Tuesday 27 May 2014

Client Centred Learning in Driving Instruction

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Taking a look at unit two of the National Standard for driver and rider training.

Unit two takes us into the realm of teaching with a focus on designing learning programmes. If like me, you tend to deliver a course which covers the entire syllabus for learning to drive then you've got to be able to readily adapt to the individual needs of the pupil. This can be a bit tricky at times when learners just don't seem to be getting it. Good use of question and answer technique is the best answer to this problem I find. It sometimes takes a bit of detective work to find out where the difficulties lie.
   According to the performance standards you've got to be able to confirm that the learner has a provisional licence, first thing most instructors do I'd say. Also confirm that the learner's eyesight is up to the minimum requirement. I'm guilty of leaving this until later with some pupils. If they're wearing glasses then I assume their eyesight has been tested. I really must start checking this on the first lesson.
   A few questions will enable a driving instructor to check the previous experience of the pupil. Like if they've had lessons before or they've been practicing with friends or parents. It's now a requirement that you can refer pupils with learning disabilities to someone with the appropriate knowledge needed to teach them. I know of an instructor I would send people to if I felt that I couldn't provide the learning support they need. It's probably a good thing to do a bit of internet research and make a note of instructors in your area who provide such a service.
   When it comes to an outline programme I use the approved syllabus for learning to drive broken down into the separate topics. When it comes to creating lesson plans for each session that outline objectives it's a different story. It would simply be too much work for a driving instructor to come home after a day on the road and start writing out lesson plans for the following day's pupils and I don't really see any need for this. I simply refer to the notes made after the previous lesson with the pupil sat in the driving seat and we take it from there. In a client centred approach I would say this is the way to go. The pupil is reminded of previous learning and has a hand in deciding what they want from the current lesson.
   When it comes to learning resources I usually refer people to my website which has all my videos and things on. As they match my day to day teaching style it's a good way to jog the memory and reinforce learning. Include third party resources where this will benefit the learner, it says in the document. Again it's probably worth having a look on the internet and sourcing some good materials so you can give a list of these to your pupils for homework.
   We now need to specify how parents and guardians can support learners with physical and cognitive disabilities. This would take specialist knowledge I think. It's good to include guidance for any pupil who is practicing with parents and suggest the topics that they need to work on as well as the type of roads they are competent to drive on. Don't want things getting too scary when they are out in a car without dual controls. 
   Lastly we must specify how we will review learner progress and programme effectiveness. I like to do a review by driving around a route from the beginning of the training and comparing how the standard of drive has improved from the early sessions. This can be a real boost for pupils who feel they aren't getting anywhere. At the later stages a mock test is effective as a review tool. Next time I'll look at the knowledge and understanding requirements of unit 2.


Tuesday 20 May 2014

Driving Instructors - Meet All Legal Requirements!

Unit 1 of the National standard for driver and rider training.

I thought it was about time I read the National Standard document. It's important for driving instructors to keep on top of new developments, especially in light of the new ADI standards check criteria.
   I usually find official documents hard to read without my mind wandering. The bullet points and dry language used combined with the sometimes vague statements make for hard work. I read a lot of different stuff but hardly ever anything that was written in an office.
   Unit 1 is all about the legal requirements that must be met before teaching someone to drive or ride. Most items are common sense regarding the displaying of L plates, minimum test requirements for the vehicle so it's fit for purpose and making sure that it's insured for learners. I didn't know that having the vehicle serviced to the suppliers recommendations was a requirement. Sure, I get mine serviced as per the schedule and all instructors would I reckon. If a test candidate turns up in their own car can an examiner ask to see the service schedule? If so then a test could be cancelled if evidence of servicing could not be provided. If an instructor is late getting the car serviced then it would mean that the vehicle does not meet the requirements of the National standard. Interesting.
   You must be able to carry out corrective actions that are within your authority. Does this mean that you must be able to change brake light bulbs and such if they are found to be defective? I always carry a spare bulb kit in the boot and I've replaced brake light bulbs a couple of times on the spot so the test can go ahead. I didn't know it was a requirement that instructors know how to do this. I suppose there are some who don't. It annoys me that some cars have headlights that are not user serviceable. You have to take the bumper off to get to them. That wouldn't look good in the test centre car park.
The last part of this unit says you must be able to make other arrangements when a vehicle is not fit for purpose. You need to know what action to take if the documents are not in order, it's not been serviced or it fails any checks. If the matter comes to light at the beginning of a test I'd say there's precious little you can do about it anyway. Far better to make sure that your vehicle is in tip top condition and fully insured before you get there. I might keep the service schedule book I get stamped in the glove box now. Just in case anybody asks. I'll be taking a luck at unit 2 this coming week. What delights could be in store?


