After the overall training objectives have been established, the next step is the identification of the blocks of learning which constitute the necessary parts of the total objective. Just as in building a pyramid, some blocks are submerged in the structure and never appear on the surface, but each is an integral and necessary part of the structure. Thus, the various blocks are not isolated subjects, but essential parts of the whole. During the process of identifying the blocks of learning to be assembled for the proposed training activity, the instructor must also examine each block to ensure it is an integral part of the structure. Extraneous blocks of instruction are expensive frills, especially in flight instruction, and detract from, rather than assist in, the completion of the final objective.
While determining the overall training objectives is a necessary first step in the planning process, early identification of the foundation blocks of learning is also essential. Training for any such complicated and involved task as piloting or maintaining an aircraft requires the development and assembly of many segments or blocks of learning in their proper relationships. In this way, a student can master the segments or blocks individually and can progressively combine these with other related segments until their sum meets the overall training objectives.
The blocks of learning identified during the planning and management of a training activity should be fairly consistent in scope. They should represent units of learning which can be measured and evaluated—not a sequence of periods of instruction. For example, the flight training of a private pilot might be divided into the following major blocks: achievement of the knowledge and skills necessary for solo, the knowledge and skills necessary for solo cross-country flight, and the knowledge and skills appropriate for obtaining a private pilot certificate. [Figure 6-1]
Use of the building block approach provides the student with a boost in self-confidence. This normally occurs each time a block is completed. Otherwise, an overall goal, such as earning a mechanic’s certificate, may seem unobtainable. If the larger blocks are broken down into smaller blocks of instruction, each on its own is more manageable. Humans learn from the simple to the complex. For example, an student airplane pilot should understand and master the technique of a normal landing prior to being introduced to short and soft field landings. A helicopter pilot must be proficient in running landings before the instructor introduces a no hydraulics approach and landing.
By becoming familiar with the student’s aviation background, an instructor can plan the sequence of instruction blocks. Does the applicant have previous aeronautical experience or posses a pilot certificate in another category? This information will help the instructor design appropriate training blocks. For example, if the student is a helicopter pilot who is transitioning to an airplane, he or she will understand speed control, but not necessarily know how to achieve it in an airplane. The instructor can plan blocks of instruction that build on what the student already knows.