Independent Evaluation - 2011

September 2011 saw the successful conclusion of a yearlong effort to introduce, educate, and guide young people to career possibilities in the aviation industry.  The effort was funded by a DOT-sponsored Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Education (GAMTTEP) grant.  A cornerstone of the grant was the providing of 24 scholarships for two Take Flight Workshops: the first workshop specifically for 12 female high school- and college-level teachers of Science, Technology, Enbgineering, and Math (STEM); and the second for 12 high school girls nominated by their teachers as promising STEM students.

Both workshops included classroom instruction, experiential training on the ground, and flight experience in general aviation aircraft.  The crowning activity was piloting real airplanes in real time under the influence of adrenaline.  Experienced ground and flight facilitators introduced participants to new learning challenges and coached them to achieve peak performance in meeting those challenges.  Ground facilitators worked with participants to use their flight experience as a metaphor for their classroom experience.  Thus, peak performance in the cockpit was transferred to peak performance in the classroom and beyond.

The grant also included a formal evaluation of the effort by independent evaluators. The workshop-related evaluation follows:


Workshop Evaluation

by Susan Lubking, Ph.D, and Jenepher Shillingford, M.Ed.

The Workshops were given an extensive evaluation before, during, and after the workshop.  Much of the evaluation was qualitative, asking for free-form responses such as “What were the three best parts of the Workshop for you?”  Responses were generally singular, and thus the results are difficult to report in hard numbers.  Here are the numbers we do have.The evaluators asked participants in both Workshops to rank skills that were influenced by the Workshop experience.  The skills were:

  • Collaboration with others
  • Leadership
  • Confidence
  • Ability to relate new metaphors to academic work
  • Ability to adapt
  • Communication
  • Decision Making
  • Respect of the opinions of others
  • Comfort level expanded

Looking at both workshops, 23 of 24 participants responded that all of these skills were influenced positively or very positively (ranked 1 or 2 out of 4).

Prior to the Workshop participants were asked to list three outcomes they expected from participation in the Workshop.  Responses were varied; the most mentioned responses include:

  • Gain a greater understanding of flight, aviation, airplanes
  • Gain experience in team building and leadership skills
  • Gain more confidence under stress
  •  Increase my awareness of and motivation for aviation opportunities

At the end of each Workshop participants were asked whether their expectations had been met.  After the first Workshop, Leaders Take Flight®, the evaluators found that participants were not able to recall what they had expressed as anticipated outcomes, so little insight was gained.  After the second Workshop, upon being shown their pre-Workshop anticipated outcomes, 11 out of 12 reported their expectations were met (5) or exceeded (6).

When asked “Did you learn and do things you never thought you would?” 23 of 24 participants Take Flight responded “Yes.”  When asked what these things were, 18 responded flying and 5 responded using metaphors.  Again and again, in response if different questions, participants remarked on their newly developed sense of confidence.

Participant comments, although they are almost always singular, tell a significant story. The Take Flight Workshops do, indeed, change lives both personally and professionally, and the changes last long after the workshops have ended.  For example, one high school science teacher, a participant in the August Leaders Take Flight® Workshop, was promoted to the position of Science/Math Department Supervisor at Hunterdon Central Regional High School.  In November, she sent the following in an email:

In case you were wondering, - yes, I do think that participation in the Leaders Take Flight program this past summer played a small part in my decision to apply for the Science Supervisor’s position.  I remember wondering why it is so easy for men to apply for positions of power and authority, yet seemingly so difficult for women.  Then I found myself in that exact scenario and actually leaning (at one point early on) toward not applying.  It was at that point that I thought back to the Leaders Take Flight program and decided to “put my money where my mouth was” and toss my hat into the ring.

Participants also report taking their new understanding of aviation-related STEM careers back to their science classrooms.  A faculty member from Rutgers University who was a participant in the Leaders Take Flight® Workshop remarked afterward that flying the plane “really resonated with me because when I'm looking at molecules, or making images of molecules, you're working in 3 dimensions, on 3 axes.”  She also noted that she had learned after the workshop that the first molecular graphics programs were written by engineers who were instrumental in developing flight simulators.  The relation between the Workshop experience and the science classroom was clearly evident to this participant. 

A science teacher from Delaware Valley Regional High School who participated in the Leaders Take Flight® Workshop in August is now working with another science teacher, who happens to be a former airline captain, to develop a new aviation physics course for the high school.  Efforts such as this succeed only if there are individuals to champion them.  The Take Flight Workshops help to develop such champions.

A participant who started teaching high school physics last fall says this about her workshop experience: “I felt like I was in control of something huge… I would do it over again.”  All indications are that the workshop experience will enable her to do that “something huge” again in her professional life as a physics teacher.

On a more personal level, a participant said this in a 2-month follow-up questionnaire:

Personally I have had an unexpected reaction to the workshop.  My sense of adventure has been heightened and I feel I want to challenge myself with other difficult and risk taking experiences.  I did not anticipate this continued sense of adventure and energy in my personal life.  I have always been an active person but now I want some of my activities to be more challenging – more “scary” so I will grow from the experience.

This sort of personal insight and empowerment cannot be gained from books or classroom presentations.  It’s the experience itself that is life-changing.  You can look and listen to Workshop participants here: [Video Testimonials]


These and many other comments elicited by the independent evaluators point to the following key benefits of the Take Flight Workshop experience.

  • Enhanced risk-taking
  • A sense of personal empowerment
  • A new understanding of general aviation
  • An ability to introduce aviation-related content into the science curriculum