Safety Publications/Articles

One Good Reason

Would you like a good reason to be the best flight instructor you can be?

Here's one. Recently I had a conversation with a young CFI who had 3,500 hours of flight time. He lamented that he was unable to move up to flying bigger airplanes despite his experience. I asked him if he kept in touch with any of his previous students. He said, "No."

How unfortunate. This young man is depriving himself of a valuable networking resource. His students are his best resume. Some of them work for companies that have corporate airplanes. A few may own corporations that eventually will purchase larger airplanes. Others hear about flying jobs as a result of their association with aviation.

Keeping in touch with previous students through postcards, telephone calls, e-mail, or newsletters means that you have a better chance of flying bigger and better equipment.

But none of this means anything if your students don't respect you as a teacher. This is where AOPA Flight Training magazine can help. Hopefully you'll find these articles useful in helping you to become the best instructor that you can be.

From The Right Seat

Behavioral Modeling

A primer

Every flight instructor should know a little about modeling, and I don't mean the kind that involves dressing up, either. I'm referring to behavioral modeling.

Behavioral modeling is the science of transferring skills from one person (the master) to another (the student). Doesn't that sound like teaching? It is, except that teaching often involves transferring skills implicitly (skills that are implied or understood, but not directly expressed). For example, students often learn to land implicitly by mimicking their instructor's behavior. Unfortunately, implicit learning doesn't provide a clear idea of how the behavior is constructed psychologically.

Behavioral modeling, on the other hand, attempts to transfer skills explicitly (skills that are fully and clearly expressed, leaving nothing implied). This is accomplished by examining and dissecting the master's subjective experience. Once we know the details of how a behavior is assembled in the mind of the master, we can repackage that knowledge and transfer it to a student. Sounds like we're downloading software, right? I only wish teaching was that easy.

Behavioral modeling involves many variables. Nevertheless, this primer will get you started with a few simple tools that can help you to train students more efficiently.

The first step in behavioral modeling is called skill disassembly. Once you find someone who has the skills you desire to model, you need to break down that person's subjective experience into teachable components. You can elicit these components either through careful self-observation (if you're the model) or through well-crafted questions (if you're using someone else as the model).

Since experience is primarily acquired through our visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (feeling) senses, we can define someone's subjective experience in these terms. If we further divide these three senses into subcategories, we can specify the individual components that make up almost all human behavior. Here are the categories I use in this process.

The visual (V) sense has four categories: VI, or visual internal (the image we see in our mind's eye); VE, or visual external (the image that we see with our eyes); VC, or visual constructed (the image that we construct with our imagination); and VR, or visual recalled (the image that we pull up from memory). VI is a separate category from VC and VR because it's possible to have a visual internal image that's neither constructed nor re-called. For example, close your eyes and imagine the last word of this paragraph.

Our audio (A) sense has six categories: AI, or audio internal (the sounds that we hear in the mind's ear); AE, or audio external (the sounds that we hear with our ears); AC, or audio constructed (the sounds that we construct with our imagination); AR, or audio recalled (the sounds that we remember); AID or audio internal dialogue; and AED, or audio external dialogue.

Finally, our kinesthetic (K) sense has four categories: KI, or kinesthetic internal (a feeling that we have about something); KE, or kinesthetic external (something that we actually feel); KC, or kinesthetic constructed (a feeling that we construct from imagination); and KR, or kinesthetic recalled (a feeling that we remember).

With these sensory definitions in hand, let's use them to model the behavior known as making coordinated turn entries. I'll act as the model since I can provide an accurate sensory description of my turning behavior, but I'm not wearing makeup and that's final! The process begins by ex-amining a behavior and breaking it down (disassembling it) into sensory components. The following represent the individual elements of the behavior I use to enter a turn. Keep in mind that this behavior is a reflex, but even reflexes can be disassembled into component parts.

The first step involves the external feeling of twisting the aileron and simultaneously applying rudder pressure (KE). As I apply control pressure, I compare the external feeling in my foot (KE) with my recollection of needing more rudder pressure (KR) in right turns. As I'm rolling into the turn, I look (VE) at the longitudinal axis and adjust rudder pressure (KE) to ensure that the axis doesn't move opposite the direction I want to turn (the longitudinal axis appears almost stationary while entering the turn). Finally, I check to ensure the turn has the proper seat-of-the-pants feel (KE) by comparing it with my recollected feeling of coordinated flight (KR). Then I adjust the rudder as necessary for coordinated flight. Since students may be initially unfamiliar with what coordinated flight feels like, they can glance at the turn coordinator to ensure the ball in the inclinometer is centered. This makes the last sensory step for them a VE/KE in lieu of KE/KR.

The sequence in which these sensory steps occur are just as important as the steps themselves. Here's the linear sequence required for entering a coordinated turn: KE > KE/KR > VE > KE > KE/KR. (I use a slash to show a comparison between one sensory step and another.)

Think of this sequence as the mind's DNA code for building a behavior; in this example, the behavior of entering a coordinated turn. After you have identified this sequence, you can teach these individual components to your student. We call this process skill reassembly.

At first glance, it may appear that behavioral modeling is more complex than traditional methods of teaching. In the long run, however, it's actually a more efficient means of teaching because you can define and convey the precise behavioral components necessary for your students to produce masterful performance. Additionally, all types of skills-physical, perceptual, and thinking skills-are made up of similar components. Therefore, it's possible that any aviation behavior can be modeled and taught to someone else. This includes such behaviors as decision making, landings, and instrument scan.

Like all teaching skills, behavioral modeling takes time to learn. This primer represents a practical beginning. And there's much more to learn, especially when you consider that beliefs, values, cause-and-effect relationships, and other factors also influence the modeling process. So, stay tuned because I'll elaborate on these features in future articles.

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