Tuesday 24 June 2014

The Car is the Classroom

friendly Nottingham driving instructor

There are things we must know and understand.

Continuing with our look at Element 6.3.1. of the National standard for driver and rider training we must not hesitate to take a look at our knowledge and understanding of teaching driving head on. To kick off we need to make sure we are communicating properly with our pupils. With more people from overseas taking lessons it's important that we can assist in getting through the language barrier. Making eye contact is something I approach with a small amount of caution. Some people just don't like it. In a car our faces are pretty close together and it can seem a little threatening or overwhelming to some. It's good to offer eye contact and if the pupil does not reciprocate I just stop doing it and look at the diagrams instead. Worst of all are the ones who make eye contact while the car is moving at speed. I find this a bit scary and address the issue at once.
   Using consistent language is a good way to start a course of lessons. Especially when it comes to giving directions or referring to the controls. I like to keep these consistent but it's often better to talk to the pupil naturally once you have got to know them I think. Relating to people informally at times can help deepen the instructor pupil relationship. All my reviews come from the people I got chatty with rather than just using instructor language. It's all about adapting to your pupil. 
   When it comes to breaking subjects down and using diagrams I'm a big fan. I don't really consider a subject covered unless there's been some diagrammatic input but that's just me. I find that questions go hand in hand with a diagram. Inviting the pupil to draw on it to show what they think is a good technique.
   Setting out guidelines on acceptable behaviour in the car is not something I have considered doing. Most people behave themselves and I think I'd find it a bit patronising towards the client. What would be unacceptable behaviour anyway? You can't tell people how to dress or what words are unacceptable really. I suppose poor behaviour means smoking and eating. I'll allow for cigarette breaks during lessons if that's what the pupil wants but not in the car. Don't bring chips either.
   We are really entering the new age of awareness with the next item which is the effect of our own assumptions on particular groups and how they effect our ability to deliver effective learning. I am so guilty of doing this but like to think that I still do the job properly. There are certain areas of town where I pick people up who look a certain way and I'm already deciding that this is going nowhere. I'll just turn up one day and they won't be in. Not even bothering to call and cancel. Unfortunately these gut feelings often turn out to be true. As we are all people there will be these unspoken assumptions. It's part of who we are and how we view the world. I think if you are aware of your attitude towards others then it's quite easy to get round it and deliver a worthwhile lesson.
  There are a few more points which either repeat what has already been said or simply read as management gibberish before we reach the last point about exterior influences on the learner's attitude. This can be a big problem and unfortunately often comes from parents. They only had a certain number of lessons so that's all they're willing to pay for which makes me rush things. I've said something about real life driving and danger which has upset their precious offspring. it's stuff they need to know and if they can't handle a bit of reality then they shouldn't be driving at all. I have a job to do to produce safe and intelligent drivers and I aren't going to do it by avoiding the real life issues. So there. Next time we move on to the next element which is all about skills and techniques. Should be good.

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Tuesday 17 June 2014

A Change in Climate for Driver Training


Create a positive relationship with learner drivers.

I've got to say since I started studying the National Standard document and began putting it's ideas into practice I have really enjoyed how it's changing the way I deliver lessons. My pupils seem to respond well to the client centred approach and it's made for some very enjoyable sessions. Maybe it really does work. This week I'm into unit 6.3.1. Let's have a look at what it's all about.
   Learners who are not actually engaged in the learning process and just sit there absorbing information are not equipped to drive safely after the test it seems. I can understand that. Get people thinking for themselves and you're on to a winner. The performance standards section tells us that we must establish an efffective method of communication, verbal or otherwise that is free from discrimination. This may mean avoiding words which could be taken the wrong way or be considered offensive. This can be a bit of a minefield in these times of everyone taking offense at the least little thing. Any good instructor should be able to talk to someone and be able to avoid areas which may become tricky. If you stick to talking about driving then not much can go wrong really. I'd say the main danger is when the instructor and learner enter into general conversation.
 We must not exploit learners and collude in risky behaviour or attitudes. I've had a few young male drivers who have tended to brag about their illegal driving days and the things they got up to. I try to be diplomatic about this. Challenging attitudes about speed limits and driving under the influence of drink or drugs need to be handled with care so the atmosphere in the car does not become confrontational. If a learner decides that they don't like the way you talk to them they will just go elsewhere for their lessons. This is obviously bad for business. If you can bring them on side and make them think then they are more likely to accept good advice and refer you to other people.
   The learner must understand the requirements of the learning programme. I take it this means the DVSA learning to drive syllabus. On the odd occasion I have recommended  the Driving the Essential Skills book but the uptake on people reading this is very low indeed. Pupils tend to think that the instructor knows what to deliver and they just accept that this will happen. I like to make sure that the learner knows that we work in partnership as they learn to drive and this does help create a friendlier atmosphere. It works wonders with pupils who may have a problem with authority and generally being told what to do.
  The learner needs to understand what other opportunities and resources are available for them to include in their learning process. This I think means guidance when practising with parents or using online materials outside their formal lessons. You Tube videos are becoming increasingly popular in this regard. When it comes to practising with parents there can be a sometimes be a problem with conflicting information. On occasion I have had a chat with parents who were simply teaching out of date methods. It's a long time since they took their test and they too can benefit as they help their children to drive.
   I like to write my notes on the lesson at the end of the session in the car and include the learner in the process. This gives a level of transparency and grows trust with the pupil in my experience. This way I am explaining how I monitor and evaluate the training and gives me a chance to agree on the content of the next lesson, fulfilling item 8 in the column. All good stuff this. Next time I'll be looking at the knowledge requirements for this module.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

