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Andy Ford

discussion Continuous Improvement: Tower Syllabus

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Andy Ford

How time flies! It's now been three months since we released the new VATSIM UK tower training syllabus. Since release, we've seen an increase in the number of exams coming through the system, with a strong pass rate.

Now that we've all had time to work with the new syllabus, it's time to look towards the next iteration and improvement. Therefore, we'd like to invite mentors and students to comment on how they're finding the syllabus and any feedback that they may have.

With any additions or improvements, we are hoping to retain the current paradigm of "if it's theory, then it's self-taught". If there's something that you've noticed students lacking with regards to theory because we haven't told them what they need and where to find it, please say and this can be added.

On the practical side, we're interested to know if there's anything that you would want to see added to the syllabus or integrated into an existing criterion. Or perhaps there's something that could be made clearer to aid understanding?

Once we've collected all the feedback, we'll update the syllabus and release the improved version.

Edited by Andy Ford

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Adam Farquharson

For me, it is nearly perfect. Learning the theory as a student is something that you can do yourself and something you can do even before you even get a training place which gives you something to keep you interested while you are on the waiting list.

The only improvement that I could have is for mentoring sessions. I have had 2 sessions on Bristol tower on the network where almost nothing has happened and because of that I had very little improvement. I feel all of my progress has come from the sweatbox and therefore I would suggest that even if the session has been picked up and booked for the network, if there is little traffic then switch to sweatbox(assuming that there isn't another session using it) I think this would be so much better for progression and wouldn't be too difficult for the mentors either.

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Luke Mullen

I think the syllabus is great. It's much clearer than the last one, however, I have something I'd like to suggest.

When conducting a session report for a student, I find I constantly have to put information into the "Additional Comments" section of the page as there is no other relevant section. I know theory should be self-taught, but I have found on multiple occasions when students are a bit unsure on the theory - I help them by reminding them in the session report of the correct theory. This theory I am talking about is things such as altimetry, LVPs, AoR's.

However, I am just nitpicking and it causes no real issue for me to enter all this information into the additional comments. Maybe even just a general "S2 Theory" section could work? So mentors could remind students of the correct theory if they weren't so sure about something.

As I said initially though, this syllabus is brilliant.

Luke.

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Andrew Pym

Andy,

Like what you have done with OBS to PT2 (Generic then airport specific) I think this could be beneficial for the S2 training. You should get students read up certain documents before they start there mentoring but 5/10 of those students don't and 'wing it'. If you implemented a moodle course for S2 theory, It would free up the S1 to S2 mentors time to mentor other students instead of spending time to cover theory. I've been told CTS is moving to CORE but not sure if there will be something like the moodle in core.

Otherwise syllabus is brilliant.

 - Andrew

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Fergus Walsh
1 hour ago, Andrew Pym said:

If you implemented a moodle course for S2 theory

I think this is already in the making. (???)

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Tom Szczypinski
34 minutes ago, Fergus Walsh said:

I think this is already in the making. (???)

Yes it is. 

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Andy Ford
17 hours ago, Adam Farquharson said:

The only improvement that I could have is for mentoring sessions. I have had 2 sessions on Bristol tower on the network where almost nothing has happened and because of that I had very little improvement. I feel all of my progress has come from the sweatbox and therefore I would suggest that even if the session has been picked up and booked for the network, if there is little traffic then switch to sweatbox(assuming that there isn't another session using it) I think this would be so much better for progression and wouldn't be too difficult for the mentors either.

This is ultimately down to the individual mentor to take the initiative, but we can certainly emphasise and empower the mentor to make this decision in the syllabus and our mentor training 🙂

16 hours ago, Luke Mullen said:

When conducting a session report for a student, I find I constantly have to put information into the "Additional Comments" section of the page as there is no other relevant section. I know theory should be self-taught, but I have found on multiple occasions when students are a bit unsure on the theory - I help them by reminding them in the session report of the correct theory. This theory I am talking about is things such as altimetry, LVPs, AoR's.

One thing I'm slightly cautious of is mentors using this box to simply regurgitate information that is already printed elsewhere - we tried to move away from that because really all someone should need in a report is a reference to a document.

However, happy to consider a box for theory related things that relates to the students attitude towards theory. Perhaps a box that grades the students attitude towards taking responsibility for their own learning - so have they clearly attempted to learn theory / do they come to the mentor with questions when they dont understand? Then in the same box you can reference specific documents / syllabus competencies for them to look at?

