Today’s instructor can choose from a wealth of ways to present instructional material: lecture, discussion, guided discussion, problem based, group learning, demonstration-performance, or e-learning. In a typical lesson, an effective instructor normally uses a combination of methods. The instructor determines which teaching method best conveys the information and when to use it. For example, Bob lectures in the opening scenario, but after teaching how to compute weight and balance, he uses group learning to reinforce the lecture.

Lecture Method

In the lecture method, the instructor delivers knowledge via lectures to learners who are more or less silent participants. Lectures are best used when an instructor wishes to convey a general understanding of a subject. In general, lectures begin with an introduction of the topic to be discussed. The body of the lecture follows with a summary of the lecture’s main points at the end.

Lectures may introduce new subjects, summarize ideas, show relationships between theory and practice, and reemphasize main points. Thus, the lecture method is adaptable to many different settings, including small or large groups. Finally, lectures may be combined with other teaching methods to give added meaning and direction.

There are different varieties of lectures. During the illustrated talk, the speaker relies heavily on visual aids to convey ideas to the listeners. When using a briefing, the speaker presents a concise array of facts to the listeners who normally do not expect elaboration of supporting material. During a formal lecture, the speaker’s purpose is to inform, to persuade, or to entertain with little or no verbal participation by the learners. When using a teaching lecture, the instructor plans and delivers an oral presentation in a manner that allows some participation by the learners and helps direct them toward the desired learning outcomes.

Teaching Lecture

The teaching lecture is favored by aviation instructors because it allows some active participation by the learners. In other methods of teaching such as demonstration-performance or guided discussion, the instructor receives direct reaction from the learners, either verbally or by some form of body language. However in the teaching lecture, the feedback is not nearly as obvious and is much harder to interpret. An effective instructor develops a keen perception for subtle responses from the class—facial expressions, manner of taking notes, and apparent interest or disinterest in the lesson. The effective instructor is able to interpret the meaning of these reactions and adjust the lesson accordingly.

Preparing the Teaching Lecture

The following four steps should be followed in the planning phase of preparation:

  1. Establishing the objective and desired outcomes
  2. Researching the subject
  3. Organizing the material
  4. Planning productive classroom activities

While developing the lesson, the instructor also should strongly consider the use of examples and personal experiences related to the subject of the lesson. The instructor may support any point with meaningful examples, comparisons, statistics, or testimony.

After completing the preliminary planning and writing of the lesson plan, the instructor should rehearse the lecture to build self-confidence. Rehearsals, or dry runs, help smooth out the mechanics of using notes, visual aids, and other instructional devices. If possible, the instructor should have another knowledgeable person or another instructor observe the practice sessions and act as a critic. This critique helps the instructor judge the adequacy of supporting materials and visual aids, as well as the overall presentation. [Figure 1]

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Figure 1. Instructors should try a dry run with another instructor to get a feel for the lecture presentation

Suitable Language

In the teaching lecture, simple rather than complex words should be used whenever possible. The instructor should not, use substandard English or errors in grammar.

If the subject matter includes technical terms, the instructor should clearly define each one so that no learner is in doubt about its meaning. Whenever possible, the instructor should use specific rather than general words. For example, the specific words, “a leak in the fuel line” tell more than the general term “discrepancy.”

Another way the instructor can add life to the lecture is to vary his or her tone of voice and pace of speaking. In addition, using sentences of different length helps, since consistent use of short sentences results in a choppy style. On the other hand, poorly constructed long sentences are difficult to follow and can easily become tangled. To ensure clarity and variety, the instructor should normally use sentences of short and medium length.

Types of Delivery

A good teaching lecture utilizes an extemporaneous technique. The instructor speaks from a mental or written outline, but does not read or memorize the material to be presented. Because the exact words to express an idea are spontaneous, the lecture is more personalized than one that is read or spoken from memory.

If the instructor realizes from puzzled expressions that a number of learners fail to grasp an idea, that point can be further elaborated until the reactions indicate they understand. The extemporaneous presentation reflects the instructor’s personal enthusiasm and is more flexible than other methods. For these reasons, it is likely to hold the interest of the learners.

Notes used wisely can ensure accuracy, jog the memory, and dispel the fear of forgetting. They are essential for reporting complicated information, and they may help keep the lecture on track. The instructor who requires notes should use them sparingly and unobtrusively but at the same time should make no effort to hide them from the learners. [Figure 2]

Training Delivery Methods
Figure 2. Notes allow the accurate dissemination of complicated information

An informal lecture includes active learner participation. Learning is best achieved if learners participate actively in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. The use of questions achieves active learner participation. In this way, the learners are encouraged to make contributions that supplement the lecture. However, it is the instructor’s responsibility to plan, organize, develop, and present the major portion of a lesson.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Lecture

A lecture is a convenient way to instruct large groups. If necessary, a public address system can be used to amplify the speaker’s voice. Lectures can be used to present information that would be difficult for the learners to get in other ways, particularly if they do not have the time required for research, or if they do not have access to reference material. Lectures supplement other teaching devices and methods. A brief introductory lecture can give direction and purpose to a demonstration or prepare learners for a discussion by telling them something about the subject matter to be covered.

