Lesson Planning   

by David St. George, DPE

     As we march out to the aircraft for a flight lesson, the basic premise is that when we return some demonstrable, positive change has occurred in the student. Ideally, they will be able to fly at a greater level of skill or with more understanding and judgment. This must be tangible and able to be quantified or measured. To achieve this result, a careful plan must be designed for each period of instruction. This is called the "lesson plan" and unfortunately usually only occurs when preparing for the initial CFI evaluation. The worst abuse of this tool is to download a universal "one size fits all" outline from some web site. The most basic truth of flight instruction is that every student and situation is unique; how can some standardized form do anything but mislead the CFI and derail a flight lesson? The space of time called a flight lesson is devoted to one unique person, with a particular skill level and needs....no universal anything! For each lesson, you must make out a written lesson plan (simple and quick is fine) with an objective a schedule and completion standards. This will help insure that when you return with a student, progress will have occurred. Selfishly also I can tell you that if you regard a lesson as "just another VFR #7" you will quickly become bored, burnt out and frustrated! This will happen because you ARE doing the same thing over and over (incorrectly!) Every flight lesson is unique, and if you regard it this way and prepare for it this way, both you and your student will benefit greatly. Remember, flight instruction is much more about people and only somewhat about flight!

     So what is involved in a lesson plan? The elements are time honored and available in the FAA Flight Instructor Handbook. It starts with "objective" and proceeds to "critique." The key element however is the "objective." This is what you want to occur in demonstrable terms (you have to see it occur by your student's hands ...not yours). It could be as simple as "the student will demonstrate a rectangular pattern over the ground at a constant altitude in coordinated flight, adjusting for changing ground speed and maintaining an equal distance from the roads through manipulation of the flight controls and division of attention." Set a reasonable objective standard for altitude variation and drift based on student level (Is this a first-time effort of getting ready for the test?)

     The element lacking in the "FAA lesson plan" is the first one in the door for me: "prerequisites." I insist on this because it lets me know if the student is qualified and prepared to successfully embark upon a particular lesson. For example; a prerequisite for a ground reference lesson might be accurate altitude and airspeed control in straight and level flight (not hard but not present sometimes.) Additionally, some preparation reading and viewing this maneuver would be necessary or the time aloft will be wasted or worse frustrating and a negative experience. So when we meet and exchange pleasantries, a quick assessment and evaluation of the student's level is essential. If they are qualified, you can move it along and fill in the blanks with a some pre-flight discussion and verbal quizzing. To be successful, always get something back from your student that proves to you they are processing and integrating what you are saying. This is also a good tool to bring in peripheral knowledge items such as systems that may not be covered directly in a lesson. Be creative and have fun. A bit of laughter and humor makes a lesson much more enjoyable for both of you and defuses some nervousness and tension.