Strategies to Improve CRM Training


CRM training has successfully changed crew members’ attitudes, knowledge, and behaviours, however it has not been so successful in improving safety. There are three instructional strategies which are listed below that can be used in CRM training to improve teamwork in the cockpit and lead to improving the safety in the cockpit.

Scenario-Based Training (SBT)

By inserting learning events taken from critical incidents data, into simulation scenarios, individuals and teams can be trained to demonstrate safe behaviours in the cockpit. There are several benefits which SBT offers over other strategies:

1. In pre-planned scenarios, trainees can practice applying critical knowledge and skills while being evaluated. Cues embedded within the scenarios, trigger desired behaviours and competencies, and these are observed and evaluated and given as feedback. Trainees can then make corrections to their strategies through this feedback, before they become internalised.

2. The scenarios can be varied to permit a number of responses from the trainees, allowing them to build a set of templates of what to expect and how to react in a range of situations. This aids the trainee in rapid memory recall, to allow a quick decision when faced with a similar situation. This is especially important in situations where a delayed response could be disastrous.

3. Other training strategies can be combined with SBT to support teamwork in the cockpit. For example, metacognitive training can be supplemented with SBT by including events that demand trainees to recognize, react, and continuously reevaluate a situation and their decisions for a scenario to be completed successfully. Also, SBT can be used with assertiveness training to recreate a situation that ended badly because a first officer did not assert themselves to a captain.

Metacognitive Training

A critical process of CRM in the cockpit is decision making. Metacognitive training trains individuals to use general rather than specific strategies, thereby optimizing the decisions making process. It also provides an awareness of the meta-level and its influence on task processes, strategies that can improve the processes occurring at the meta-level, and opportunities to practice using these strategies, enabling teams to:

1. Choose appropriate responses to situations that are novel or changing

2. Monitor, evaluate, and control one’s own processes

3. Adjust or create new strategies in response to a situation.

Metacognitive strategies improve performance because metacognition allows the team to realise they do not know an appropriate strategy and so use their knowledge to make one, which is particularly useful in non-routine situations. There are two factors critical to adaptability:

1. Knowledge structures, to provide an individual or team with knowledge about their mission and objectives.

2. Metacognition, to allow individuals to be aware of, understand, and control their cognitive processes.

Therefore, by applying metacognitive strategies, team members can consciously become aware of and monitor their own thought processes, and regulate them using existing knowledge. This can be shared with team members to improve shared mental models and shared cognition.

Assertiveness Training

Assertiveness training teaches team members to clearly and directly communicate concerns, ideas, feelings, and needs to other team members. This training allows a less senior member to feel at ease in providing input to a more senior team member and teaches a junior team member to present information in a manner that does not humiliate or violate the senior member. It also trains the senior team member to be able to accept input from a team member of lower status without feeling threatened. This training does not try to do away with authority, but is used to make sure that critical information for a flight does not go unspoken due to fear of being reprimanded.

Assertiveness training can be used in combination with SBT. Feedback from roleplaying and performance practice is more effective in training assertiveness skills rather than by lecture only. Also, exposing trainees to both positive and negative model displays is effective in achieving the application of skills. This role-playing not only helps junior members in learning to assert themselves, but also makes senior members aware of the costs of not allowing for the concerns and opinions of other team members. The degree of “face threat” is a strong deciding factor in a junior crewmember’s willingness to speak up, however first officers who can inquire and assert themselves are more effective than those who do not.


Wise, J. A., Hopkin, V. D., & Garland, D. J. (2010). Hand book of aviation human factors (2nd ed.). US: Taylor and Francies Group.

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