Preparation of a Lesson (Part One)

A determination of objectives and standards is necessary before any important instruction can be presented. Although some schools and independent instructors may develop their own syllabus, in practice, many instructors use a commercially developed syllabus that already has been selected by a school for use in their aviation training program. For the aviation instructor, the objectives listed in the syllabus are a beginning point for instruction.


Training Objectives and Standards

Aviation training involves two types of objectives: performance based and decision based. Performance-based objectives are essential in defining exactly what needs to be done and how it is done during each lesson. As the student progresses through higher levels of performance and understanding, the instructor should shift the training focus to decision-based training objectives. Decision-based training objectives allow for a more dynamic training environment and are ideally suited to scenario type training. The instructor uses decision-based training objectives to teach aviation students critical thinking skills, such as risk management and aeronautical decision-making (ADM).

The desired level of learning should also be incorporated into the objectives, and these level of learning objectives may apply to one or more of the three domains of learning—cognitive (knowledge), affective (attitudes, beliefs, and values), and psychomotor (physical skills). Normally, aviation training aspires to a level of learning at the application level or higher.

Standards are closely tied to objectives since they include a description of the desired knowledge, behavior, or skill stated in specific terms, along with conditions and criteria. When a student is able to perform according to well-defined standards, evidence of learning is apparent. Comprehensive examples of the desired learning outcomes, or behaviors, should be included in the standards. As indicated in category covering The Learning Process, standards for the level of learning in the cognitive and psychomotor domains are easily established. However, writing standards to evaluate a student’s level of learning or overt behavior in the affective domain (attitudes, beliefs, and values) is more difficult.


The overall objective of an aviation training course is usually well established, and the general standards are included in various rules and related publications. For example, eligibility, knowledge, proficiency, and experience requirements for pilots and AMT students are stipulated in the regulations, and the standards are published in the applicable PTS or oral and practical tests (O&Ps). It should be noted that PTS and O&P standards are limited to the most critical job tasks. Certification tests do not represent an entire training syllabus.

A broad, overall objective of any pilot training course is to qualify the student to be a competent, efficient, safe pilot for the operation of specific aircraft types under stated conditions. The established criteria or standards to determine whether the training has been adequate are the passing of knowledge and practical tests required by 14 CFR for the issuance of pilot certificates. Similar objectives and standards are established for AMT students. Professional instructors should not limit their objectives to meeting only the published requirements for pilot or AMT certification.

Instructional objectives should also extend beyond those listed in official publications. Successful instructors teach their students not only how, but also why and when. By incorporating ADM and risk management into each lesson, the aviation instructor helps the student learn, develop, and reinforce the decision-making process which ultimately leads to sound judgment and good decision-making skills.

Performance-Based Objectives

Performance-based objectives are used to set measurable, reasonable standards that describe the desired performance of the student. This usually involves the term behavioral objective, although it may be referred to as a performance, instructional, or educational objective. All refer to the same thing, the behavior of the student.

These objectives provide a way of stating what performance level is desired of a student before the student is allowed to progress to the next stage of instruction. Again, the objectives must be clear, measurable, and repeatable. In other words, they must mean the same thing to any knowledgeable reader. The objectives must be written. If they are not written, they become subject to the fallibility of recall, interpretation, or loss of specificity with time.

Performance-based objectives consist of three elements: description of the skill or behavior, conditions, and criteria. Each part is required and must be stated in a way that leaves every reader with the same picture of the objective, how it is performed, and to what level of performance. [Figure 4-4]

Figure 4-4. Performance-based objectives are made up of a description of the skill or behavior, conditions, and criteria.

Figure 4-4. Performance-based objectives are made up of a description of the skill or behavior, conditions, and criteria.

Description of the Skill or Behavior

The description of the skill or behavior explains the desired outcome of the instruction. It is actually a learned capability, which may be defined as knowledge, a skill, or an attitude. The description should be in concrete terms that can be measured. Terms such as “knowledge of …” and “awareness of …” cannot be measured very well, and words like this should be avoided. Phrases like “able to select from a list of …” or “able to repeat the steps to …” are better because they describe something that can be measured. Furthermore, the skill or behavior described should be logical and within the overall instructional plan.



Conditions are necessary to specifically explain the rules under which the skill or behavior is demonstrated. If a desired capability is to navigate from point A to point B, the objective as stated is not specific enough for all students to do it in the same way. Information such as equipment, tools, reference material, and limiting parameters should be included. For example, inserting conditions narrows the objective as follows: “Using sectional charts, a flight computer, and Cessna 172, navigate from point A to point B while maintaining standard hemispheric altitudes.” Sometimes, in the process of writing the objective, a difficulty is encountered. This might be someone saying, “But, what if …?” This is a good indication that the original version was confusing to that person. If it is confusing to one person, it will be confusing to others and should be corrected.


Criteria are the standards that measure the accomplishment of the objective. The criteria should be stated so that there is no question whether the objective has been met. In the previous example, the criteria may include that navigation from point A to point B be accomplished within 5 minutes of the preplanned flight time and that en route altitude be maintained within 200 feet. The revised performance-based objective may now read, “Using a sectional chart and a flight computer, plan a flight and fly from point A to point B in a Cessna 172. Arrival at point B should be within 5 minutes of planned arrival time and cruise altitude should be maintained within 200 feet during the en route phase of the flight.” The alert reader has already noted that the conditions and criteria changed slightly during the development of these objectives, and that is exactly the way it will occur. Conditions and criteria should be refined as necessary. As noted earlier, a PTS already has many of the elements needed to formulate performance-based objectives. In most cases, the objective is listed along with sufficient conditions to describe the scope of the objective. The PTS also has specific criteria or standards upon which to grade performance; however, the criteria may not always be specific enough for a particular lesson. An instructor should write performance-based objectives to fit the desired outcome of the lesson. The objective formulated in the last few paragraphs, for instance, is a well-defined lesson objective from the task, Pilotage and Dead Reckoning, in the Private Pilot PTS.