Learning Factors

7. Listed below are seven learning factors. Read them carefully and determine whether they apply to you as you learn new skills and knowledge. If they apply to you, they will also apply to your students. Attempt to associate a single word that is used to represent the entire learning factor. These words will be used throughout the guide and in test questions on instructional technique.

Learning is made easier when the following factors are used:

  1. READINESS - Ensure students are mentally, physically and emotionally ready to learn.
  2. PRIMACY - Present new knowledge or skills correctly the first time. (Teach it right the first time.)
  3. RELATIONSHIP - Present lessons in the logical sequence of known to unknown, simple to complex, easy to difficult.
  4. EXERCISE - Ensure students are engaged in meaningful activity.
  5. INTENSITY - Use dramatic, realistic or unexpected things, as they are long remembered.
  6. EFFECT - Ensure students gain a feeling of satisfaction from having taken part in a lesson.
  7. RECENCY - Summarize and practice the important points at the end of each lesson, as last things learned and practiced will be remembered longest.

The learning factors listed above are useful "tools" when they are applied correctly. The question of course is how do these learning factors apply to flight instruction? This question will be answered by reviewing and discussing each of the learning factors which offer specific suggestions on what you can do to utilize these "tools" in your instruction.

READINESS - Ensure students are mentally, physically and emotionally ready to learn.

  1. To learn, a person must be ready to do so. An effective instructor understands this necessity and does the utmost to provide well-conceived motivation. If a student has a strong purpose, a clear objective and a sound reason for learning something, progress will be much better than if motivation were lacking
  2. Under certain circumstances you can do little, if anything, to inspire a student to learn. If outside responsibilities, interests or worries are weighing heavily, if schedules are overcrowded, if personal problems seem insoluble, the student will be unable to develop the interest to learn.
  3. Here are some suggestions you can follow to arouse interest and make the student ready to learn:
    1. Start lessons with an ATTENTION GETTING opening. For examples of opening sentences that are effective, listen carefully to the start of documentary films or interviews on television. Writers spend a great deal of time developing the exact words to tune you in.
    2. State SPECIFICALLY WHAT is required during the lesson and how you intend to prove that the student has the knowledge or can master the skill at the end of the lesson. Make all your statements student centred - use the terms "you" and "we" when you describe what is to take place.
    3. Tell students the PURPOSE of the lesson and stress the BENEFIT from the new knowledge or skill. Try to give more than one reason for learning, just in case the student doesn't fully accept the first reason.
    4. Specify WHERE the lesson fits into the overall picture, and relate the lessons to past experiences that the students may have had. This statement provides a link with something students have learned before and allows them to build on that knowledge or skill. As an example, if you were giving instruction on how to level out from the climb to a student with a fixed-wing licence, you could point out that the sequence of control movements are the same as in an aeroplane. This concept is closely related to the Learning Factor of Relationship.
    5. If the new material is dependent on students having mastered previous lessons, confirm that the required level has been attained before proceeding with the new material. Conduct a review and, if necessary, clear up any misunderstandings by briefly re-teaching the major points.
    6. Plan for reviews of lesson material. Students start to forget the moment they leave the instructional environment. The greatest rate of forgetting occurs during the first 24-48 hours after learning the material. Ohio State University has carried out extensive research in this area and has designed a recommended schedule of when reviews should be done. Refer to FIG. 1 & 2 and the notes below each diagram.



  1. Statistics are based on an average cross-section of students.
  2. Curve is very steep initially - within two days students will remember less than 70% of what they learned.
  3. At the end of the month without reviews students will only remember approximately 40% of lesson material.



  1. To maintain at least a 70% level, a review should be conducted within two days.
  2. After learning material a second time the curve flattens out somewhat, but after seven days the student is back down to the 70% level.
  3. Another review and the curve really flattens. The student will be above 70% retention until approximately day 28.
  4. A review at this time will generally cause long lasting retention of lesson material.
  5. The amount of time required for reviews reduces each time a review is conducted.
    Example: initial training 50 minutes
      Ist review - at 2 days 15 minutes
      2nd review - at 7 days 10 minutes
      3rd review - at 28 days 5 minutes

PRIMACY - Present new knowledge or skills correctly the first time. (Teach it right the first time.)

