Motivation, the missing ingredient in Competency Based Training.


Motivation, an essential element of competency based training

A pilot’s performance during training and when flying on line, is assessed in terms of the competencies. There has been a paradigm shift in the methodology of training pilots from the prescriptive hour based method to the competency based training & assessment (CBTA). There is however a need to sustain a minimum acceptable level of:

1. knowledge to prevent attrition

2. skill to prevent erosion

3. attitude to demonstrate consistent behavioral indicators.

Sustainable learning is the need of the hour, to effectively demonstrate consistent performance and assure standards. The strategy to retain the competencies over a period of time will need the introduction of a binding element, which upholds the tenets of CBTA together.

Motivation is that key element besides knowledge, skill and attitude that must be measured in order to ensure sustainable learning during training and beyond. It need not be graded but recorded as a feedback since it has a direct reflection on KS&A.


Competency. A combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes required to perform a task to the prescribed standard.

Competency-based training. Training and assessment that are characterized by a performance orientation, emphasis on standards of performance and their measurement and the development of training to the specified performance standards.


Performance is the outcome of learning. It is a product of the competencies or ability, resources and motivation. In this equation however a deficiency of one can be compensated by increase in other parameters only to a limited level. E. g. If the ability is low, however best the resources be made available, the performance cannot be improved beyond a certain stage. This statement however is not completely true for motivation. High levels of motivations can compensate to a large extent for a trainee with average ability and resource. On the flip side, high levels of ability and resources cannot compensate low motivational levels.

Performance = Ability x Resource x MOTIVATION


Motivation is defined as the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. Motivation is what causes a person to act, whether it is getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge. Motivation involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces that activate behavior.

“The term motivation refers to factors that activate, direct, and sustain goal-directed behavior… Motives are the ‘whys’ of behavior—the needs or wants that drive behavior and explain what we do. We don’t actually observe a motive; rather, we infer that one exists based on the behavior we observe.” (Nevid, 2013)

The pilot must be intrinsically motivated and self-regulated to be able to perform consistently and remain engaged with the task in hand.

Palmer (2007) reviews the “student motivation as an essential element that is necessary for quality education. How do we know when students are motivated?

1. They pay attention,

2. they begin working on tasks immediately,

3. they ask questions and volunteer answers, and

4. they appear to be happy and eager.”(Williams & Williams, 2011).

In the late 1987s, according to Brophy motivation to learn is a competence acquired“through general experience but stimulated most directly through modeling, communication of expectations, and direct instruction or socialization by significant others (especially parents and teachers)” (Gregory, 2009, p. 2; Nukpe, 2012), offers some definition for motivation where, Cherry (2010) views motivation as “the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal oriented behaviours”. Brennen, (2006, p.4) believes motivation to be “… the level of effort an individual is willing to expend toward the achievement of a certain goal” Guay et al. (2010, p. 712) describes it simply as “reasons underlying behaviour” (Nukpe, 2012, p. 11).

Intrinsic motivation has been defined as

(a) participation in an activity purely out of curiosity, that is, for a need to know about something;

(b) the desire to engage in an activity purely for the sake of participating in and completing a task; and

(c) the desire to contribute (Dev, 1997).

Intrinsic motivation requires much persistence and effort put forth by an individual student. Students with intrinsic motivation would develop goals such as, the goal to learn and the goal to achieve. A mastery goal, the desire to gain understanding of a topic, has been found to correlate with effective learning strategies, positive attitudes toward school, the choice of difficult tasks as opposed to a simple task, perceived ability, effort, concern of future consequences, self regulation, the use of deep cognitive processes, persistence, achievement, choice and initiative

(Archer, 1994; Miller, Greene, Montalvo, Ravindran, & Nichols, 1996; Garcia & Pintrich, 1996).

Self-determination theory (SDT) is a macro theory of human motivation and personality that concerns people’s inherent growth tendencies and innate psychological needs. It is concerned with the motivation behind choices people make without external influence and interference.

Self-determination theory when applied to the realm of education, is concerned primarily with promoting in students an interest in learning, a valuing of education, and a confidence in their own capacities and attributes. These outcomes are manifestations of being intrinsically motivated and internalizing values and regulatory processes. Research suggests that these processes result in high-quality learning and conceptual understanding, as well as enhanced personal growth and adjustment. In several studies, are some contextual conditions that will facilitate motivation, performance, and development? Simply stated, motivation, performance, and development will be maximized within social contexts that provide people the opportunity to satisfy their basic psychological needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy. These three needs are very important for teachers and students. These three needs contribute to peoples being motivated (as opposed to a-motivated); however, opportunities to satisfy the need for autonomy are necessary for people to be self-determined rather than controlled (Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, & Ryan, 1991).

Measuring motivation

There are a number of tests to measure motivation. Jennifer Archer (1994) created an inventory to assess mastery goals, performance goals (the concern to demonstrate ability to others), and goal alienation (the lack of academic goals) in university students. The test was designed in a way so that the student could go down a list of statements and check off the statements that demonstrate their motivations in the classroom. An example of this would be:

When did you feel most successful. Following this statement is a list of several responses that are geared toward one of the three goal orientations. Students were instructed to put a check mark next to the statements only if it applied to them.

Miller, Greene, Montalvo, Ravindran, and Nichols (1996) used an 83-item instrument called “Attitude Toward Mathematics Survey.” In this particular study, they used sub-scales that assessed

1) self-perceived ability,

2) self-regulation and cognitive strategy,

3) persistence,

4) effort, and

5) student goals, such as learning goals, performance goals, future consequences, pleasing the teacher, and pleasing the family.

The Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) is an 81-item inventory that measures two different types of scales: motivation and learning. Motivational scales include:

Intrinsic goal orientation, extrinsic goal orientation, task value, control beliefs about learning, self-efficacy, and test anxiety.


Motivation is the key element that ensures a learners engagement with the activity. It is the binding element for knowledge, skill and attitude which ensures sustainable learning during training and when flying on line.

Intrinsic motivation and self-determination are the factors, which ensures that the competencies do not erode with time and other day-to-day pressures and stress. The learning objective must address the learners primary question of “what’s in it for me?” Human beings are conformers and have to deal with the pressures of the society. Hierarchy and power distance index also determines their ability to sustain the initial learning and consistently apply it on line flying. Bad habits and poor practices tend to creep in over a period of time. Peer pressure is also contributes in a big way to normalizing deviance.

Motivation needs to be at the core of CBTA along with KSA. Motivation need not be graded but must be recorded. It has a direct reflection on KSA and secondly it needs to be given as a feed back to the managers. The “what is in it for me?” needs to be addressed by the managers to ensure the level of sustainability in learning from a long term perspective.

Motivation is a critical binding element for knowledge, skill and attitude. Therefore it must be included in the definition of competency. To do the right thing and pursue the right path, the learner must be highly intrinsically motivated. The new definition should read as follows.

Competency: A combination of knowledge, skills, attitudes and motivation required to perform a task to the prescribed standard.

About Capt. Amit Singh

I think therefore I am Airlines Operations and Safety balance expert. A former head of operations/training and safety of successful LCC's in India. An experienced member of the startup teams of these airlines has hands-on experience in establishing airlines systems and processes.

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