How to make a learner THINK for themselves
Teaching is an art and a skill, which not everyone has the ability to do, as we are all good at different things in life, and teaching people to drive is rewarding aswell as having challenges along the way.
I recently undertook a small study with some of my clients, watching how they respond to the instructions I give them, how they process the information, and finally how they put that information into practice. Most of the pupils would process the information and speak out loud, some would be thinking quietly in their minds, but on the whole they both successfully completed the basic tasks. One of the area’s each pupil seemed to lack was forward planning, Observations of the new road they were entering and not taking in signs, which is quite a vital part of driving, for safety of everyone.
I put some thought into this, in my own private practice, wondering how they can miss such large signs when entering new roads or when approaching roundabouts. I listened to what I was hearing in my own head, and when approaching a roundabout I could hear in my sub conscious mind, “Where is the sign”, “What exit am I going to”, “What lane do I need”, “Can I go” and so on. It dawned on me I was self instructing in my head, all be it my subconscious mind. I wondered what would it be like to not have any questions in your mind or a quiet mind. After some thought the conclusion was clear, if you don’t talk through things you don’t get the answers, and then PANIC or get STRESSED.
In general there are 3 levels of learning, Cognitive, Associative then Autonomous, and as a Driving Instructor we start by using command style teaching, then to Questioning and finally to letting the pupil do everything automatically with very little input from us, making them drive for life ready.
The Command style is straight forwards, as they do everything in a sequence that is given to them, therefore controlling what they do. The second stage is questioning using leading questions to help the think “What gear will you need”, “what signs do you see up ahead” “What lane is…..” “What signs do you see” etc. Approaching a junction one day I asked my pupil what was coming up ahead, and she replied “A give way T Junction where would you like me to go” so I gave her the instruction to turn left, which was onto a 40 mph road. She approached the junction well, and looked and then drove out onto the main road safely making progress upto 30 mph!!!, but not to 40mph, and seemed to stop actively thinking, once she had entered the new road. I asked her “What is the speed limit on this road ?” and she replied “30mph” but there were signs at the end of the road, and repeaters frequently, so why was she not seeing them. After some thought it was clear that the pupil would think about what was needed to be done, as soon as they had heard an instruction, doing all the things they needed, but once they had done all the different parts and entering a new road, would be thinking the job was done until another instruction was given, so did not have to think anymore, so I asked myself, “How do I get them to think all of the time ?”
LEARNER TAKE CONTROL EXERCISE
This exercise has worked very well, but has to be carefully controlled, as the pupil will be nervous on the outset, so try on quieter roads first.
At the start of a driving lessons with one of the pupils, I said that today, she would inform me of what was approaching ie traffic lights, roundabouts or end of the road junctions, and once they tell me what was approaching, I would then tell them which direction to go, which is similar to the independent driving, but with a twist. I asked her not to tell me about junctions approaching on the left or right as would be continually saying Junction, Junction & Junction. All she had to do was say “Roundabout” or “Traffic lights” or “End of Road” and a direction would then be given. As mentioned the pupil will feel a little nervous as they are worried they don’t know where they are going, however it is no different to you saying “Pull away when safe to do so and follow the road ahead”. My pupil prepared the car, did all the checks and pulled onto the road and drove the car in a nice fashion, about 200 metres ahead were some traffic lights and she immediately told me “Traffic lights” so I gave her an instruction to turn left at them, and did not say anything further, leaving her in control. On approaching the lights I was watching her, and she was looking everywhere, her eyes were dancing from the road ahead and in to the new road, and she told me “It’s a 40mph road and the road is clear” she continued upto 40 mph and I could see her continually looking everywhere, she then informed me “Roundabout” so I told her to follow the sign for X, she approached the junction nicely, spoke out loud it was the 2nd exit ahead, then saying “I can go” she entered the roundabout and then told me the road she was entering was a 30mph. After 20 minutes we stopped for a chat, and she was very tired.
I asked her how she felt the exercise had gone and did it help, she informed me that she was tired due to actively thinking all of the time, in case anything was missed, and felt that in control of the drive, feeling as though she was alone in the car, even though knowing I was there. It was clear that in their mind they were 100% responsible for the car and all of the thinking, not waiting for instructions, therefore no Lull points between one junction and another, so not switching off, or relying on the instructor.
Over the next month this has been tasked onto most of the pupils even earlier stage drivers, and the result is quite amazing, resulting in very few signs or junctions being missed, because they are “Actively” THINKING. The exercise is also an excellent tool for the independent drive, as one pupil was in an area on his test which he did not recognise , however he was looking for the “Traffic Lights”, “Roundabouts” and “Junctions” before the examiner was giving the instructions, so had already thought through where he was positioned and what was ahead, this gave him advantage, so when the examiner gave the instruction, all he had to do was put into action everything, look at the sign which had already been seen and do the activity. The stress on tests seems to have been reduced, and a lot of the pupils are feeling more in control, and not relying on the instructor/examiner, which is exactly what they need to drive when they pass the test.
Try it for yourself and see, and feedback to me would be really appreciated.