  1. When students are presented with new knowledge or skills, the first impression received is almost unshakeable. This means that what you teach must be correct the first time. Students may forget the details of lessons, but will retain an overall image of the skill or knowledge for a long time. Frequently you will be required to perform manoeuvres in the aircraft before a student has had the necessary background training. You must perform those manoeuvres correctly or the student may imitate any errors you make. For example, before the exercise on Confined Areas, you and your student may be required to land in a confined area. Any poor example shown at this time would have to be "unlearned" when the exercise came up in a subsequent lesson.
  2. Suggestions:
    1. Rehearse lessons to become thoroughly proficient at the skill or in answering questions related to the subject.
    2. Attempt to give a perfect demonstration of the manoeuvres to be learned in the next lesson. If students read or study exercise material without experiencing the actual exercise, they may form an incorrect mental image.
    3. If practicable, start each lesson with a perfect demonstration. Sometimes it may be better to avoid talking during this demonstration to allow maximum concentration on doing the skill perfectly.
    4. While the student is performing an exercise, supervise the actions very closely. Stop the student as soon as any performance error is noticed and teach the correct method. Close supervision means - NEVER allow a student to make an error during the initial stages of training. Think of how you would go about training a student to defuse a live bomb.
  3. RELATIONSHIP - Present lessons in the logical sequence of known to unknown, simple to complex, easy to difficult.
    1. This particular learning factor emphasizes the necessity for your student to understand relationships between new and old facts, or between ideas and skills if learning is to take place. During flight training, students must understand not only why they are learning a particular exercise, but how that exercise combines with previous ones and where it fits into the overall syllabus. Giving students the relationship at the start of the lesson provides preparation for learning. Continuing the process throughout the lesson helps to maintain the desire to learn.

      Example: Compare or relate advanced take-offs and landings to normal take-offs and landings; show how a steep approach uses the same techniques.

    2. Suggestions:

      1. Present lessons in a logical sequence:
        1. known to unknown;
        2. easy to difficult;
        3. concrete to abstract;
        4. simple to complex;
        5. familiar to unfamiliar.
      2. Always review basic knowledge before proceeding to the unknown. For example, when teaching students to multiply with a circular slide rule, the first example should be as simple as 2 X 2. The reason is that students already know the answer and are able to follow the manipulation of the slide rule. In the next problem or example, a change of one factor (2 X 4) allows students to build on knowledge already gained. The process is continued until students have mastered all the required knowledge and skill necessary to solve real problems.
      3. Present new material in stages, confirming that students have mastered one stage before proceeding to the next. The length of time for each stage would depend on the complexity of the material covered.
      4. Reinforce students' learning of new facts or ideas by frequently summarizing the major points of your lesson.
      5. Use examples and comparisons to show how the new material being learned is really not much different from that already known by your students. The examples you use may be real or imaginary as the main purpose of an example is to paint a verbal picture so students can visualize relationships between the new material and things that have happened before. This is called using verbal aids for your instruction
  4. EXERCISE - Ensure students are engaged in meaningful activity.
    1. Meaningful mental or physical activity is essential if learning is to occur. During flight training this is achieved through correct practice or repetition. Students learn by applying what they have been told or what has been demonstrated. As learning continues or is strengthened by additional practice, your training syllabus should make provision for this practice time. You must ensure that the practice is directed toward a specific goal. Oral questions, hypothetical problems, dual review, or solo practice are all methods of providing mental or physical activity.
    2. If students are able to answer questions involving the words "how" and "why", it usually means that they have a good understanding of the subject. As a flight instructor these two words are probably the most important in your vocabulary. Study Table 1 and note both the instructor and student activity for each level of learning. Should you attempt to employ the application level of learning without having covered the understanding level, students will encounter much more difficulty than if they had mastered previous levels.
Table 1

3. Suggestions:

  1. Unless testing to see what students have learned, avoid questions that are prefixed by the word "what". Give students the facts, figures and necessary knowledge, then ask "how" and "why" questions to develop understanding of the new knowledge.
  2. Once you have told students a fact, avoid repeating yourself. Instead, have them relate the facts back to you. This strengthens learning and confirms their knowledge of the required material.
  3. Give students challenging problems that fit the level of learning and provide only enough assistance to keep them on track. When students are able to solve the problems alone, they have demonstrated adequate knowledge and ability.
  4. Test students' knowledge and abilities frequently. This reinforces learning and builds confidence. However, before testing you must be reasonably certain that students can answer the questions or perform the skills, otherwise they may become frustrated. Testing will also identify areas in which students have weaknesses; thus, allowing you to re-teach to the required standard.

13. INTENSITY - Use dramatic, realistic or unexpected things, as they are long remembered.

  1. Students learn more from dramatic or exciting experiences than from boring ones. It is a well-known fact that a student's "look-out" while flying will improve considerably after a first experience with a near miss. There is no suggestion here that you provide your student with a near miss, but you should attempt to make your students' learning experiences exciting by being excited yourself and perhaps using any opportunity you can to introduce unexpected things to your students. Example: After students have learned fuel management and other aspects of cross-country navigation, you notice that they disregard the fuel quantity gauge during a cross-country flight. Allow them to continue until the fuel quantity is in close, but safe, proximity to running dry before you mention it. Your students will be shocked to be so close to an actual in-flight engine failure and will probably remember the experience for a long time.
  2. The Learning Factor of Intensity implies that students will learn more from real experiences than from substitutes. You will have to use your imagination to develop vivid experiences for dramatic or realistic effects.
  3. Suggestions:
    1. Show enthusiasm and sincerity for the subject you are teaching.
    2. Attempt to employ a wide range of speech variation in rate, volume and pitch to keep students attentive.
    3. Use appropriate and effective gestures while explaining major points. The lesson will seem to "come alive" and the points made will make a greater impression on your student.
    4. Use a variety of training aids to appeal to as many senses as possible. Each aid must relate directly to the subject matter being taught.