Wednesday 14 May 2014

Driving Video Games Help You Pass Your Test!

But you're more likely to have an accident within the first year of driving.

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It's official. A new survey undertaken by a leading car insurance firm reveals that gamers have a 15% better chance of passing the driving test first time. However, 77% of the gamers admitted having an accident within their first year of driving. This figure is higher than the national average.
   It seems the video racing game enthusiast enjoys an increased sense of confidence owing to their simulated experience of blasting round a race track in a high performance vehicle. This same confidence can lead to a false sense of security and an over estimation of your driving abilities after the test, leading to traffic incidents. As anyone who has taken the driving test knows, you need a good deal of confidence on the day. Afterwards you need to be careful and drive within your limits as you gain solo experience.
   As you can see from the photo I pitched an idea for a different kind of game way back in 2003. 2nd place in the Playstation official magazine competition. All light hearted stuff. I'm sure an entertaining game could be made that does actually test real life driving skills. The driving simulators I have seen seem to be very dull like you're driving around in an abandoned world designed by robots.
   I never excelled at driving games at first. I just couldn't get my head round the physics. When to brake and how much eluded me so I never stayed on the track. It was rally games that helped me find my feet. I seemed to be much happier when the car was sliding around. I'd often beat the game clock on the snow and mud then lose pathetically on tarmac. Perhaps I should take a skid pan training course to see if I can do it in real life.
   The chav favourite Need For Speed is one I can handle. The cars drive like the sort of car I might be able to afford one day. The city streets are well constructed as well so it pays to look well ahead and anticipate where the road is going. Essential skills for the safe driver. F1 games I cannot handle at all. I simply can't relate to the simulated high speed and the steering is twitchy. 
   If there's one game I could call myself Master on it was Wipeout3. Racing a futuristic hover ship round a purpose designed track was pure brilliance. There was a definite physics to it making it totally controllable. Nobody I knew could challenge me. I was indeed king. 
   The upshot of all this is yes, enjoy your gaming as I do. Just remember the confidence you gain can work both ways. A little confidence is a good thing in driving but over confidence brings it's own dangers.

Wednesday 7 May 2014

The Rise of 3rd Party Internet Marketing in the Driving Instruction Industry.

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Now I can fill in another profile!

It seems you can't turn your head these days without noticing another directory website for driving instructors. These offer a free service where we can all get together with pupils. Another way for third parties to get involved is through the special offers culture. They offer low cost introductory lessons and take the fee charged to the customer for themselves, passing on the customer to an instructor in the area. Often the price of lessons or introductory offer is already set by the marketing company. A lot of instructors are, perhaps understandably, angered by what they see as an intrusion into the driving school industry.
   I haven't had much to do with these companies myself. I have listings on many driving instructor directories but have never actually been offered a pupil from them. The most successful third party directory for me is Free index which nets me a whopping 1 pupil a year. I did get a text message once from a directory in the form of a code. I had to pay a premium rate to retrieve the pupil information. The information about the supposed pupil didn't make sense anyway. If the code was sent to every instructor on the list then that should have turned a nice profit for the company.
   These marketing people have put forward the argument that they are here to help the instructor who has perhaps not been in the industry long enough to gain a reputation and customer referrals. Also many driving instructors will not know how to market driving lessons so they could benefit from the services provided. Indeed, a good number of instructors must be using these types of service or they would die out pretty quickly. Instead they seem to be on the increase with such schemes run by ADIs hoping to cash in.
   I believe that if this continues to grow it will lead to a public perception that driving instructors are cheap and just not worth paying for. The opening offers are ridiculously low priced. I can't think of any other job where you are expected to work 4 hours for £6.00 and cover the overheads with absolutely no guarantee that you will retain the work after the initial offer period. Many instructors seem to go for it though. I would be interested to hear from anyone who does this successfully.
   One good thing about these schemes is that you only pay for what you take. Over the past couple of years I have paid money on a weekly basis to a couple of different driving school franchises and have not received the amount of work I need to make a living. This resulted in my building up my own website to fill in the gaps. In years passed when the Yellow Pages was the main form of advertising I had no trouble having my diary filled by the school. Times have changed and I don't see franchises as being the safe bet they once were. At least these third parties offer some form of alternative.
   Basically I think that if you don't want to work cheap then you don't have to. Every market has different sectors and there are plenty of people out there who will pay the going rate for what they perceive as a quality service. Any instructor can use Facebook, Google, twitter or any of the other social media tools to market themselves. it's not so hard to learn really. Word of mouth will always be the best form of advertising. I like to think that there will always be a future in the industry for an instructor who tries their best and looks after their pupils.

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