Active learning environment cleared for takeoff in ATC classroom

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  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

In a classroom at Cody Hall, something unique is happening.  The students are turning the classroom upside down, inside out and the other way around.  Why?  So students will have a better understanding of one of the toughest courses in the Air Force, Air Traffic Control.

Instead of the instructor standing and lecturing for hours, the students are involved in the learning process. It’s an Active Learning Environment, ALE, and it’s making a difference in how the Air Force develops Mach-21 Airmen.

Katherine Chowdhary, 334th Training Squadron instructor, incorporated ALE principles in her classroom in December. Chowdhary has seen a significant difference in her students ever since she “flipped” her classroom.

“By facilitating many different learning strategies, Mrs. Chowdhary’s students have a better understanding of the required objectives while participating in the learning processes,” said Dennis Brooks, 334th TRS air traffic control training flight chief. “She can break down complex procedures into easier to understand terms.”

There were several ALE strategies that proved effective in Chowdhary’s classroom including polling, interactive reviews and predicting test questions. Predicting test questions worked well with students learning to read and relay weather from an encoded weather report to an aircraft.

 “Mrs. Chowdhary is always looking for ways to improve and the ALE teaching methods compliment her perfectly,” said Brooks. “She cares about her student’s well-being and invests in their learning.”

Chowdhary provides the students with course material before class, so they arrive prepared to demonstrate the material to her and to each other.

“Overall, students show more interest, are better prepared and have more confidence in the classroom,” said Chowdhary.

The ALE classroom is designed for better group dynamics and resembles a restaurant or a bar.  This setup promotes small group discussions and enhances collaboration among the students.

Using group interactive strategies of ALE, Chowdhary guides the teams through the material and nudges the students back on track if they stray. To make it work, instructors and students work proactively.

While ALE may not be for every objective or course, it is working in the Air Traffic Control Fundamentals classroom. Chowdhary continues to use ALE while discovering which strategy is best for each learning objective.