3. Standards Check & Risk Management
In this third of a series of articles that takes a look at the new Standards Check I shall be exploring how to address the second competency of Risk Management. Within this competency there are five competency indicators:
Let’s take a look at each competency indicator in turn:
In both of these examples, the risk is shared to ensure that the pupil has the best possible chance of achieving the agreed goal.
‘Right, turn left here’ is a confusing direction where the trainer should have clearly stated, ‘At the end of the road turn left’ so as to avoid the pupil turning right into someone’s driveway. Similarly, the timing of instructions and directions can be very distracting especially if the trainer barks them out late. This can actually increase the risk of being involved in a crash simply because the pupil becomes distracted and confused and may make mistakes.
Nevertheless, if you need to intervene to keep the car safe then it really doesn’t matter if there is a sensory overload …. So, in the example cited earlier where a pedestrian approaches the crossing, you must now assess whether you will need to step in and take control in some way. There are four possible options to choose from:
My next two articles will concentrate on the final competency: Teaching and Learning Strategies.
2. Standards Check & Lesson Planning
This is the second in a series of articles around coaching and how the new Standards Check encourages a client-centred approach in our driver training.
The new Standards Check, which was introduced on 7th April 2014, assesses ADIs in three broad areas of:
Did the trainer identify the pupil’s learning goals and needs?
This is all about goal setting. The goal needs to be agreed by the pupil. This is done in the belief that the pupil knows best what they need to learn and achieve in each lesson. This might sound a strange thing to say if you are focused on technical skills and control of the vehicle. However, our behaviour is always motivated by our thoughts and feelings and individually we all think and feel very differently from the next person. The pupil might be reluctant initially to state their goals for a lesson because he or she may not know what they want to get out of a lesson. However, this is part of the learning curve every pupil is on – it is not just about learning how to control the vehicle, it is also about learning how their thoughts and feelings impact on their behaviour and learning how to regulate and manage their thoughts and feelings so that their behaviour is safe. One of the important first steps in this process is making choices.
Driving instructors often express reservations about allowing the pupil to choose what they want to do in a lesson because it interferes with what they are used to doing and the syllabus they want to work through. If you are focused on the driving test then you will find this process difficult. However, whilst you are practising goal setting it is okay to stick with your syllabus and work on getting the pupil to define what they want to achieve by the end of the lesson; or, how they want to feel; or what they most want to improve. You could, for example, say, ‘Okay, so today we are going to look at the Turn in the Road, what would you like to achieve by the end of the lesson?’
Was the agreed lesson structure appropriate for the pupil’s experience and ability?
This competency is closely tied in with the previous one about setting a goal for the session. Having asked, ‘What would you like to achieve by the end of the lesson?’ the next question might be, ‘How do you want to do this?’ It is important that, having started to give the pupil responsibility for their learning, you don’t snatch it back from them by getting out your presenter and assuming they need a briefing. It is often inappropriate for the pupil’s experience and ability anyway to give a briefing. Many people already know everything they need in order to turn the car around – and it depends on the goal they set for themselves. For example, if the pupil says that they want to be able to turn the car around in three there may be no need to give a briefing that includes observations and control. They may simply want to have a go and see how they get on. This is then matched to their experience and ability.
Were the practice areas appropriate?
This is where you rely on your experience and expertise. It is important that you ensure the practice areas are appropriate and you may have to guide the pupil in this so that if they want to choose the area themselves you decide if it will be appropriate for their experience and ability. The conversation might go like this:
ADI ‘What would you like to do today?’
Pupil ‘Could I do a 3-point turn?’
ADI ‘Do you have a reason for saying that?’
Pupil ‘Yes, I was watching my brother turning the car round the other day and thought I would like to have a go at that.’
ADI ‘What would you like to achieve by the end of the lesson?’
Pupil ‘I would just like to get the car turned round.’
ADI ‘Okay, how do you want to do this?’
Pupil ‘Well, do you think I could just have a go? I could show you what my brother did.’
ADI ‘Yes, that’s fine. Do you want me to give you directions to a suitable area because it’s too busy here to do it?’
Pupil ‘Yes please.’
ADI ‘There will be a couple of roundabouts to deal with on the way. Would you like some help from me to deal with these?
Pupil ‘Yes please.’
Was the lesson plan adapted, where appropriate, to help the pupil work towards their learning goals?
This is the competency that some people might find most different from what is currently expected on the Check Test. At the moment, if the pupil commits a serious driver error on the way to carrying out the objective for the lesson (the turn in the road) then the instructor should change the objective and focus on the serious fault. With the new Standards Check that would be the same as snatching the responsibility back from the pupil and switching onto the instructor’s agenda. It is important to keep the balance of responsibility sitting with the pupil because we know that people learn best and most effectively when they are in charge of their learning.
Imagine that on the way to carrying out the turn in the road, the pupil positions incorrectly on the approach to a roundabout. Realising too late that they need the next lane to the right, they are about to steer to the right but you grab the wheel and stop them from moving because you have seen a car in that lane. You now instruct them through the roundabout and manage the route so that they can continue to head for the location agreed to be able to work towards achieving their learning goals.
In the previous conversation you will have noticed that the instructor already explained there would be a couple of roundabouts to deal with on the way and the pupil asked for help. The goal for the lesson relates to turning the car round in the road. If you could have carried out this manoeuvre where you were then that is what you would have done. However, it required a drive. Therefore, it is your responsibility to keep the car safe and ensure that the pupil can have the best possible chance of achieving their goal. If they are not even allowed to try out the manoeuvre in the first place then it is a reflection of the fact that you have not done your job properly and kept to your part of the agreement.
