Our culture promotes the pervasive myth that teaching and learning are natural human activities we are born with. This theory further asserts that very little improvement in these skills is necessary or even possible; that teaching and learning (parenting) are innate or good enough. While the idea of “natural skills” might be sufficient for a few basic human survival-level behaviors, it is certainly a harmful exaggeration given our huge brains and the amount of cultural and high-level technical knowledge humans must assimilate to survive and flourish in the modern world. Why are college professors not taught how to teach or are students taught how to learn efficiently? We certainly can do better.
Humans Are “Learners!”
The DNA package we are born with only supplies about 750MB of hard-coded information, inherited from millions of years of evolution. This “thumb drive” only supplies the basic construction and survival instructions for a human body and a brain that can store about 100TB. Unlike most animals, humans are born full of possibility, but fairly helpless at birth. Watch an African Wildebeast go from birth to running and feeding in less than two minutes to see how hopeless humans are by comparison. Humans are learners, full of possibility, but with little behavioral coding. This is why early childhood education is so critical (and why humans can be so weird?) There is a short window of opportunity in the early years as the initial learning prunes away possibilities with intense learning and adaptation. In many cases, this short period of possibility is squandered since good parenting is also a learned skill we regard as “natural.” Every new individual must master their environment and appropriate behaviors to be successful in life. And most of this world is of our own making. We do not live in caves anymore and flying skills were not part of that original thumb drive.
Great Educators are “Learners” First!
lifelong learn[ing] plays an important role in the educational process. It helps educators incorporate new tools and strategies into the learning process to boost their students’ learning development. EWU
As with all skills, some people have an aptitude for teaching or learning, but no one is a “natural.” We all gain successful strategies as we grow and adapt (learn). To be a great educator, you first have to be a great learner; that is how you acquire (and improve) these educator skills. The best aviation educators become “lifetime learners” and pass on their excitement and curiosity to their learners. Great aviation educators also instill a desire for mastery in their future pilots. For aviation educators, the basic FAA “Fundamentals of Instruction” (FOI) is definitely only the starter kit. There is a wonderful world of advanced learning to help improve every aviation educator for life.
Since every pilot was once a student, you’ve experienced some wonderful educators and a few that did more harm than good. What is the major difference? Certainly, an empathetic, compassionate educator is going to be much more successful in any field. But transferring knowledge in aviation has its own unique challenges and strategies, especially in the initially scary environment where we operate. In our SAFE CFI-PRO™ curriculum, we constantly emphasize the important difference between the pilot and the educator role. Each has a separate FAA certificate and set of skills. Did you ever watch an untrained master pilot try to convey information? That is a frustrating and often painful experience – “what don’t you understand here?!” Talented pilots, are often not so good in the role of “educator.”
We should focus on the greatest source of variance that can make the difference – the teacher. We need to ensure that this greatest influence is optimized to have powerful and sensationally positive effects on the learner. Excellence in teaching is the single most powerful influence on achievement. Dr. John Hattie
No FAA CFI Improvement: SAFE CFI-PRO™!
The FAA has no curriculum for CFI improvement. They issue your CFI temporary and send you into the cruel world of “life experience” which supplies all future learning and “on-the-job training.” In our modern aviation culture, most historic mentoring opportunities are mostly gone (See SAFE Mentoring). New CFIs are often in a mosh pit of newbies all equally new. This is why SAFE developed the SAFE CFI-PRO™ program. The best CFIs continue to be passionate learners; curious and motivated. After years of growing and sharing techniques, these master educators have developed great tools and techniques that turbocharge new CFIs eager to learn. SAFE CFI-PRO™ supplies the “missing manual” between “good and great,” with tools from DPEs and master instructors.
Master Instructor Program: 25 Years!
All the resources below are wonderful portals into this world of master-level aviation education. If you are a veteran educator, please access the continuing education from the Master Instructor Program. JoAnn and Sandy Hill created our Master Instructor Program 25 years ago, to motivate continual learning and improvement among CFIs (give it a try HERE). Every other worthy profession requires “Continuing Education Units” (CEUs) to maintain certification and motivate continuous improvement. With no FAA help, this entirely voluntary program inspires professionalism in aviation education (The FAA used to count an MCFI as a renewal and Sporty’s paid its instructors $10K for acquiring this honor).
Continual learning and challenge keep professional practitioners current and motivated. The MCFI program awards credits for new certificates and ratings as well as education. (Sample qualifying activities) There is an awful lot of useful information for the professional educator beyond the basic FOI required to acquire the initial CFI certificate. Challenge yourself and try some of the resources below and see if they don’t spark your interest and curiosity.
Tools for Every Educator
Fly safely out there (and often)!
Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (like 1/3 off your annual ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).