These considerations do not, however, lead to the conclusion that all instruction, especially training, is hopelessly idiosyncratic and thereby beyond all structure and control. There is still much that can and should be done to design, develop, and implement instructional programs beyond simply providing opportunities for trial and error with feedback. Systematic development of instruction is especially important for programs intended to produce a steady stream of competent individuals, an intention that is most characteristic of training programs. All aspects of the systematic development of training are concerns of what is often called Instructional System Design (Salas et al., 1998) or the Systems Approach to Training (Baker et al., 2003). ISD/SAT approaches apply standard systems engineering to the development of instructional programs. These are the generic steps of analysis, design, production, implementation, and evaluation. ISD/SAT combines these steps with theories of learning and instruction to produce systematically designed and effective training programs (Stout et al., 2010).
Training analysis is based on systematic study of the job and the task(s) to be performed. It identifies training inputs and establishes training objectives to be accomplished in the form of student flow and the knowledge, skill, and attitude outcomes to be produced by the training. Training design devises the instructional interactions needed to accomplish the training objectives identified by training analysis. It is also used to select the instructional approaches and media used to present these interactions. Training production involves the development and preparation of instructional materials, which may include hardware such as simulators, software such as computer programs and audiovisual productions, and databases for holding information such as subject matter content and the performance capabilities of weapon systems. Training implementation concerns the appropriate installation of training systems and materials in their settings and attempts to ensure that they will perform as designed. Training evaluation, determines if the training does things right (verification), and if it does the right things (validation). As discussed by Pettitt & Dunlap, (2005) it provides verification that the training system meets its objectives (Kirkpatrick's Level II) and the validation that meeting these objectives prepares individuals to better perform the targeted tasks or jobs (Kirkpatrick's Level III) and improves the operation of the organization overall (Kirkpatrick's Level IV). Notably, evaluation provides formative feedback to the training system for improving and developing it further.
Many ISD/SAT systems for instructional design have been devised-- (Federal Aviation Administration, 2001) found manuals for more than 100 such systems had been written as of 1976, more doubtless exist now -- but all these systems have some version of the basic steps for systems engineering in common. An ISD/SAT approach seeks to spend enough time on the front end of the system life cycle to reduce its costs later on. It is a basic principle of systems development that down line modifications are several magnitudes more expensive than designing and building something properly the first time. The same is true for training systems. It is more efficient to develop and field a properly designed training system than simply to build the system and spend the rest of its life fixing it. But the latter approach is pursued far more frequently than the former. For that matter, many training systems are in use that have never been evaluated, let alone subjected to Kirkpatrick's four levels of assessment. To some extent, training for aviation is an exception to these very common and haphazard approaches.
Training in Aviation
An aircraft pilot performs a continuous process of what Ortiz, (2008) described as discrimination and manipulation. A pilot must process a flood of stimuli arriving from separate sources, identify which among them to attend to, generate from a repertoire of discrete procedures an integrated plan for responding to the relevant stimuli, and perform a series of discrete acts, such as positioning levers, switches, and controls, and continuous manual control movements requiring small forces and adjustments based on counter pressures exerted in response to the control movements. Williams suggested that the heart of these actions is decision making and that it concerns (a) when to move the controls, (b) which controls to move, (c) which direction to move the controls, (d) how much to move the controls, and (e) how long to continue the movement. It is both straightforward and complicated (Federal Aviation Administration, 2009).
The task of flight controllers might be described the same way. Both pilots and controllers must contend with significant time pressures and with the possibilities of severe consequences for error. Both require psychomotor responses and both properly involve some degree of artistry and personal expression. No two people will perform these activities in precisely the same way, and they may be most effectively accomplished in ways that are consonant with other aspects of personal style (Salas et al., 1998).
The responses involve performance of pretrained procedures, but the procedures must be assembled into an integrated, often unique, response. As described by Pettitt & Dunlap, (2005) the performance of aviation personnel concern procedural, decisional, and perceptual-motor responses. Responses chosen are generative and created to meet the demands of the moment. They involve sensing, transforming, recollecting, recognizing, and manipulating of concepts, procedures, and devices (Bowers et al., 2004). These responses are controlled by decision making that is basically cognitive, but with emotional overtones. Responses made by pilots and controllers key on this decision making, but the decision making is more tactical than strategic. The decisions may be guided by general principles, but they are made under significant time pressures and resemble those of a job shop or a military command post more than those of an executive suite.
How do we prepare people for jobs of this sort? What training works in these situations? Aviation has developed so rapidly that little, probably insufficient time has been devoted to systematic review of the requirements it makes of individuals and the training needed to satisfy these requirements. Aviation training is just now beginning to evolve from the World War I days of the Lafayette Escadrille as described by Charles Biddle, an American who enlisted in the French Foreign Legion Aviation Section in 1917. Biddle was later commissioned in the U.S. Army Air Force where he performed with distinction as a fighter pilot and a squadron commander.
He was also a prolific letter writer. His letters, which were collected and published, provide a grass-roots description of training for pilots in World War I (Baker et al., 2003).
This early training consisted mostly of an accomplished (hence, instructor) pilot teaching each student one-on-one in the aircraft. Ground training consisted of academic classes and some small group sessions with an instructor pilot. Each individual was briefed on what to do and then allowed to practice the action under the guidance of a monitor. Flying began, as it does today, with students taxiing the aircraft around on the ground, learning to balance and steer.
As subsequent steps were mastered, and certified by the instructor, the student proceeded to actual flight, and new, more difficult, and often more specialized stages of learning with more capable aircraft to fly and more complex maneuvers to complete.
Today's flight instruction follows the same basic pattern -- probably because it works. It leads trainees reliably to progressively higher levels of learning and performance (Federal Aviation Administration, 2009).
This approach has led to a robust set of assumptions concerning how aircrew training must be done. It emphasizes one-on-one student instruction for both teaching and certification, a focus on the individual, the use of actual aircraft to provide the training, and hours of experience to certify proficiency. Each of these assumptions deserves some discussion.
One-on-one instruction receives somewhat more emphasis in aviation training than elsewhere. For an activity as complex and varied as piloting an airplane, it is difficult to imagine an alternative to this approach. One-on-one instructor to student ratios have long been recognized as effective -- perhaps the most effective format for instruction. Oser et al. (1999) found that the difference between students taught in classroom groups of 30 and those taught one-on-one by an individual instructor providing individualized instruction was as large as two standard deviations in achievement. Unfortunately, one-on-one instruction is also very expensive. We cannot afford an Aristotle for every Alexander, or even a Mark Hopkins for the rest of us.
This form of teaching has been described as an instructional imperative and an economic impossibility (Baker et al., 2003). Databased arguments have been made (e.g., Fletcher, 1992) that technology, such as computer-based instruction that tailors the pace, content, sequence, difficulty, and style of presentations to the needs of individual students, can help fill this gap between what is needed and what is affordable. Technology can be used more in aviation training,
and FAA efforts have been made to encourage and increase not just the use of technology but the use of relatively inexpensive personal computers in aviation training.