2 hours ago, Andrew Pym said:

You should get students read up certain documents before they start there mentoring but 5/10 of those students don't and 'wing it'.

In part, we have the 0.x competencies, where we've given students documents to go and read - stating that mentors will not be spoon feeding them this with constant theory questions. But there is also an S2 Moodle Course in progress to cover this.

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George Peppard
2 hours ago, Andy Ford said:

However, happy to consider a box for theory related things that relates to the students attitude towards theory.

A "knowledge of self taught competencies" box would definitely help to track student progress, it's somewhat ambiguous at the moment. In addition, we could perhaps make it a condition of an STV and forwarding for an exam - means students would actually learn the competencies (which unfortunately is a rare thing, I think I've had one student that's actually known all the self taught competencies).

In addition, most students don't even know the syllabus is public, let alone it contains things they need to learn themselves. The notion of a "syllabus" implies, I think, that it's for mentors and not students. Perhaps a new document could be created that just contains the self taught competencies and then a link to the syllabus if they want to read more into it.

Edited by George Peppard
+1 opinion

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Andy Ford
14 minutes ago, George Peppard said:

In addition, most students don't even know the syllabus is public, let alone it contains things they need to learn themselves.

In that case, we'll certainly make sure it's included in their training place offer so there's no doubt! 🙂 The syllabus is supposed to be two ways - the students find out what they need to know/do and how they'll be graded, the mentors have a mark scheme 🙂

Edited by Andy Ford

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Andrew Macleod

The syllabus is pretty good. One thing I would say can get quite confusing is the emerging, developing and securing parts. I like how this is laid out I think it’s great that it’s a thing. But to save mentors time would it be possible to add this as another tick box. Some mentors put it in there reports and some don’t. For those that don’t which is the majority then I think it would help the mentors and also the students to understand more how they are getting on. If you are able to just tick one of these three things then as George said if the syllabus was public the students would be able to look back at that and see how there getting on which in a way would in the long run save mentors sentences in there reports.  

 

Another thing i would like if was implemented was if there was possibly even another level you could say with securing developing and emerging just to stretch it out a bit because sometimes I think I’m in the middle of some of the things for example developing and securing so you almost there but there’s a few things you need to work on but there good enough that they can pass developing. Hopefully you understand what I’m trying to say it’s quite confusing the way I’ve put it i think!

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Alex Metcalfe

As a manchester tower student nearing my exam, I think we should re-add a 'pre-exam' with an instructor to test the students knowledge in the form of an examination. This would probably benefit me and others with the nerves of the examination to.

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George Peppard
7 hours ago, Alex Metcalfe said:

As a manchester tower student nearing my exam, I think we should re-add a 'pre-exam' with an instructor to test the students knowledge in the form of an examination. This would probably benefit me and others with the nerves of the examination to.

I disagree.

In past the pre-exams were a box-ticking exercise and didn't represent the actual exam very well. You'd get much less traffic in a pre-exam than in a normal exam, because everyone knows it's a pre-exam.

Practise with an STV and you'll gain far more experience. If you want a "pre-exam" type thing, ask your mentor to do a general theory runthrough and a busy SweatBox session and I'm sure they'd be happy to oblige.

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Andy Ford
10 hours ago, Alex Metcalfe said:

As a manchester tower student nearing my exam, I think we should re-add a 'pre-exam' with an instructor to test the students knowledge in the form of an examination. This would probably benefit me and others with the nerves of the examination to.

We removed pre-exams as the membership stated almost overwhelmingly that they didn't see the value in making them formal - and the stats agreed (take a look at the ATC Training Consultation Response for the justification - but one example is that most pre-exams didn't generate traffic anyway). Since then, we've shown through our pass rate that we don't need them as a regular part of our training structure. As people have mentioned, if you'd like a mentor to give you a theory test then most will oblige if you ask - the syllabus doesn't forbid students from taking the initiative to learn and ask to be tested, it simply says "mentors aren't going to sit there and tell you everything you need to know". 🙂

16 hours ago, Andrew Macleod said:

But to save mentors time would it be possible to add this as another tick box.

"Emerging", "Developing" and "Securing" will eventually replace WR/Satis/Good/Test Standard - we just need to wait for the CTS upgrade project and that will happen. In the meantime the syllabus document provides a mapping between the new definitions and how a mentor should grade on the CTS in the old way.

