Learning Requires Continuous Corrections!

All complex successes are built on less-than-optimal early attempts. Learning at any level is iterative, continuous, and occasionally emotionally painful. Everyone can play the role of “superior critic,” judging from the stands or with 20/20 hindsight. But the credit goes to the one who keeps pushing forward continuously:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena [See all]

Productive learning requires a positive attitude toward all these less-than-perfect first attempts. Any whole-hearted effort in a positive direction is a “learning opportunity” if it is carefully reviewed and analyzed. But we humans tend to erroneously only celebrate ultimate success and ignore the value of “failures.” Think of how many more setbacks there will be to becoming an “interplanetary species.”

Approaching less-than-optimal first attempts with a positive attitude of improvement is critical to ultimate success and every educator should carefully frame expectations to inspire and motivate their learner. Every brand-new learner is going to be a “stumbling baby” making all kinds of errors; it is the nature of the process. And though it is perfectly human to want to just discard any early efforts and move forward, more rapid success requires continually sorting through the wreckage and improving from every error. We need to meticulously harvest ideas/components/techniques from early attempts; this is data to review and improve future performance. A good CFI needs to guide this process in the learner and make this a lifetime habit. This is called de-brief culture. This is critical to lifetime learning. Every flight, successful or not should be followed by a careful after-action reflection (and improvement).

Learning and change are the continuous processes of every human mind. Our focus can be online trash (social media?) or intentionally directed to more adaptive outcomes; becoming smarter in knowledge and more skillful in action. Intentionality and focus are the first keys to improvement. Aviators must be passionate learners to stay safe. Focused and effective learning requires feedback and error correction. As pilots we need to learn early and often before the big surprise occurs – the accident – “game over no replay!” We live in a “high-consequence” world.

There are four pillars to the total learning process: attention and active engagement (the focus), feedback and error correction, and consolidation. “How We Learn” by Stanislas Dehaene is a great book that describes this process in detail. He explains how AI was developed (in our lifetime) and is powered largely by an amazing tool called “backpropagation” (error correction). Stanislas compares this process to a target shooter calibrating a sighting scope by taking repeated shots and methodically removing errors with small, constant adjustments. This is the primary process that allows convolutional neural networks to learn so rapidly.

Machines have no ego problems that slow down (or prevent) error correction. They don’t make excuses to hide their mistakes. Honestly admitting, “oops, I was wrong,” is the first and most essential step in learning and improvement – recognition and acceptance. Computers don’t worry about their social image and what their friends will think. Instead, computers aggressively recalibrate their learning and have consequently surpassed humans in many areas. Error correction should not be an embarrassment or aberration, it is an expected and valuable part of all growth.

“With a test such as this, success is measured by how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship.” SpaceX

We basically all blunder through the world with a set of predictions – intentional actions that are based on our past experiences. We extrapolate collected memory data into future hypotheses of intended results. The degree to which we can accurately recall (memory) and apply previous lessons determines our success which retunes our future understanding of the world. Every action is a challenge requiring (honest) observation, memory retrieval, and recalibration.

The accurate reflection part- after-action reporting – is the critical key to the learning process (backpropagation). We need to be humble and hungry to honestly recalibrate our actions and improve. Attitude and ego are the biggest impediments in our human system. “Garbage in” (online trash) also creates poor results. It is essential to purify your environment and your methodology. Mentors and great instructors are the best accelerators of this process. Fly safely out there (and often).

Enjoy the new courses available to members on the new safe website. And please download and use the (free) SAFE Toolkit App. This contains all the references a working CFI needs plus provides continuously new safety content.

SAFE developed an insurance program just for CFIs! When you are an independent CFI, you are a business (and have legal exposure). This program is the most reasonable but also comprehensive insurance plan you can have (and every agent is a pilot!)


Author: David St. George

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

Tell us what *you* think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: