Airplane Pedagogy

I mentioned in my last post how much I appreciated some of the scarier parts of learning to fly, especially that a student pilot has to make mistakes in order to learn from them.

Since then, I’ve been considering other ways in which student pilot pedagogy might be analagous with other modes of teaching, particularly that of my day job: the teaching of writing.

What I’ve been thinking about, mostly, is comparing flight to writing an academic paper. So many of my students, fresh out of high school, are locked into the “five paragraph essay” structure that doesn’t allow for a lot of intellectual freedom or creative expression. Similarly, using an airplane requires a lot of formality, especially through checklists, but pilots and writers both have to consider the context in which they are exercising their craft. Writers have to take into account audience, purpose, mode; pilots must think about weather, fuel, destination. Writing an introduction is akin to taking off – where thrust and lift become important. Providing evidence to support your claim can be like straight and level flight, where as long as a writer is actively scanning for issues and remaining alert, the content of the paper will propel it forward. A good conclusion can be a solid landing.

I’m not really any closer to getting my pilot’s license as I was at the beginning of the summer, but I love learning about it and I find it fascinating how I’ve been trying to apply this knowledge to other aspects of my life.

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