Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Mary Woods Scherr, PhD, Chair; Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Member; Robert Nullmeyer, PhD, Member


Adaptive decision-making, aircrew performance variables, Cross-case analysis, decision-making, flight simulator, qualitative


Although the accident rate for military aviation has declined significantly from earlier decades, during the 1990's it reached a plateau. Human error in the cockpit still accounts for over 80% of the aircraft mishaps resulting in loss of life or over one million dollars in damage. Decision error has been a contributing factor for approximately 60% of these mishaps. The purpose of this research was to investigate aircrew process performance variables as predictors of decision-making outcomes. This study was modeled on elements of previous research in naturalistic decision making. Data were collected for cross-case analysis of the role experience plays in efficient decision strategy selection and use in an uncertain, dynamic high stakes environment. Multiple raters evaluated eight novice and eight experienced military aircrews at seven decision points in a 20-minute flight scenario conducted in a full motion flight simulator. Other raters independently rank ordered the quality of the final outcome. A comprehensive approach to collecting and analyzing data included: (1) development and use of a behaviorally-anchored assessment instrument, (2) use of a digitally integrated presentation of audio/video and flight data, and (3) development of context-specific analytical frameworks and models of observed behaviors and metacognitive processes. Results included inferential and descriptive statistics of process/outcome scores, instructor comments, excerpts of cockpit recordings, participant interviews, and field notes. The study findings were: (1) high individual and collective crew experience had a significant positive effect on process and outcome scores, (2) there was no statistically reliable difference in process scores between experience levels in the three procedurally-based events, (3) experienced crews performed better than novice crews in the four less structured events, (4) novice crews' process/outcome correlation did not approach significance, (5) a strong positive correlation of process/outcome scores was found for experienced crews in the two most challenging (i.e., unstructured) scenario events, (6) qualitative analysis revealed strong relationships between performance and crew interactions/attributes, and (7) in dynamic, time critical situations, the use of adaptive decision-making strategies led to better performance outcomes.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access