Stepping in and taking control in order to keep the car safe is part of adapting the lesson plan, where appropriate to help the pupil work towards achieving their learning goals.
My next article will look at the second broad area that will be assessed on the new Standards Check: Risk Management.
If you saw the Check Test as a necessary evil that you had to undergo in order to remain on the ADI Register; and something that involved you changing the way you usually did things to satisfy the Examiner so that he or she could tick the appropriate boxes on the form; and something that bore no resemblance to your everyday teaching practices; then you probably performed according to your ability to ‘play the game’ on the day. You may also be able to do the same with the Standards Check.
If, however, you recognise that the Check Test was an assessment of your everyday teaching practices and an opportunity for you to showcase a snapshot of your skills and abilities, you will find this series of articles really useful in helping you to determine how or whether to amend your teaching style so that it is client-centred and meets the competencies set out on the new Standards Check Form. This will take practice, reflection and development on your part and, most importantly, time.
Adopting a client-centred approach is not the same as putting a layer of jam on a piece of already buttered toast … It is much more the case of considering a whole new ‘healthy option’. For example, if the toast is white, then would wholemeal be more appropriate? Is there an alternative to butter that would produce a better result, such as a low fat spread? And, is it possible to use reduced sugar jam? A bit fanciful, you may think. However, the new Standards Check is the outcome assessment of a much healthier way of educating people to raise their self-awareness and encourage them to take responsibility for their driving decisions. Moreover, it is not about throwing the piece of buttered toast into the bin and making a salad instead because this would waste all the skills and abilities that have been acquired over time in perfecting making toast and buttering it.
Adopting a client-centred approach, and therefore meeting the requirements of the new Standards Check, is like looking at the piece of buttered toast and considering what needs to be done to it to make it healthier without changing the fact that it is still a piece of toast.
You know how to teach people to drive and give them the skills and techniques they need to pass their practical driving test. What do you need to do in addition to this to ensure that people are more likely to choose to continue to drive safely once they have passed their driving test? This will possibly involve adapting and amending what you do currently whilst still relying on your expertise and experience to provide a safe and enjoyable learning environment for your customer.
Other articles looked at five essential coaching skills of
However, we are driving instructors and, as such, we have a duty of care to our customers that is different from any other coaching or client-centred practice. Namely, our customers are learning to drive a lethal weapon. Therefore, the rest of this first article on client-centred learning and the new Standards Check will focus on the safety critical aspects, against which you will be assessed and the results of failing to address these.
At any point in the lesson, did the trainer behave in a way which put you (the examiner), the pupil or any third party in immediate danger, so that you (the examiner) had to stop the lesson?
Some driving instructors cynically sound off about client-centred learning being akin to new-age, alternative, quasi-Buddhist teachings where so long as we ask the customer how they are feeling we are doing a ‘great’ job …. Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. Take the following scenario:
You have discussed with your client, Sally, her goals for the session and she has said she would like to do the Turn in the Road. According to her learning preference she would like to have a go and then discuss her further development afterwards. Between you a suitable location has been agreed and she has driven there with the agreed amount of support from you. Once at the location, you do as agreed and say nothing as she has a go at carrying out the turn in the road for the first time. On the reverse part her foot slips off the clutch and she accelerates alarmingly quickly across the width of the road, bouncing up the kerb and embedding the bumper into the tree that suddenly appears behind the car. Do you say:
A – Good grief, what do you think you are doing? Look at the damage you have caused to my car. You will have to pay for that you know?
B – How did that feel?
C – I am really sorry, this is entirely my fault. I should have braked you.
Actually, in an ideal world, you would say none of these because you would never have let the situation develop in the first place. However, in reality, these things can happen and C would be the correct response.
The point is that there is a division of responsibility when teaching someone to drive. On the one hand, the customer is learning how they learn best, and to do this, they have to take responsibility for their learning process. On the other hand, you have to provide an environment that is safe for them to learn in the way they learn best. If the environment is suddenly risky then you must do whatever is necessary to prevent the risk from becoming dangerous. The sooner you can identify the potential risk, the more likely you will be to keep the responsibility sitting with the customer because you can ask them what they are going to do, or tell them to brake, and both of these options are preferable to dualling them as a last resort.
It might be helpful to compare these to either a serious or dangerous fault. On the L Test, driver errors are assessed by the Examiner and given a weighting:
A driver error might be noted if, emerging from a junction, the candidate releases the handbrake before the clutch is at the biting point and the car rolls back a little. The candidate manages to rescue the situation by finding the bite and moves away jerkily. Again, there is no other road user around. This is worthy of note and may be classed as a driver error.
A serious fault might be recorded if, when emerging from the junction, the candidate releases the handbrake too early before the clutch is at the biting point, panics as the car rolls back and pulls the handbrake back on or brings the clutch up too quickly and stalls. A car behind would make this a serious fault.
A dangerous fault would be similar to above but with a pedestrian or cyclist behind; or, if the Examiner has to take action verbally or physically.
If you do not step in and give sufficient information to avoid a safety critical incident from occurring you will fail your Standards Check.
In my next article I will start to work through the Standards Check form. There are three broad areas against which you will be assessed