CBTA or EBT – An Explainer

EBT vs CBTA article

There is a lot of confusion in the aviation industry about the various acronyms now in use to describe different models of training, namely EBT and CBTA – so we thought of clearing things up. 

Let’s start at the beginning.  What we call Evidence-based Training (EBT) and Competence-based Training (CBT) describe the same thing. The original idea was to find a more relevant way to design airline pilot recurrent training.  Instead of the old set of manoeuvres, more up-to-date scenarios were needed. Accordingly, a massive analysis of various data sets was undertaken.  From this, a table of activities and conditions was derived that can be used to populate a training programme.  This is the EBT bit.  The next change was, rather than simply assess based on the accuracy of flying, pilots would now be assessed on their ‘competence’, meaning that we would now take a broader view of performance. This is the CBT bit. The mantra was ‘CBT is the goal and EBT is the vehicle’.  Initially aimed at large commercial aircraft, a data report has been done for helicopters, but what about other sectors of the industry, like business jets and single pilot cargo?  Experience suggests that these operators are just copying what their big brothers do.  The question now is what about other roles, such as cabin crew?  Some airlines are already trying to adapt the pilot competence framework to the needs of others.  Ironically, this is completely against the initial philosophy.  Which brings us to CBTA.

Competence-based Training and Assessment (CBTA) is nothing more than the Instructional Systems Design model rebranded.  The steps of CBTA – ADDIE – were codified in 1975 but were based on existing templates in use in military aviation.  But CBTA has, probably inadvertently, taken the process one step further but anchoring it to ‘competence’ as the goal.  This creates a problem. CBTA is based on a model of training that looks at converting novices into graduates who can then enter further training or start work.  Competence describes those skills needed to be productively employable. Rarely can you be considered ‘competent’ after graduating from a course.  You need experience to become competent.

ISD anticipated this. The standard at the end of training is called, unsurprisingly, the Training Performance Standard (TPS).  To be gainfully employed, you need to reach the Operational Performance Standard (OPS). We bridge the gap with some sort of structured work experience or mentoring.  CBTA, then, needs a training ‘graduation’ standard, a workplace performance model and a bridging mechanism.

But we also have other acronyms in play: AQP and ATQP. The Advance Qualification Program (AQP) is an FAA model based on conventional ISD.  ATQP is just a stripped-down version of AQP.  AQP is based on an analysis of how crews  in the specific airline perform (so, is evidence-based).  One output is a task analysis (TA). Testing is done by extracting elements from the TA and using these to build training scenarios.  The grading of performance is based on accuracy of flying (so, is like legacy systems) but a set of CRM ‘reason codes’ can be used to give a more nuanced understanding (so, touches on competence).  AQP is also a cradle-to-grave concept, covering both initial training and recurrent.  For pilots, CBTA only applies to initial while EBT/CBT applies to recurrent. 

So, how to make sense of all of this?  And how can we adapt the concepts to different needs?  First, rather than get hung up on acronyms, see these different approaches as a common set of tools just badged differently.  You need to use the tool that is appropriate to the type of training you are delivering. For assessment, you need to understand when to use an exam or whether workplace assessment using a competence model is better. You also need to understand that it is not the acronym that matters but the methodology the acronym describes.

There is one other issue we need to consider: ICAO.  Because CBTA and EBT have been incorporated into ICAO manuals, there is a need for compliance.  The problem is that airlines that do not understand the mechanics of ISD and competence assessment will develop training regimes that are compliant but are poorly implemented.  It is not uncommon to hear presentations at conferences on applying EBT to cabin crew.  What the presenter then discusses is how they have adapted the ICAO competencies to the cabin crew role. This is wrong. Such is the lure of the new, people don’t always see where they have gone wrong. The antidote is, as has already been said, go back to basics, master the concepts outlined here, and build a training and testing regime that is rooted in real evidence: evidence that shows your training system works.

RAVEN offers 1 day workshops on EBT and CBTA to help you implement these concepts in your airline.

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