A lesson plan is an organized outline for a single instructional period. It is a necessary guide for the instructor because it tells what to do, in what order to do it, and what procedure to use in teaching the material of a lesson. Lesson plans should be prepared for each training period and be developed to show specific knowledge and/or skills to be taught.

A mental outline of a lesson is not a lesson plan. A lesson plan should be put into writing. Another instructor should be able to take the lesson plan and know what to do in conducting the same period of instruction. Written out, the lesson plan can be analyzed for adequacy and completeness.

Lesson plans make excellent recordkeeping forms that can become a permanent part of a pilot’s training record. They can be formatted for the instructor to carry in the aircraft and include a checklist for indicating what portions of the lesson were completed, date of completion, the flight instructor’s signature, and time flown. The lesson plan can also have a notation section for flight instructor comments.

A training folder for each learner helps an instructor keep all pertinent data in one place. The folder should include items such as lesson plans, training requirements, flight or ground instruction received, 14 CFR part 61 requirements met, solo endorsements, and any other training information. Many training records are now recorded and maintained electronically. These records should be kept for at least 3 years. Good recordkeeping also provides each instructor with the number of learners he or she has trained, which is helpful information for an instructor who needs to renew his or her certificate.

Purpose of the Lesson Plan

Lesson plans are designed to assure that each learner receives the best possible instruction under the existing conditions. Lesson plans help instructors keep a constant check on their own activity, as well as that of their learners. The development of lesson plans by instructors signifies, in effect, that they have taught the lessons to themselves prior to attempting to teach the lessons to learners. An adequate lesson plan, when properly used, should:

  • Assure a wise selection of material and the elimination of unimportant details.
  • Make certain that due consideration is given to each part of the lesson.
  • Aid the instructor in presenting the material in a suitable sequence for efficient learning.
  • Provide an outline of the teaching procedure to be used.
  • Serve as a means of relating the lesson to the objectives of the course of training.
  • Give the inexperienced instructor confidence.
  • Promote uniformity of instruction regardless of the instructor or the date on which the lesson is given.

Characteristics of a Well-Planned Lesson

The quality of planning affects the quality of results. Successful professionals understand that the price of excellence is hard work and thorough preparation. The effective instructor realizes that the time and energy spent in planning and preparing each lesson is well worth the effort in the long run.

A complete cycle of planning usually includes several steps. After the objective is determined, the instructor researches the subject as it is defined by the objective. Once the research is complete, the instructor determines the method of instruction and identifies a useful lesson planning format. The decision of how to organize the lesson and the selection of suitable support material come next. The final steps include assembling training aids and writing the lesson plan outline. One technique for writing the lesson plan outline is to prepare the beginning and ending first. Then, complete the outline and revise as required. A lesson plan should be a working document that can and should be revised as changes occur or are needed.

The following are some of the important characteristics that should be reflected in all well-planned lessons.

Unity—each lesson should be a unified segment of instruction. A lesson is concerned with certain limited objectives, which are stated in terms of desired learning outcomes. All teaching procedures and materials should be selected to attain these objectives.

Content—each lesson should contain new material. However, the new facts, principles, procedures, or skills should be related to the lesson previously presented. A short review of earlier lessons is usually necessary, particularly in-flight training.

Scope—each lesson should be reasonable in scope. A person can master only a few principles or skills at a time, the number depending on complexity. Presenting too much material in a lesson results in confusion; presenting too little material results in inefficiency.

Practicality—each lesson should be planned in terms of the conditions under which the training is to be conducted. Lesson plans conducted in an airplane or ground trainer will differ from those conducted in a classroom. Also, the kinds and quantities of instructional aids available have a great influence on lesson planning and instructional procedures.Flexibility—although the lesson plan provides an outline and sequence for the training to be conducted, a degree of flexibility should be incorporated. For example, the outline of content may include blank spaces for add-on material, if required.

Relation to course of training—each lesson should be planned and taught so that its relation to the course objectives is clear to each learner. For example, a lesson on short-field takeoffs and landings should be related to both the certification and safety objectives of the course of training.

