit them. Give as many advantages as you possibly can for having students learn, as they may not agree with some of your reasons.
        3. Give students an over-all picture of the lesson, and show them how it fits into the entire course. Attempt to relate the new material to some past and/or future experience of your students.
        4. The length of time required for preparing students to learn depends primarily on their background knowledge and the complexity of the material. As a general guide, the amount of time needed is approximately ten percent of the lesson.
      1. Reason: If you begin your presentation at a level where your students do not understand, there will be confusion and time wasted. Little or no learning will take place.
      2. How to determine the students' level of understanding:
        1. Before the instruction starts, conduct a Threshold Knowledge Test (T.K.T.) to determine what your students know, or do not know. A Threshold Knowledge Test is simply some form of examination, written or oral, of sufficient length to inform you as to the actual level of knowledge.
        2. During the course of instruction have periodic reviews.
        3. Conduct a review of previous lessons before starting each lesson. The review should consist of a series of questions. If your students answer correctly, proceed. If they do not, reteach.
        4. Check with other instructors for the strengths and weaknesses of your students, and arrange your material to fit the students' needs.
      1. Reason: If you get ahead of your students during the presentation, you are in the same position as if you started above their level.
      2. How to ensure that you are proceeding at the required rate:
        1. Arrange your material in stages. Stop at the end of each stage and ask specific questions on the material you have just covered. If your students answer correctly, proceed. If they do not, re-teach. The length of time for a stage depends on the complexity of the material being presented, but a good general rule is 8-12 minutes.
        2. Write out in full a number of well thought out questions. Put these questions on your lesson plan and make sure they are asked during the presentation. The feedback you get from these answers will determine whether or not your students understand.
        3. Observe your students closely for facial expressions which could indicate that they do not understand a particular point. If students say they understand, ask them a question to make sure.
        4. Encourage students to ask questions on points which they do not fully understand.
        5. Provide for lots of practice of basic skills before going on to the more complex parts.
      1. Reason: During any presentation there is a mixture of "need-to-know" material, that is extremely important, and "nice-to-know" material, which may or may not have to be remembered for a long period of time.
      2. How to identify and emphasize points for your students:
        1. Prepare a visual aid of the main points - approximately 75% of learning comes from vision, whereas only about 13% comes from hearing. The visual aid may be a heading on a chalkboard, chart, or projected image.
        2. Have students write the main points down in their notebooks, or provide notes which include these main points.
        3. Make a verbal statement to the students such as: "This particular point is very important; remember it."
        4. Prepare an orientation board (chalkboard or sheet of paper), that identifies the major points for a lesson. Students can refer to this board throughout the lesson, and this helps their thoughts to be guided to a specific area.
        5. Raise the volume of your voice and reduce the rate of delivery while stating an important point, to add emphasis.
        6. Besides emphasizing main points, you should also emphasize safety and points that are easily forgotten or difficult to remember.
        7. Provide emphasis according to relative importance. The most important things get a greater amount of emphasis.
        8. Emphasize points by giving verbal examples (real or imaginary) - by comparisons (similarity or difference to known facts) - and perhaps most important, by giving reasons for each point you make. Students tend to remember better if they understand the reasons behind every point they must learn.
        9. Repeat the point frequently - by using summaries, or have your students repeat the point by answering your questions.
        10. Conduct periodic reviews of the "need-to-know" material.
        11. Have the students complete a home assignment of the important points of a lesson.
        12. Have students record, in note form, the major ideas or items you feel must be emphasized. By having them write ideas down, you are using another sense and so learning may be reinforced.
        13. Use a variety of training aids to appeal to several senses (touch, feel, etc.).
        14. Do not emphasize "nice-to-know" material.
      1. Reason: If students do not understand an explanation, you will have to re-teach by rephrasing, or by going over the material a second time. The same applies to a sloppy or inaccurate demonstration.
      2. Suggestions for ensuring that your explanations and demonstrations are clear.
        1. Start verbal explanations by referring to something already known by your students. Association of ideas makes it easier to follow your explanation.
        2. Use words and phrases that are commonly used. Avoid showing off your command of the English language by using such phrases as: "Elaborate on the fundamental ramifications of hylampherism. Instead, ask ("What happens when the lever is lifted?")
        3. Attempt to reduce complex material and ideas to a simple, easy to understand form. The best way to do this is to start with something your students know about and build on that knowledge in small steps.
        4. If you are required to demonstrate something, make sure you can do it correctly before you show the students.
        5. Make sure all students can see even the smallest points of a demonstration - if necessary, gather them around you.
        6. If you are doing a simultaneous demonstration and explanation, break the demonstration down into small steps and explain each step thoroughly giving reasons, examples and comparisons.
