Effective Educator = Learning/Growing!

Student progress and learning are primarily determined by the quality of the educator. Though 50% of the variance in educational effectiveness is the “raw material” that students bring to the table, fully 30% of variance is determined by the skills and attitude of the educator. Environment and equipment figure in at less than 10%

But unfortunately, lack of student progress is often dismissed with all kinds of incriminating accusations pointed at the learner when too often the real cause is the skill and motivation of the teacher. As my mentor would say “if the student has not learned, the CFI has not taught.”  And the best way to improve and keep the motivation going for an educator is to continue to grow and learn; experiencing humility in the face of a new challenge. Most CFIs embrace the role of “expert” readily but this can unfortunately easily segue into the pompous and annoying “know-it-all.”

The critical difference is that an expert retains a “growth mindset.” This worldview leaves open the door to continue growing and learning. Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella transformed their viciously competitive workplace into a collaborative team dramatically increasing their effectiveness and profitability – he calls in a “learn-it-all.” The change is all about “Growth Mindset” (Carol Dweck). Remaining an eager learner with open possibilities requires a degree of curiosity and humility that fosters a better relationship with the student; “partners on the road to greater excellence.”

Humility seems especially rare in aviation. If the standard 70% of drivers claim to be “above average,” (Lake Wobegon effect) probably 95% of pilots think they are “better than average” (and in charge). Though it takes a lot of confidence and strong personal belief to pilot successfully, it is essential to dial this back to be effective as an educator (two very different roles in aviation). We close the door on learning when we are so self-sure! Arrogance and impatience are toxic to a learning relationship. Educators need to willingly accept student experimentation, fumbling, and self-correction by staying in touch with their own personal learning adventures. Fly safe out there (and often).


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Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

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