Ground School Avoidance Syndrome


Ground School Avoidance Syndrome~Guest Blogger Ean Sugarman, CFII

How many times have you had a student be excited to get in the aircraft and fly but when it comes to hitting the books, it's like trying to get a young child to tidy their room! For some students, it can be a slow going and tedious process complete with excuses ranging from, "I've been busy at work" or "It's hard to study at home", to "I'm not a good test taker, so it's hard for me to study"

As instructors we are taught that people learn differently, and when it comes to the written and theory side of what we teach, there can be challenges to overcome regarding a student's approach to ground school. It seems more often than not I've found it necessary to get creative with how I encourage my students to hit the books. My techniques usually start out as promises of insights and swift advancement (ex: once you understand this, your flying will improve) but typically can descend to pretend threats and silly bribes (ex: "If you don't take your written exam by X date, you have to buy lunch!") Of course various methods work better then others but genuine honest discussion about how important the ground school/written test is and how self study can drive down the cost of training as a whole tend to be great catalysts for action.

At one point, I realized the devil is in the details. I noticed that the different responses my students had for not hitting our agreed goals in ground/theory work were very specific to their personalities. I had one student who, after a detailed discussion, revealed that his education had been thwarted because he grew up in a different country where education was not valued compared to the USA. In another instance, I had a student who was a highly successful self-made businessman who succeeded without taking any tests by simply trial and error, and getting more knowledgeable people to do tasks that he himself struggled with. (A sign of a good leader)

In these instances, by applying more techniques referenced in the FOI, I found ways to Emphasize the positive and Minimize the Student's frustration.

As CFIs using the FOI is the bedrock to understand human learning processes. It states that our instructor responsibilities include:

  • Helping students learn
  • Emphasize the positive.
  • Minimizing student frustrations.
  • Provide adequate instruction.
  • Clearly set standards of performance.
  • Safety.

In the case of the student that was born in a different country, I spent time talking to him about his attitude to approaching the study. I made sure I let him know that the theory would back up his actual flying and his flying aptitude was excellent.

In the case of my successful businessman student, I pointed out the rewards of achieving the written exam and then spent time with him going over areas that he found difficult. It changed the outcome completely from unknown to familiar and enjoyable!

Talking to and spending time to find out where your student is struggling really helps you, the CFI, to understand why the student is having trouble and move things along to the next level. In my opinion, it not only shows your student that you care about their progress, it helps forge a good trusting bond between you and your student which in turn helps make the process of learning more efficient.


Ean Sugarman, CFII
NAFI# 224569






Blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace independent, professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinions or position of the National Association of Flight Instructors. NAFI does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented. Readers should note content may appear in various media, including print, email, enews without further notice.
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