In a lecture, the instructor can present many ideas in a relatively short time. Logically organized tasks and ideas can be presented concisely and in rapid sequence.

The lecture is particularly suitable for explaining any necessary background information. By using a lecture in this way, the instructor can offer learners with varied backgrounds a common understanding of essential principles and facts. However, lectures do not allow an instructor a precise measure of learner understanding of the material covered.

To achieve desired learning outcomes through the lecture method, an instructor needs considerable skill in speaking. As indicated in The Learning Process, a learner’s rate of retention drops off significantly after the first 10-15 minutes of a lecture and improves at the end. Research has shown that learning is an active process—the more involved learners are in the process, the more they retain.

The lecture does not foster attainment of certain types of learning outcomes, such as motor skills, which need to be perfected via hands-on practice. Thus, an instructor who introduces some form of active learner participation in the middle of a lecture greatly increases retention.

Discussion Method

The discussion method modifies the pure lecture form by using lecture and then discussion to actively integrate the learner into the process. In the discussion method, the instructor provides a short lecture, which gives basic knowledge to the learners. This short lecture is followed by instructor-learner and learner-learner discussion.

This method relies on discussion and the exchange of ideas. Everyone has the opportunity to comment, listen, think, and participate. By being actively engaged in discussing the lecture, learners improve their recall and ability to use the information.

It is important for the instructor to keep the discussion focused on the subject matter. The instructor may need to initiate leading questions, comment on any disagreements, ensure that all learners participate, and summarize what has been learned.

Tying the discussion method into the lecture method not only provides active participation, it also allows learners to develop higher order thinking skills (HOTS). The give and take of the discussion method also helps learners evaluate ideas, concepts, and principles. When using this method, instructors should keep their own discussion to a minimum since the goal is learner participation.

Guided Discussion Method

Instructors can also use another form of discussion, the guided discussion method, to ensure the learner has correctly received and interpreted subject information. The learner needs a level of knowledge about the topic to be discussed, either through reading prior to class or a short lecture to set up the topic to be discussed. This training method employs instructor-guided discussion with the instructor maintains control of the discussion. It can be used during classroom periods and preflight and postflight briefings. The discussions reflect whatever level of knowledge and experience the learners have gained.

The goal of guided discussions is to draw out the knowledge of the learner. The greater the participation becomes, the more effective the learning will be. All members of the group should follow the discussion. The instructor should treat everyone impartially, encourage questions, exercise patience and tact, and comment on all responses with the goal of reinforcing a learning objective related to the lesson. The instructor acts as a facilitator to encourage discussion between learners without sarcasm.

Use of Questions in a Guided Discussion

In the guided discussion, learning is achieved through the skillful use of questions. Questions can be categorized by function and characteristics.

The instructor often uses a lead-off question to open up an area for discussion. After the discussion develops, the instructor may ask a follow-up question to guide the discussion. The reasons for using a follow-up question may vary. The instructor may want a learner to explain something more thoroughly, or may need to bring the discussion back to a point from which it has strayed. An instructor may answer a question with a question and direct that question back to the person posing the question or other participant.

Questions are so much a part of teaching that they are often taken for granted. Effective use of questions may result in more learning than any other single technique used by instructors. Instructors should avoid questions that can be answered by short factual statements or yes or no responses and ask open-ended questions that are thought provoking and require more mental activity. Since most aviation training is at the understanding level or higher, questions should require learners to grasp concepts, explain similarities and differences, and to infer cause-and-effect relationships. [Figure 3]

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Figure 3. If the objectives of a lesson are clearly established in advance, instructors will find it much easier to ask appropriate questions that keep the discussion moving in the planned direction

Planning a Guided Discussion

Planning a guided discussion is similar to planning a lecture. (Note that the following suggestions include many that are appropriate for planning cooperative learning, to be discussed later in the Cooperative or Group Learning Method post)

