Sunday, 17 February 2013

Insert PIE here

I've been working on a way of looking at things. When I discuss this with my pupils they nearly all find something useful in it. I call it the pie triangle.

It's a simple enough concept. There are three main aspects governing someone's ability to drive (and to do many other things too for that matter).Each aspect influences the others. So they can be expressed as a triangle, and since the initial letters of those three aspects are P, I and E, we end up with a nice slice of pie.

The P stands for Physical. It's your ability to kane the car do what you want it to do. Being able to steer properly. Being able to balance the car on the clutch at an uphill junction. Having the coordination to make the car move very slowly while simultaneously steering quickly.

I is for Intellectual. You have to know that a red traffic light means stop, that a red triangle is a warning, that you normally drive about a metre from the kerb. Without an understanding of what's expected of you, you won't be able to drive properly. This will also affect your ability to physically do what you need to do.

These first two are the traditional domain of driving instructors, but there is a third aspect.

E is for Emotional. An angry driver, a panicky driver, a calm driver, a confident driver. Each will drive differently, all other things being equal. The angry driver will use the controls differently to a relaxed driver. They may make different decisions, or miss information if they're distracted by some emotional aspect.

So: The PIE triangle.

In an early stage pupil, they may not yet have mastered the control, and there are big gaps in their knowledge and understanding. If someone is nearing test standard, and they make an error, it's far more likely to be because of nerves or a lack of confidence.

If I go through some error a pupil has made, asking them to rate the importance of each aspect, they generally feel that the control is there but that they either didn't know what to do, or they were nervous about the situation they were trying to deal with. If asked to provide percentages, they put the physical at perhaps 0-10%, with the Intellectual and Emotional split fairly evenly at 40+% each.

I've incorporated directional arrows in the diagram above. This is to indicate that each effects the other. For example, a nervous driver will grip the gear lever very hard, and will attempt to force the car into gear. A relaxed driver will use a much lighter touch, and will work with the characteristics of the gearbox to select the right gear. A panicking driver, particularly one that's still subvocalising routines and sequences, will forget elements of what they should be doing. They might for example, turn left when asked to go straight ahead at a roundabout. The monologue in their head is replaced by an emotional noise (AAaaaggggghhhh!!!!!)

But it's a two way process. It's hard for an instructor to directly change someone's emotional state. there's a certain amount that can be done using language (choise of words and how those words are delivered) but it's also possible to change people's E by doing things with P and I. If you know what to do, and are able to make the car do what you want it to do, you're going to be more relaxed and self confident than someone who lacks either the control or the understanding to do what they need to do.

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