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Mapping Competencies onto Training Methods

I have offered a view of a system as a set of nested decision-making entities and I suggest that competencies, in aviation, are functions that support effective decisionmaking. Competence such as ‘coping’ functions by mitigating the impact of external factors. Communication serves to facilitate other functions. Analysing, planning and organising are precursors to action while validating is a mode of control. Finally, collaboration is the process of social interface management. The elements I have identified clearly have an internal structure and performance will be the product of multiple competencies.

The particular issues associated with developing coping have been dealt with in some detail in a previous section. From a training perspective, we need to accommodate opportunities to reflect on how other competencies support coping by developing resistance through performance under stress, always mindful of the fact that too much stress would be counter-productive. A good training model is Vygotsky’s ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD) which describes the gap between actual and potential development (Vygotsky, 1978). When applied to training, a ZPD design would present a challenge or a demand that is just beyond what the trainee was last capable of achieving. The gap is always within the expected capability of trainees and success always results in achieving a new standard of performance. As a result, training is motivating.

Analysing and planning require opportunities to identify and clarify goals, establish constraints, consider implications of changing circumstances, verify the legality of options, integrate information sources and plan courses of action. Much of this can be done using text-based case studies developed from a safety or investigation report, a LOSA narrative or based on an SME scenario-building activity, similar to the ‘what-if’ approach explored by Martin et al. The case should comprise sufficient context to allow trainees to rapidly grasp the problem and provide access to all relevant information. It would help if the information was presented the same way as would be encountered on the aircraft (graphical representations of displays rather than textual lists of parameters). Trainees should be allowed to interrogate the scenario to the extent that it would be possible in real life (to simulate fault-finding, for example). All necessary documentation and support (i.e. access to maintenance or operations) must be available. One weakness with this approach is that some trainees struggle to enter into the activity because of the low fidelity but if the scenario is well-designed this can be overcome. For increased engagement, scenarios could be built using computer game construction programmes and deliver via tablets or smartphones. Both the text-based and IT approaches mean that training can be delivered in a distributed mode.

Training for organising requires opportunities to identify activities associated with achieving a goal, clarifying resource needs, sequencing actions and adapting plans to changing circumstances. It requires trainees to consider the implications of existing priorities in relation to goals. Much of this can be adequately addressed through group discussions (a form of desktop exercise), desktop simulations or interactive games. However, we saw in Chapter 3 that task switching will be affected by cognitive load. Changes to goal states will require task switching as part of organising to meet the revised constraint set. Therefore, there is some benefit in delivering some training in more dynamic environments.

Validating involves comparing available signals and data with expected values. Signals can relate to the task, the technology or the environment and they can indicate the current status or suggest a future condition. Training, then, needs to be dynamic and be able to present action over different time scales. The need to be able to present discordant signals linked to a managed task suggests that a high-fidelity situation might be beneficial, whether it is delivered in a conventional simulator or in a VR environment.

Training for deciding can be delivered through desktop exercises, interactive games delivered electronically and, of course, full-mission simulation. There are three contexts in which deciding should be rehearsed. The first is represented by the forced-choice situations illustrated earlier. As we have seen, these can be implemented through both desktop and high-fidelity simulations. The second context is represented by scenarios where change is subtle and innocuous. The decision point in such situations can be easily missed. Finally, we need to consider situations where problem-solving activity precedes a decision. I have argued that problem-solving is a form of ‘deciding about deciding’, requiring candidates to clarify the situation, specify information requirements and create a possible response. Problem-solving, then, is built upon analysis and planning. Levels of difficulty can be set by the ambiguity of the situation and the time available for resolution. These scenario characteristics will shape the training media required.

Communicating and collaborating clearly require shared tasks with desktop exercises, simulators and distributed VR environments all offering potential vehicles.

TABLE 11.12

Mapping Competencies onto Training Methods




Case study, desktop simulation, tablet-delivered game

e.g. Dispatch problems involving deferred defects into destinations with particular constraints (terrain, weather).

Presentation of anomalous system indications related to obscure interactions requiring fault-finding.


Case study, desktop simulation, tablet-delivered game e.g. Managing diversions to an alternate


Desktop simulation, group exercise, high-fidelity simulation, VR


Tablet-delivered simulation, high-fidelity simulation, VR e.g. Establishing system status based on anomalous indications, dynamic signal detection


Desktop simulation, tablet-delivered games, high-fidelity simulation, VR e.g. Go/no go, diversion, trajectory management with degraded systems


Desktop simulation, group exercise, high-fidelity simulation, VR e.g. Activities that allow for verbalising comprehension of non-normal system status; apply structured communications frameworks (briefings)


Desktop simulation, group exercises, high-fidelity simulation, VR e.g. Multiplayer exercises requiring agreement over solutions, negotiation with third parties


See Section 11.6

Scenarios should be designed in such a way that participants engage in parallel tasks which require occasional interaction in order to achieve their personal goals. Getting participants to role-play the ‘other’ side, for example getting pilots to act as the line engineer during a turn round simulation, can provide powerful insights. Table 11.12 attempts to map competencies onto media.

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