Safety Publications/Articles

Too much help

Despite your good intentions, it¿s possible that you can be overly helpful with students and in doing so deprive them of a valuable learning experience.

Recently, a student told me that his instructor always kept his hands on the controls during the landing flare. This student had had five hours of landing practice and was never quite sure if he ever actually landed the airplane by himself during that time. My guess was that the student was capable of landing, and the instructor wasn¿t fearful of his student¿s response during the flare. More likely, this was a case of the CFI wanting to be too helpful. Unfortunately, despite the CFI¿s good intentions, his student is the one who suffers.

It¿s important for CFIs to realize that students need to make mistakes in order to learn. Human beings are self-correcting learning devices. We see the result of a previous action (a mistake) and profit from this by adjusting our behavior as a result. This is called feedback, and it comes primarily from making mistakes. If students can¿t see the results of their errors, then they simply won¿t learn as efficiently. So, explain a maneuver to your students, demonstrate it, and then let them try it themselves. Intervene only when it¿s necessary to make a point, prevent an unsafe situation, or avoid an unpleasant meeting with the ground.

I suspect that some CFIs are overly helpful because they don¿t know how to handle a student¿s failure during their first few attempts at learning a new behavior. Instead of embracing a mistake as an opportunity to teach, these instructors prevent the mistake by offering too much assistance. If you¿re an overly helpful CFI, be more willing to let your students make the mistakes that are so necessary in order for them to learn. It¿s how they learn best.

By Rod Machado

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