Instructional steps—every lesson, when adequately developed, falls logically into the four steps of the teaching process: preparation, presentation, application, and review and evaluation.

How to Use a Lesson Plan Properly

Be familiar with the lesson plan. The instructor should study each step of the plan and should be thoroughly familiar with as much information related to the subject as possible.

Use the lesson plan as a guide. The lesson plan is an outline for conducting an instructional period. It assures that pertinent materials are at hand and that the presentation is accomplished with order and unity. Having a plan prevents the instructor from getting off track, omitting essential points, and introducing irrelevant material. Learners have a right to expect an instructor to give the same attention to teaching that they give to learning. The most certain means of achieving teaching success is to have a carefully reviewed lesson plan.

Adapt the lesson plan to the class or learner. In teaching a class, the instructor may find that the procedures outlined in the lesson plan are not leading to the desired results. In this situation, the instructor should change the approach. There is no certain way of predicting the reactions of different groups of learners. An approach that has been successful with one group may not be equally successful with another.

A lesson plan for an instructional flight period should be appropriate to the background, flight experience, and ability of the particular learner. A lesson plan may have to be modified considerably during flight, due to deficiencies in the learner’s knowledge or poor mastery of elements essential to the effective completion of the lesson. In some cases, the entire lesson plan may have to be abandoned in favor of review.

Revise the lesson plan periodically. After a lesson plan has been prepared for a training period, a continuous revision may be necessary. This is true for a number of reasons such as availability or non-availability of instructional aids, changes in regulations, or new manuals and textbooks.

Lesson Plan Formats

The format and style of a lesson plan depends on several factors. Certainly, the subject matter helps determine how a lesson is presented and what teaching method is used. Individual lesson plans may be quite simple for one-on-one training, or they may be elaborate and complicated for large, structured classroom lessons. Preferably, each lesson should have somewhat limited objectives that are achievable within a reasonable period of time. This principle should apply to both ground and flight training. However, as previously noted, aviation training is not simple. It involves all three domains of learning, and the objectives usually include the higher levels of learning, at least at the application level.

In spite of need for varied subject coverage, diverse teaching methods, and relatively high-level learning objectives, most aviation lesson plans have the common characteristics already discussed. All should include objectives, content to support the objectives, and completion standards. Various authorities often divide the main headings into several subheadings; terminology, even for the main headings, varies extensively. For example, completion standards may be called assessment, review and feedback, performance evaluation, or some other related term.

Commercially developed lesson plans are acceptable for most training situations, including use by flight instructor applicants during their practical tests. However, all instructors should recognize that even well-designed preprinted lesson plans may need to be modified. Therefore, instructors are encouraged to use creativity when adapting preprinted lesson plans or when developing their own lesson plans for specific learners or training circumstances.

In the traditional lesson plan illustrated by Figure 1, the objective is “The learner will learn to control for wind drift.” According to the plan, the instructor reviews topics already covered including heading, speed, angle of bank, altitude, terrain, and wind direction plus velocity. This explanation is followed by a demonstration and repeated practice of a specific flight maneuver, such as turns around a point or S-turns across the road until the maneuver can be consistently accomplished in a safe and effective manner within a specified limit of heading, altitude, and airspeed. At the end of this lesson, the learner is only capable of practicing the maneuver with assistance from the instructor.

Planning Instructional Activity
Example of a traditional training lesson plan

The traditional type of training lesson plan with its focus on the task and maneuver or procedure continues to meet many aviation learning requirements, but as discussed earlier, it is being augmented by more realistic and fluid forms of problem-based learning such as SBT. For the flight instructor, this type of training does not preclude traditional maneuver-based training. Rather, flight maneuvers are integrated into the flight scenarios and conducted as they would occur in the real world. Those maneuvers requiring repetition are still taught during concentrated settings; once learned, they are then integrated into realistic flight situations.

For the aviation technician instructor, SBT enhances traditional classroom instruction. By integrating SBT into the lesson, learners are required to deal with problems they will encounter in the real world.