Aviation Instructor Responsibilities (Part Two)

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]

Figure 7-3. Students learn more when instruction is presented in a positive and professional manner.

Figure 7-3. Students learn more when instruction is presented in a positive and professional manner.

The Human Behavior category, 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.


Minimizing Student Frustrations

Minimizing student frustrations in the classroom, shop, or during flight training is an instructor’s responsibility. By following basic rules, instructors can reduce student frustrations and create a learning environment that encourages rather than discourages learning.

For example, lesson plans used as part of an organized curriculum help the student pilot measure training progress. Since most pilots don’t want to be students, the ability to measure their progress or “see an end in sight” reduces frustration and increases pilot motivation. [Figure 7-4]

Figure 7-4. These are practical ways to minimize student frustration.

Figure 7-4. These are practical ways to minimize student frustration.

Motivate students—more can be gained from wanting to learn than from being forced to learn. Too often, students do not realize how a particular lesson or course can help them reach an important goal. When students can see the benefits and purpose of the lesson or course, their enjoyment and their efforts increase.

Keep students informed—students feel insecure when they do not know what is expected of them or what is going to happen to them. Instructors can minimize feelings of insecurity by telling students what is expected of them and what they can expect in return. Instructors keep students informed in various ways, including giving them an overview of the course, keeping them posted on their progress, and giving them adequate notice of examinations, assignments, or other requirements.

Approach students as individuals—when instructors limit their thinking to the whole group without considering the individuals who make up that group, their efforts are directed at an average personality that really fits no one. Each group has its own personality that stems from the characteristics and interactions of its members. However, each individual within the group has a unique personality to constantly be considered.

Give credit when due—when students do something extremely well, they normally expect their abilities and efforts to be noticed. Otherwise, they may become frustrated. Praise or credit from the instructor is usually ample reward and provides an incentive to do even better. Praise pays dividends in student effort and achievement when deserved, but when given too freely, it becomes valueless.


Criticize constructively—although it is important to give praise and credit when deserved, it is equally important to identify mistakes and failures. It does not help to tell students they have made errors and not provide explanations. If a student has made an earnest effort but is told that the work is unsatisfactory, with no other explanation, frustration occurs. Errors cannot be corrected if they are not identified, and if they are not identified, they will probably be perpetuated through faulty practice. On the other hand, if the student is briefed on the errors and is told how to correct them, progress can be made.

Be consistent—students want to please their instructor. This is the same desire that influences much of the behavior of subordinates toward their superiors in industry and business. Naturally, students have a keen interest in knowing what is required to please the instructor. If the same thing is acceptable one day and unacceptable the next, the student becomes confused. The instructor’s philosophy and actions must be consistent.

Admit errors—no one, including students, expects an instructor to be perfect. The instructor can win the respect of students by honestly acknowledging mistakes. If the instructor tries to cover up or bluff, students are quick to sense it. Such behavior tends to destroy student confidence in the instructor. If in doubt about some point, the instructor should admit it.