On Friday 2nd January Finn turned seventeen. He'd been desperate to learn to drive for a long time and has had some practice driving the car in and out of the driveway and parking it. In the past he has driven on private land and regularly changed gear for me from the passenger seat. His goal is to pass the driving test as quickly as possible and he has already booked his theory test ... I'm sure many of you reading this, who know something about coaching, will recognise that Finn presents a challenge to me ... If I had my way he would take at least a year to pass his test and it certainly wouldn't be his only goal.
His first piece of driving was a 100 mile round trip to the Norfolk coast so there was no opportunity for teaching, just practice. He did very well. He had a lot of questions about the control of the vehicle and observations that we would be addressing on a proper lesson but he developed a relaxed and confident driving style.
Finn's first 'proper driving lesson' was Sunday (yesterday) evening at 5pm. In answer to my questions around the lesson plan, he wanted to understand fully about the clutch and how to control the vehicle and knew from college that he was a kinaesthetic learner who therefore benefitted most from having a go and learning through trial and error. He agreed that junctions with plenty of opportunity for gear changes and stopping and starting would give him the practice he required with the clutch and so we decided on a practice area. I asked him how much help he wanted from me to get there and he said 'None. I'll do it on my own. Tell me at the end how I got on.' I said, 'Fine. I'd like you to tell me how you got on and, in particular, notice three things that you did really well. Also, I'll keep the car safe so you can concentrate on your driving.' 'Obviously' he retorted. On the short drive he managed everything really well. There was an ambulance with its lights and sirens on and I asked him if he wanted help from me, to which he said yes, so I talked him through how to deal with this. There were two or three potential safety critical situations, such as meeting or pedestrians at a crossing, and I asked him a question to ensure he was going to deal with these safely. There was no need to do anything further. When we pulled up he 'blocked' me with 'Dunno' when I asked him what was good with his driving so I specifically narrowed my questions down to situations I knew he'd handled well but even so it was like pulling teeth.
The lesson then focused on a short circuit of three junctions. After each circuit we pulled up and discussed what went well and what needed improving. He was reluctant to express any opinion at all but went along with me when I made suggestions. We expanded the route to include an uphill start for his clutch and spent a couple of minutes working on him balancing the clutch before continuing the route. We stuck with this circuit for about an hour and repeated it three or four times. I tried to get him to scale himself on how well he was doing and he started off by giving himself a ten ...
This is the interesting part ... He suddenly said, 'Do you do this with all your pupils then? Repeat things and get them to work it out for themselves? It's good isn't it?' This formed the basis of my reflection. I had persevered with Finn despite the fact that he kept 'blocking' me and was constantly asking me if the examiner would fail him for what he had just done. My personal goal is to develop his self-evaluation skills. I will constantly focus on developing his skills to give himself feedback on his own performance and raising his awareness of his strengths and limitations. This is addressing the higher levels of the Goals for Driver Education (GDE). I will do this by pulling him up regularly even if it's only for thirty seconds before moving off again because feedback and reflection need to happen at the side of the road to be most effective and, therefore, practice routes need to be short and repeatable.
Next time Finn wants to practise roundabouts.