The Joy Of Designing Learning Programmes

Professional Driving Instructor Nottingham

It's all about knowledge and understanding the requirements of Unit 6.2.

This has been a week of study of the National standard for driver and rider training document. Well, not every hour of every day but you know what I mean. Looking in the right hand column of unit 2 we see that item a) tells us we must know and understand the relevant National driving or riding standard. So by reading it I am fulfilling this condition at the same time. That's good to know.
   Moving along we see that we must understand the requirements of acquiring a licence for the tuition vehicle which is straight forward enough. Next item regards the requirements of any formal post test training. I would think this means either Pass Plus or an advanced driving test with one of the motoring organisations such as Diamond or RoSPA. If you are registered as a Pass Plus instructor then all the information is in the pack. I would think many driving instructors will belong to an advanced driving organisation and so should have some knowledge of post test training.
   We need to understand a range of prior-learning inputs and how to feature them in how the learner is taught. Does this mean experience of riding a bike? I suppose practise taken with parents would count as a prior-learning input, as would any study for the theory test. Anything previously experienced that has anything to do with driving could be used in some way or another. It can boost a learners confidence to think they already know something which will help them to drive. 
    Cultural and religious factors must be taken into consideration when arranging driving lessons. Some people may not be able to attend on certain days. I had a refresher lesson on a Saturday with a client who recognised the Sabbath. He could have his lesson but couldn't pay for it. I just waited a couple of days to get paid. No problem. When it comes to fasting there can be some disruption. driving performance does deteriorate when people are fasting in my experience. People get up early to eat before sunrise so lack of sleep can factor into the equation.
  If people don't want to make eye contact then that's fine by me. Sometimes it's a cultural issue. It's not something I insist on and I never find it rude if people don't look at me when I'm speaking. What worries me more is people who do make eye contact when they are driving the moving car. I always advise to look at the road and speak. People from some cultural backgrounds do not like to contradict the teacher. I find questions a good way around this. Answering a question honestly is not actually contradiction even if the answer is a different view from the one expressed by the teacher.
  I don't know of anyone who uses psychometric tools. But we must understand the ethical issues it says here. Where does one go to study these issues? I'm sceptical of these things anyway. People have a certain view of themselves which is personal to them. When this view is combined with a subconscious desire to please or at least be correct the data acquired simply can't be accurate.I can't see much scope for it's use in driver training.
  Now we come to the section on learning programmes. Like many instructors I don't work from written plans or pre-prepared programmes specific to the learner. I make notes and refer to them, sure. The actual lesson content follows the learning to drive syllabus but apart from that the lessons are shaped by what occurs during the drive. Not according to a plan I wrote the night before. Plans change anyway as you respond to your learner's needs. This was an issue on the check test where the instructor would be expected to shift the focus of the lesson if that is what was needed according to the situation at the time. It's all about flexibility.
   Fostering good relationships with parents is important should the need arise. I must admit I very rarely meet or speak to parents. What I like to do though is regularly monitor and review my pupil's progress. I will shape future lessons on the result of these reviews but it's not like I rewrite a learning programme. The instructor, the pupil and the driving test syllabus is the learning programme and everything else stems from this. Have a read of the document to see what else this section says as I'll be moving on to unit 3 next time. Ciao.