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Optimizing a workplace learning pattern: a case study from aviation

Timothy John Mavin (Griffith Institute for Educational Research; Griffith University; Brisbane; Australia)
Wolff-Michael Roth (Applied Cognitive Science; University of Victoria; Victoria; British Columbia, Canada)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Article publication date: 2 March 2015




This study aims to contribute to current research on team learning patterns. It specifically addresses some negative perceptions of the job performance learning pattern.


Over a period of three years, qualitative and quantitative data were gathered on pilot learning in the workplace. The instructional modes included face-to-face classroom-based training; pilots assessing pre-recorded videos in classroom-based training; pilots assessing videos with fellow pilot of similar rank (paired training); pilots undertaking traditional 4-hour simulator session with 1-hour debriefing using a variety of technologies for replaying the simulator session; and pilots undertaking 2-hour simulator sessions with extended 3-hour debriefing utilizing simulator replay video.


Although traditional classroom-based, face-to-face instruction was viewed as acceptable, pilots who critically assessed the practice of other pilots in pre-recorded videos felt empowered by transferring classroom instruction to the workplace. The study also establishes a need to determine the correct balance between high-workload simulator training and low-workload debriefing.

Research limitations/implications

A move towards developing a typology for workplace learning patterns was viewed negatively if job performance was the focus. However, pilot practitioners felt empowered when provided with the right mix of performance-oriented learning opportunities, especially when these provided an appropriate mix of high-fidelity simulations with time for reflection on practice.

Practical implications

By focusing on one learning pattern – job performance – the paper demonstrates the benefits of learning via a variety of instructional modes. Whereas aviation has a unique workplace environment, many other high- and low-risk industries are acknowledging the impact of technical and non-technical skills on job performance. This may suggest that findings from this study are transferable across a broader range of workplace settings.


The findings demonstrate that broadening research across many professional workplace settings may assist in developing a more robust framework for the micro-organization of each workplace learning pattern.



This research was funded from a variety of industry-based (Mavin as Principal Investigator) and university-based (Roth as Principal Investigator) projects.


Mavin, T.J. and Roth, W.-M. (2015), "Optimizing a workplace learning pattern: a case study from aviation", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 112-127.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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