  • Select an appropriate topic. Unless the learners have some knowledge to exchange with each other, they cannot reach the desired learning outcomes. If necessary, make assignments that give the learners an adequate background for discussing the lesson topic.
  • State the specific lesson objective at the understanding level of learning. Through discussion, the learners develop an understanding of the subject by sharing knowledge, experiences, and backgrounds. The desired learning outcomes should stem from the objective.
  • Conduct adequate research to become familiar with the topic. The instructor should always be alert for ideas that will enhance a lesson for a particular group of learners. Similarly, the instructor can consider any prediscussion assignment while conducting research for the classroom period. During this research process, the instructor should also earmark reading material that appears to be appropriate as background material for learners. Such material should be well organized and based on fundamentals.
  • Organize the main and subordinate points of the lesson in a logical sequence. The guided discussion has three main parts: introduction, discussion, and conclusion. The introduction consists of three elements: attention, motivation, and overview. During the discussion, the instructor should be certain that the main points discussed build logically with the objective. The conclusion consists of the summary of the main points. By organizing in this manner, the instructor phrases the questions to help the learners obtain a firm grasp of the subject matter and to minimize the possibility of a rambling discussion.
  • Plan at least one lead-off question for each desired learning outcome. While preparing questions, the instructor should remember that the purpose is to stimulate discussion, not merely to get answers. Lead-off questions should usually begin with how or why. For example, it is better to ask “Why does an aircraft normally require a longer takeoff run at Denver than at New Orleans?” instead of “Would you expect an aircraft to require a longer takeoff run at Denver or at New Orleans?” Learners can answer the second question by merely saying “Denver,” but the first question is likely to start a discussion of air density, engine efficiency, and the effect of temperature on performance.

Learner Preparation for a Guided Discussion

It is the instructor’s responsibility to help learners prepare themselves for the discussion. Each learner should be encouraged to accept responsibility for contributing to the discussion and benefiting from it. Throughout the time the instructor prepares the learners for their discussion, they should be made aware of the lesson objective(s). In certain instances, the instructor has no opportunity to assign preliminary work. In such cases, it is practical and advisable to give the learners a brief general survey of the topic during the introduction. Normally, learners should not be asked to discuss a subject without some background in that subject.

Guiding a Discussion—Instructor Technique

The techniques used to guide a discussion require practice and experience. The instructor needs to keep up with the discussion and know when to intervene with questions or redirect the group’s focus. The following information provides a framework for successfully conducting the guided discussion.


The introduction should include an attention element, a motivation element, and an overview of key points. To encourage enthusiasm and stimulate discussion, the instructor should create a relaxed, informal atmosphere. Each learner should be given the opportunity to discuss the various aspects of the subject, and feel free to do so. Moreover, the learner should feel a personal responsibility to contribute. The instructor should try to make the learners feel that their ideas and active participation are wanted and needed.


The instructor opens the discussion by asking one of the prepared lead-off questions. Discussion questions should be easy for learners to understand and put forth decisively. While the instructor should have the answer in mind before asking the question, the learners need to think about the question before answering. It takes time for learners to recall data, determine how to answer, or to think of an example.

The more difficult the question, the more time the learners need to answer. If the instructor sees puzzled expressions, denoting that the learners do not understand the question, it should be rephrased in a slightly different form. The nature of the questions should be determined by the lesson objective and desired learning outcomes.

Once the discussion is underway, the instructor should listen attentively to the ideas, experiences, and examples contributed by the learners during the discussion. Remember that during the preparation, the instructor listed some of the anticipated responses that would, if discussed by the learners, indicate that they had a firm grasp of the subject. By using “how” and “why” follow-up questions, the instructor should be able to guide the discussion toward the objective of helping learners understand the subject.

After the learners discuss the ideas that support this particular part of the lesson, the instructor should summarize what they have accomplished using an interim summary. This usually occurs after the discussion of each learning outcome to bring ideas together and help in transition, showing how the discussion by the group related to and supported the objective. An interim summary reinforces learning in relation to a specific learning outcome. The interim summary may also be used to keep the group on the subject or to divert the discussion to another member.


A guided discussion closes by summarizing the material covered. The instructor ties together the various points or topics discussed, and shows the relationships between the facts brought forth and the practical application of these facts. For example, while concluding a discussion on density altitude, an instructor might describe an accident, which occurred due to a pilot attempting to take off at a high-altitude airport with a fully loaded aircraft on a hot day.The summary should be succinct, but not incomplete. If the discussion has revealed that certain areas are not understood by one or more members of the group, the instructor should clarify or cover this material again.


Training methods involving discussion encourage learners to listen to and learn from their instructor and each other. Open-ended questions during guided discussion leads to concepts of risk management and ADM. The use of “What If?” during the discussion calls for high order thinking skills and exposes the learner to the decision-making process.

From the description of guided discussion, it is obvious this method works well in a group situation, but it can be modified for an interactive one-on-one learning situation. [Figure 4]

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Figure 4. As the learner grows in flight knowledge, he or she should be able to lead the postflight review while the instructor guides the discussion with targeted questions