      1. Reason: Approximately 75% of all learning comes through sight.
      2. Sources of ideas;
        1. graphic artists or personnel associated with the production of visual aids,
        2. other instructors can often give the spark to an idea,
        3. commercial displays in newspapers, magazines, television and stores,
        4. finally, your own imagination, if you give it full rein, is an excellent source of ideas for aids.
      3. Types of visual support;
        1. actual equipment,
        2. mock-ups, charts, diagrams, pictures or models,
        3. films, video tape and cassette recordings,
        4. sometimes - people.
      4. Guidelines:
        1. Plan the lesson first, and then select the type of visual support that helps students learn the material. DO NOT select a visual aid and then try to build a lesson around it. Just because the aid looks impressive, it does not mean it will fill the need - the need being to help your student learn the "must-know" information.
        2. Plan to use a visual display of all major points that are covered during your lesson. Simple wording on the chalkboard is usually better than repeating the main points over and over again.
        3. Make your aids simple and clear. Eliminate all unnecessary data. Avoid the tendency to produce ornate, detailed artwork.
        4. Manufacture aids that can be seen by all the students. Before you use it, put the aid in the position in which it is to be used. Go to the position of the student farthest away, and ensure that you can see the aid clearly.
        5. Use a variety of colour to add interest, but make sure you keep associated parts or ideas or a repeating idea in the same colour. In this way you help your students to follow your presentation more easily.
        6. When an aid is not in use, cover it up or remove it from sight. It can act as a distraction for your students if it is there but not being used.
        7. grammar. You would be surprised how many times mis-spelled words are displayed for students.
        8. If possible, stand well away from the aid and use a pointer, so that you do not obstruct the view of any student.
        9. If using charts, it is sometimes advisable to have two copies, one labelled and one unlabelled. The unlabelled one can be used later to test student knowledge. Alternatively, a duplicate work sheet of the chart can be given to each student to fill in or label.
      5. Consider: Will the aid help the student learn better, easier, or faster? You should "show them as well as tell them".
      1. Reason: Any form of variety adds to student interest. Speaking in a dull manner will generally put students to sleep, or at least allow their minds to wander off the subject.
      2. Consider:
        1. Speak at a fast rate while presenting "nice-to-know" material. This produces the effect of observable enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is contagious.
        2. Speak at a slow rate when identifying "must-know" information. This allows students to separate the "need-to-know" from the "nice-to-know" material, and in most cases adds emphasis to the points being made.
        3. Adjust the volume of your voice to the conditions under which you are instructing. If there is background noise you must raise the volume of your voice so that all the students can hear what you are saying. In an aircraft, this is a "must".
        4. Generally you will have very little control over the pitch of your voice, but adjusting the volume and varying the rate of delivery will often help to vary the pitch to some extent.
      1. Reason: It gives students the feeling that you are interested in them and allows you to determine whether or not they understand what you are presenting. This is a little difficult to do in an aircraft.
      2. Consider:
        1. Look directly at students, but do not stare at any particular individual for too long at a time. If students avert their eyes, look at someone else or out the window, it means you have stared too long and possibly caused some embarrassment.
        2. Make your eye contact impartial. Do not favour any individual student or group of students; include them all in your presentations.
      1. Reason: Students learn more easily if they are actively engaged in the learning situation.
      2. Consider:
        1. When learning a theory subject, students' practice of that theory is usually in the form of answering questions. Ensure that you ask questions throughout the presentation.
        2. Use sound questioning technique as outlined in the section "Oral Questions".
        3. Distribute your questions evenly among all the students, to avoid having a few answer all the questions.
        4. Make your questions thought-provoking and challenging.
        5. Avoid questions that require a simple YES or NO answer, unless you immediately follow up with a "why" or "how" question.
        6. Always have enough information in the stem of your question to guide the students' thoughts towards a particular area. Avoid general or ambiguous questions, such as "What goes up the cylinder of an engine?" You may not get the answer you are looking for.
        7. Meaningful activity while learning a skill is normally a combination of answering questions and practising the various steps of the skill. Arrange to have students involved in the practice as soon as possible after the start of the lesson. If possible, build into the first part of the lesson a "hands-on" opportunity for your students. This increases their interest, and in most cases will give them a positive desire to learn more.
        8. Always supervise student practice very closely; do not allow them to make mistakes from which they could begin to learn bad habits. If you do, it means you will have to reteach them. The phrase "practice makes perfect" is only true if the person practising receives close guidance and supervision. REMEMBER, ONLY CORRECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.
        9. When students are able to perform a task with a reasonable degree of proficiency, introduce some competition (speed or ability), or introduce a variation of the skill - but after they have almost mastered the basic skill