Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Check Test

How do I know I can do my job?

Well, I break down the complex thing that is being able to drive a car safely on the public highway into simpler blocks of varying degrees of size and complexity. If a pupil can do a simple thing better at the end of the lesson than they could at the beginning, I've done my job. I know I can do my job because I'm producing measurable improvements in the levels of ability and confidence in my pupils. The feedback I get, both verbal and non verbal, is almost entirely positive.

How do my pupils know I can do my job?

Because my methods involve repetition, my pupils can measure the improvement in their level of ability. The rise in confidence stems partly from that, and partly because I insist that making errors is part of the learning process. I'm not the right instructor for everyone, and I sometimes get things wrong, but if there was some way of defining "The best driving instructor in the world", if you were to find such a Godlike being, they would tell you pretty much the same thing. We do what we can, but there are many variables, and what works for most does not work for all. Still, it's gratifying to find that I'm asked regularly, "Why didn't my last instructor teach me this?"

How do the DSA know I can do my job?

If you're on the register of qualified instructors, you're required to periodically do what's called a check test. Generally this means teaching a pupil while an examiner sits in the back watching what you do. It can also be done as a role-play lesson, with the examiner pretending to be a pupil. The lesson takes place over a little under an hour, and it's at the instructor's discretion what area is covered. At the end of the lesson, the instructor is given a grade.

The top grade is a 6. The lowest grade is a 1. If you get less than 4, you're required to do a second test within a few weeks. If you still score less than 4, you have to do a third test, this time with a different examiner. If you fail that, you're removed from the register. Grade 4 is OK. Grade 5 is good. Grade 6 is what us instructors all aspire to.

I had my first check test just a few months after qualifying. I'd planned my lesson carefully, then was forced to abandon my plans on the day because the examiner ( a guy who'd come across from Liverpool) couldn't make it to my local test centre, and I was required to go to a different centre with my pupil. So I winged it, conducted a useful and wide ranging lesson, and got a grade 5. That's a good grade for a newly qualified ADI, and they left me alone for 4 years.

Then, 2 years ago, I had my second check test. The examiner was the same person I'd had to try to teach for my teaching test. That was the most nerve racking experience of my life, and it's left psychological baggage. That particular examiner scares the crap out of me. I didn't acquit myself well. I got a grade 4, and quite rightly. My pupil was making errors, but I was so focussed on the primary aim of the lesson - the parallel park - that I failed to deal with the issues she was raising. The difference is not just the examiner. It's also the plan or lack of plan. I have a thumbnail sketch of a lesson plan in mind when I turn up outside someone's house. What actually happens on a lesson is a dynamic, fluid thing. I make it up as I go along as I gain insights into what my pupil is doing and thinking.

So anyway, having got a grade 4, just two years on, I have another check test. This is both a cause for concern and an opportunity. The examiner is once again, the guy I had to try to teach to become a qualified instructor. Hence the concern. It's just possible that nerves will lead to trouble. He's an extremely competent examiner, and a nice guy to boot, and I hope I can overcome the nerves. It's also an opportunity to set matters straight. I'm bloody good at my job too, and I think I can do much better than a grade 4.

I'm pretty sure I won't get less than a 4. I certainly won't get less than a 4 on 3 consecutive occasions, so I'm not going to have to stop doing what I'm doing, but I want that grade 6. I want to be able to put a big post on this blog, and on my driving school website saying "TOP GRADE INSTRUCTOR"

You won't have too much of a wait to find out. My test is on Thursday 10th January. My pupil is a mature and competent driver, who's approaching test standard, and who I have a good rapport with. I have a rough idea of how the lesson will be structured, but I'm prepared to be flexible. On our last lesson, this partucular pupil had an issue with filters at traffic lights. We dealt with this at the time, and that will form part of the recap at the beginning of the lesson. I know she lacks a bit of confidence when dealing with uphill junctions (she has the skill but not the confidence, so she sometimes panics) so will should end up with a collaborative lesson plan involving filters and uphill junctions.

I know just the place.

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