Motivation is generally not something that can be transferred from one person to another. Instructors should become skillful at recognizing problems with motivation and at encouraging learners to continue to do their best.

Rewarding Success

Positive feedback encourages learners. Practice positive feedback frequently by:

  • Praising incremental successes during training.
  • Relating daily accomplishments to lesson objectives.
  • Commenting favorably on learner progress and level ability.

For example, as the learner progresses through training, remark on the milestones. When a learner first performs a task alone, congratulate him or her on having learned it.

When that same skill reaches an intermediate level, point out that the learner’s performance is almost consistent with the requirements of the Airman Certification Standards (ACS), the set of standards detailing the knowledge and skills an airman needs to possess and demonstrate to obtain a pilot certificate. When performance is equal to the ACS requirements, comment favorably on the skill acquisition. When learner performance exceeds ACS requirements, point out what a benefit this will be when the learner performs under pressure during a practical test or on the job.

Presenting New Challenges

With each declaration of success, be sure to present learners with the next challenge. For example, when a learner begins to perform a skill consistently to ACS or PTS requirements, challenge him or her to continue to improve it such that the skill can be performed under pressure or when distracted. Instructors can also add new problems or situations to create a learning scenario.

Drops in Motivation

Instructors should be prepared to deal with a number of circumstances in which motivation levels drop. It is natural for motivation to wane somewhat after the initial excitement of the learner’s first days of training, or between major training events such as solo, evaluations, or practical tests. Drops in motivation appear in several different ways. Learners may come to lessons unprepared or give the general sense that aviation training is no longer a priority. During these times, it is often helpful to remind learners of their own stated goals for seeking aviation training.

Learning plateaus are a common source of frustration, discouragement, and decreased learner motivation. A first line of defense against this situation is to explain that learning seldom proceeds at a constant pace—no one climbs the ladder of success by exactly one rung per day. Learners should be encouraged to continue to work hard and be reassured that results will follow.

Summary of Instructor Actions

To ensure that learners continue to work hard, the instructor should:

  1. Ask new learners about their aviation training goals.
  2. Reward incremental successes in learning.
  3. Present new challenges.
  4. Occasionally remind learners about their own stated goals for aviation training.
  5. Assure learners that learning plateaus are normal and that improvement will resume with continued effort.