What makes a great driving lesson?
With the DVSA announcing that the Part 3 will be replaced with a Standards Check-style assessment, this series of articles continues to explore how we train people to be driving instructors and the knock-on effects of this training on teaching people to drive and, ultimately, on road safety.
In my last two articles, I focused on the current situation with the Part 3 test and looked at what the Part 3 assesses; whether it is fit for purpose; who are the trainers; and asked why bother changing what we currently have.
This article follows on from the previous ones and explores what makes a great lesson.
1. Learning must take place
There are several ingredients in a great lesson but the overall aims must be to:
· Deliver value for money and
· Ensure that learning takes place.
Ensuring learning takes place requires first and foremost a fundamental understanding of how individuals learn. We used to believe that learning took place through a transfer of knowledge from the instructor to the learner. The instructor was seen to be the font and source of all knowledge and information and this needed to be ladled into the gratefully-receiving learner. Repetitive practice through ever-decreasing levels of instruction – from guided to prompted to independent – embedded the learning; and a focus on the core competencies of fault identification, analysis and remedial action finished off the mix so that the learner could go off and take their driving test regurgitating the best practices their instructor had instilled into them. This way of teaching is based on an out-dated and old-fashioned understanding of how people learn. It produces drivers, who are not self-aware and do not know how to take ownership of and responsibility for the driving task. We only have to look at the crash statistics of novice drivers to know that this is true.
These days, we recognise that learning comes from within. It is not about a transfer of knowledge from the expert to the learner. For effective learning to take place, the learner must be encouraged to reflect on their performance and think for themselves. To achieve this, the lesson must be focused around the learner and adapted to suit their individual needs. It must be broken down into bite-size manageable chunks by the trainer so that the learner is very clear where their focus needs to lie.
2. Lesson Planning
The lesson must be well-planned in conjunction and agreement with the learner:
· Goals must be set so that the learner knows what they are setting out to achieve;
· The structure of the lesson needs to be agreed with the learner;
· A suitable route must be used; and
· The instructor must be able to adapt the lesson plan where necessary to ensure that learning will take place and the goal will be achieved.
3. Teaching and Learning Strategies
The instructor must have a range of teaching strategies, from which they can select the most effective to ensure the learner achieves the goals agreed. These include:
· Understanding how people process information and the barriers they might have to their learning;
· Recognising the importance of developing analytical skills in the learner that they will be able to apply to their own driving once they are on their own;
· Using examples to clarify the goal;
· Only giving appropriate and accurate technical information, ensuring it is comprehensive;
· Breaking the learning down into bite-size chunks so that regular and appropriate feedback can be built into the lesson;
· Following up the learner’s queries and answering them;
· Maintaining a non-judgemental manner; and
· Encouraging the pupil to reflect on their own performance.
4. Risk Management
We teach our learners to drive in a dangerous environment. If we could teach them to drive in a simulator there would not be so much risk around. However, we need to give people experience of the real world to help develop their self-evaluation skills, whilst simultaneously ensuring that learning takes place. The days of a lesson that is a ‘general drive’ - where we see and deal with whatever crops up along the way - are long gone. A lesson like this does not deliver value for money and does not ensure learning takes place because there is no goal being achieved and the learner is not taking ownership of their learning.
We have to manage the risk to ensure that learning takes place:
· The learner needs to understand how the responsibility for risk will be shared;
· Directions and instructions need to be given clearly and in good time;
· The trainer must be aware of the surroundings and the learner’s actions;
· Verbal and physical intervention must be timely and appropriate; and
· Sufficient feedback must be given after this intervention to ensure the learner understands the risks.
These ingredients combine to make a great lesson – whether that be for a learner driver or a potential driving instructor.
It is, therefore, no coincidence that the Standards Check assesses the extent to which the instructor has included these ingredients in their lesson; and that the new Part 3 – in the format of the Standards Check – will do the same.
Training driving instructors to incorporate these skills into their driving lessons will produce safer new drivers, who know how to self-evaluate and are able to take responsibility for their learning and the driving task.
My next article will focus on the qualities a great trainer needs to have, in order to deliver a great lesson.
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