    14. EFFECT - Ensure students gain a feeling of satisfaction from having taken part in a lesson.

    1. Learning is strengthened when accompanied by a pleasant or satisfying feeling. Students will learn and remember more under these conditions than when feelings of defeat, frustration, anger or futility are developed. If you were to demonstrate an `Ag Turn' during the first air lesson, students would likely feel some inferiority if not actual fear. The experience would be negative. They might even give up flying at that stage. This example is rather obvious but you need to consider how your actions could produce feelings of frustration or anger. For example, you ask a student to perform a manoeuvre and then you immediately emphasize all the errors the student made. Your identification of each error may be very accurate but how would the student feel about it - If the objective was to make the student feel defeated, it probably succeeded. It is better to point out the positive aspects of a student's performance first, and then discuss the major errors which were committed and finish with suggestions for improvement.
    2. Whatever the learning situation, it should contain elements that affect your student positively and give feelings of satisfaction. Each learning experience does not have to be entirely successful, nor do students have to master each lesson completely; however, a student's chance of success will be increased with a sense of accomplishment and a pleasant learning experience.
    3. Suggestions:
      1. Involve students in the lesson by developing some of the new material from them. This can be done by asking students questions related to the subject and allowing student contributions of knowledge and ideas.
      2. Throughout your lessons, obtain feedback from students by asking questions, observing the performance of a skill and watching for facial expressions that show a lack of understanding. You must respond to any feedback by answering questions and providing assistance and correction where needed.
      3. Show students how to improve and offer praise when improvement occurs.
      4. Back up all your statements with reasons. Whenever you tell students something give the reason behind it. For example, you say to a student, "This aircraft has two static vents, one on each side of the fuselage." This is a fact but if students do not know the reason for two vents, they will probably pass it off as unimportant and forget. Remember, if a student understands the concept or theory, details may be forgotten but the overall concept will remain and when an aircraft with only one vent is encountered, more attention may be given to instrument readings while making a cross-wind approach.
      5. When a student encounters difficulty in mastering an objective, find a means of allowing some degree of success. For example, the lesson is steep turns and rather than have students attempt the entire manoeuvre, try having them practise the entry. When no difficulty is experienced with the entry, add the next stage, then continue until the entire manoeuvre is completed. Should difficulty still occur, back up a step and attempt medium turns rather than cause too much frustration. Sometimes instructors make the mistake of continuing to have students attempt a manoeuvre when performance is deteriorating. It is better to quit at that point and go back to something the student can do well.
      6. Avoid ridicule or sarcasm. You may feel that it might take the place of humour; however, students seldom have the same feeling, especially if they are the butt of the remark.
      7. Arrange each lesson so that when a student does something correctly, there is a reward. This reward can be in the form of sincere, honest praise. You ask a student to complete a walk-around on a specific aircraft for which you have arranged to have some hydraulic fluid placed on the ground near a skid. Your student does a very thorough inspection of that particular area of the aircraft and is praised for this. If a thorough inspection is not completed, you have an excellent teaching point to emphasize why careful inspections must be done. In no case should you deliberately sabotage an aircraft, unless that aircraft is one that is not to be flown at any time. The consequences are too dangerous should the tampering go unnoticed and someone fly the aircraft.

      15. RECENCY - Summarize and practise the important points at the end of each lesson, as last things learned and practised will be remembered longest.

      1. Other things being equal, the last things learned are best remembered. Conversely, the longer students are removed from a new fact or even an understanding, the more difficulty they will have remembering it. The need for reviews was stated earlier and a full circle has been completed - review - learn new material - review, etc.
      2. Suggestions:
        1. Plan for a pre-flight briefing immediately prior to the air lesson and review the main points by questioning. This may sound like the Learning Factors of Readiness and Exercise; however, recency deals with the timing of the practice.
        2. Ensure that students receive a thorough summary of the important points towards the end of each lesson.
        3. After each sequence within an exercise or class presentation, ask questions on the material or summarize the "need-to-know" material.
        4. Conduct a test as the final part of your lesson.
        5. At intervals throughout the course, conduct review periods in which no new material is taught, but reinforcement is obtained.
        6. Attempt to finish lessons with practise of the most important parts of the lesson. This applies to solo lessons as well as dual exercises. Remember, students practise knowledge by answering questions and they practise skills by doing.

      16. An important skill as a flight instructor is the ability to ask good oral questions. Good oral questions satisfy all the identified learning factors. The next section of this guide will deal exclusively with oral questions.