16 hours ago, Andrew Macleod said:

Another thing i would like if was implemented was if there was possibly even another level you could say with securing developing and emerging just to stretch it out a bit because sometimes I think I’m in the middle of some of the things for example developing and securing so you almost there but there’s a few things you need to work on but there good enough that they can pass developing.

Any particular examples? When writing the syllabus I felt like I was stretching it quite a lot already! Ultimately, if a student doesn't meet all the criteria of a given grade, then they don't achieve it and the mentor notes what they must to reach the next grading 🙂

Edited by Andy Ford

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Joseph Messore
On 05/07/2018 at 17:52, Andy Ford said:

This is ultimately down to the individual mentor to take the initiative, but we can certainly emphasise and empower the mentor to make this decision in the syllabus and our mentor training 🙂

In my defence, I didn't have a scooby how to use Sweatbox. <insert that ninja/hidey face from the old emotes here>

On 05/07/2018 at 20:12, Andy Ford said:

the students find out what they need to know/do and how they'll be graded, the mentors have a mark scheme 🙂

If only my real exams were like that. 😂

I think the syllabus is great. I personally see no issues with the current grading scheme as it is. 

One thing I'd personally like to do is have the option to take the S2 Moodle upon its release, to get a good understanding of what a student should be walking into a session with knowledge of, from the student's perspective. Not a mandatory requirement for all mentors to take it, but perhaps some of the newer ones like myself should have the option to do so. 

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Andy Ford
1 hour ago, Joseph Messore said:

One thing I'd personally like to do is have the option to take the S2 Moodle upon its release, to get a good understanding of what a student should be walking into a session with knowledge of, from the student's perspective. Not a mandatory requirement for all mentors to take it, but perhaps some of the newer ones like myself should have the option to do so. 

As with all our Moodle courses, the content will be available for all to view 🙂

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Adam Farquharson
On ‎06‎/‎07‎/‎2018 at 09:41, Alex Metcalfe said:

As a manchester tower student nearing my exam, I think we should re-add a 'pre-exam' with an instructor to test the students knowledge in the form of an examination. This would probably benefit me and others with the nerves of the examination to.

I think this hugely depends on where you are controlling, At Manchester during peak traffic yes it might be a good idea but as Andy said, the pre-exams didn't generate much traffic so at airports like my training airfield Bristol it would just be another session of me sitting at my blank SMR with a maximum of 4 or 5 aircraft throughout the whole session which is not very much like the actual exam, boring for the student and then mentor and a waste of time.

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Joseph Messore
On 06/07/2018 at 09:41, Alex Metcalfe said:

As a manchester tower student nearing my exam, I think we should re-add a 'pre-exam' with an instructor to test the students knowledge in the form of an examination. This would probably benefit me and others with the nerves of the examination to.

I can see how a "pre-exam" is helpful. However as Andy says, pre-exams didn't attract the traffic they were designed to attract. Speaking for my own training, I did two sessions with an instructor on Sweatbox that consisted of "exam level traffic." This is partly what I attribute to my S2 Exam's success. It allowed me to put all of my skills into practice, in the learning environment, where it was okay to stop and ask to go over something, and not the constant feeling of being judged on your performance that the live network brings. Maybe instead of a pre-exam, perhaps the syllabus could consist of one of these "exam level traffic" Sweatbox sessions instead?  

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Harry Sugden

Two suggestions:

  • Explicit mention of understanding the difference between 'altitude' and 'height', along with the QNH vs. QFE difference
  • The RSIVA section gives the impression to me that it is only for expeditious departures - but if a missed approach and a departure are temporarily not separated, or an IFR departure isn't laterally/vertically separated from a light aircraft turning crosswind into the circuit, then until separation arises, RSIVA is the method of separation, right? Perhaps an understanding of this should be encouraged

Otherwise, I've not said it before, but very nice syllabi!

Edited by Harry Sugden

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Andy Ford

Just a note to self - explicit mention of SVFR, CAP493 S2 C8.

Thanks to all who have commented on this so far! I'm looking to start drafting the next version over the weekend, so if you've got anything burning to add, please do so by close of play on Friday!

Edited by Andy Ford

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Louie Lister

Will students still need to do the S2 theory exam on the CTS? If so, will it be updated? There are questions that are very out of date and incorrect on there. 

Edited by Louie Lister

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