Get to know your learning style and choose your course of study wisely
This is the second part of six in my series Exiting the Hold: Reaching your Aviation goals. Last month we focused on the importance of timing and the Greek concepts of time: chronos and kairos. This month we will be delving in to choosing a course of study or preparation for your meeting your goals. Having just returned from Oshkosh at the beginning of this month, the use of my instrument rating in actual weather conditions is fresh in my mind. The decision-making I used for the 26-hour solo flight relied heavily on my IFR training. The smoke, rain, low visibility, thunderstorms and clouds with ice, I encountered gave me real-world experience that tested me.
Learners are as variable as the airplanes they fly. Now that you have made the decision to reach your goals, set yourself up for success. Are you choosing a professionally developed curriculum or leaning on a variety of books and study guides? Do you need the pressure of having a time-based weekly program, or are you self-motivated enough for home-based study? Whatever you choose, choose wisely to maximize your chance of success.
A decision on the best course of study must take into account the following components:
- Quality of study program
- Mode of study [in-person, online, self-study]
- Level of accountability [peer pressure, schedule, community]
Quality of study program
The aviation community is very lucky to have wonderful educators and educational institutions that have been around for decades. Over the years I have used King Schools, Rod Machado, Sporty’s, Gleim, and AOPA’s Air Safety Institute. Don’t skimp on the quality of your study program. My advice is to purchase the best that you can afford. Think of your education being an investment in you, your life and longevity.
Mode of study [in-person, online, self-study]
As one of my IFR instructors said to me, “Here is where we are going to go to school.” I am a psychotherapist with 26 years of experience. In that time I have become fascinated in the differences between males and females, specifically in terms of brain differences. I am not a brain researcher; my thoughts are based on a basic review of the current science, and are by no means exhaustive. You should also know that there are exceptions to the facts and we can train our brain to do less than innate activities.
Here is the short story: I versus We: Competence versus Connection. The male brain is organized and focused more as an individual, striving for mastery. The female brain is wired for communication, connection and cooperation
Men have slightly larger brains even when adjusted for their larger heads. They have larger parietal cortices (in charge of space perception), and amygdala (which regulates sexual and social behavior). This might explain why visual-spatial tasks are easier for men. They tend to be able visually manipulate things in their brain, whereas women tend to need to see spaces and shapes on paper.
Men also have more gray matter in their brains, which is full of active neurons. This might explain why there are more men in physically or mentally active professions like airplane pilots, bush guides, racecar drivers, and mathematicians. Men also tend to be more systematic in their thinking.
Women’s brains are 8-10% smaller than the male brain, yet on average, are much more active. Women have larger volume in both the frontal cortex (the inner CEO) and the limbic cortex (involved in emotional responses). This, in conjunction with speedy connections facilitated by the white matter, is another reason why women’s brains work faster. Renowned brain researcher, Dr. Daniel Amen’s research shows that women have greater activity in the brain’s hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that helps store memories.
In addition, the female brain has a larger corpus callosum, which is a bundle of nerves that connects emotion and cognition. As a result, women are better with language abilities and rely more heavily on oral or verbal communication. They also tend to have a better time controlling emotions, although they are more emotional. Women, on average use four words to every one word a man uses. The female brain secretes more serotonin and oxytocin, which connects them further to the emotional world. These differences are important because when you know what lights up your brain, you will be better equipped to make the best “course of study” decision.
In sum, males will be excited about the individual mastery, competition, or competence in aviation. Females will be excited to be part of a collaborative, interactive group of students. Males might be better with conceptualizing basic principles of flight. Females would learn better by hands-on demonstration. In sum, think about yourself, your learning style and make the choices that support an optimal environment for your education.
Level of accountability [peer pressure/community, schedule]
I decided that 2017 was my year to get my IFR rating. In late 2016 I started studying for the IFR written exam. I used online training, attended a weekend intensive seminar, and had individual tutoring. Although my friends knew I was studying, I kept my test date a secret. I didn’t want anyone to know I was testing, but once I passed with a healthy 90% I did put it out to my friends and family that I would complete the rating in 2017. I know myself. I knew that I didn’t want the social pressure of folks knowing I was taking the written. But I did want the social pressure of publicizing that I was committing to getting done in 2017. Think about your personality and the impact peer pressure will have on you. It might be a good thing to put in to words your goals and methods for attaining them.
There is never a good time to do anything. As discussed in last month’s column there are instances where you just have to leap. Think about your life, responsibilities and energy level. You might be best served by a weekly course of instruction, slow and steady toward the goal. However, your work or family schedule might be better suited for a two-week intensive program.
Good luck in determining the course of study to help you reach your goal. Next month we will tackle the third element in Exiting the Hold: Quieting the Critic. For those of you on the West Coast, if you would like to come see my multi-media presentation of Exiting the Hold: Reaching your Aviation Goals, I will be presenting at the Capital Airshow in Sacramento, CA [Mather] on Sunday September 23rd at 10:40 a.m. in the education pavilion.