Scaling down the focus

One of the things I have realized during my instructor training is just how much we have to learn. Everyday aviation tasks like taking off and landing aren’t just absorbed, they have to be taught and learned. That much is pretty obvious, but the process of actually doing the teaching is a lot more complex. The saying goes that “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” is total and utter crap. Being able to teach, as far as I’m concerned, means that you have a deeper understanding.

Think about driving a car – you probably do it every day. Digging deeper, you’re doing an awful lot of stuff at once: steering, accelerating, braking, and (ideally!) not colliding, all while obeying signals and signs. Yet, if someone wanted to learn how to drive, simply knowing how to do it doesn’t mean that knowledge can be passed on.

One of the fundamentals of instruction is called the building block technique. It’s basic stuff – breaking down the goal (learning to fly) into smaller pieces so that it’s more accessible. Instead of throwing things at students at random, the idea is to introduce the essentials and constantly move onward and upward in complexity. If it’s done properly, every step will be individually small, but as blocks are completed the student’s skills and knowledge increase consistently.

The private pilot training, while covering a lot of subject matter, is fairly straightforward as far as moving from what students know to what is unknown goes. My instrument instructor course is bringing a whole new batch of topics into play, and deciding what blocks should build on which is a lot more difficult. Do I teach navigation equipment or approach procedures first? Clearances or holding? It’s a juggling act this semester, and all I know for certain is that I’m learning a hell of a lot.