Sunday, 17 November 2013

driving instructor stuff

Some bulletpoints:

  • I've had 8 pupils on test so far this month.
  • The work continues to come in
  • More PIE!
  • Moving off and stopping
8 pupils on test...

"If I'd known what killed him sooner, I could have cured him..."

8 tests in 15 days. That's slightly more than one every two days. Intense! And one of the reasons I've been so busy. People tend to ramp up the lessons in the last few days/weeks before their driving test.

6 of those 8 passed. The national average is just the low side of 50%. This month at least, I'm twice as good as average!

I made a decision a few months ago to start publishing my passrates online.  Rather than hide behind coy phrases about "Very high pasrate" (which I do too) I give a detailed breakdown month by month. This has been immensely useful. I think it comes across as open and honest to anyone who visits my site. It's made me focus on my work, to be able to present, honestly, a good report.

There are finesses. After having announced a mediocre month, I added other posts to push it down the page. It's all archived, and easily accessible, but it would have taken a click of the "older posts" button to find it. At the end of the year, I will be publishing half yearly results to consolidate the monthly posts.

As far as passrates are concerned, I want to continue to improve. Passrates are a useful way of tabulating your effectiveness as an instructor. The examiners have a sort of dual mandate. In some circumstances, they have to mark a particular bit of driving as a serious fault, and therefore a fail. Some examples are not completely stopping at a stop junction, or attempting to turn right from the left hand lane of a T junction, if you're emerging from a one way street. In other circumstances, the examiners have to weigh up not just the fault, but the effect the fault has had on other road users. So for example, a test candidate who stalls and rolls back for a couple of feet at a junction might get a minor fault if there was nobody behind them, and they managed to regain control effectively, but if there happened to be another car behind, that had to stop very suddenly, the same bit of driving would be marked as a serious fault.

And isn't that the point? The reason you passed is because you drove for 40 minutes without being a pain in the arse to anyone.

But that's only part of the story. Most people fail because of nerves. More on all that just a bit later.

Why did the two fail?

The first one gave a couple of clues on the lesson or two before his test. He kerbed the car while turning a few times. This is not a steering fault. It's an observational fault. He was spending too much time looking to see what was coming, and not enough time looking where he was going. Stuff like this takes time to fathom out.  From an instructors point of view, instinct says, "He got the steering wrong. Work on the steering." It takes a while to get beneath the immediate, and we were an hour or so short of the insight and solution. The second was due to a misinterpreted concept. My second could already drive an automatic. It took a while to make the physical transition, which meant we had less time to deal with the intellectual aspects. Again, given a few extra hours, this person would probably have passed.


The day I had those two tests, I also had two new starters. I could go through my records and work out pretty precisely what the proportions are, but my work comes almost exclusively from two sources. Website and word of mouth. Yesterday's new pair were one of each. I'd taught the older sister of one, while the other got in touch through the website. I think overall, it's about 80% website to 20% recommendation. I'd imagine that as time goes by, the ratio will shift more to recommendation. Typically, from this time of year until January, things go a bit flat, but I expect to be busy for the next few weeks at least.

More Pie!

Driving instructor is a role I inhabit. A mask I wear. My pupils are often surprised, when they meet me in a different context, such as in the bread aisle of the supermarket, to find that I'm shy and at a loss for words. Somewhere, in real life, there's a barrier between me and the rest of the world. Yet in my role, I am confident, funny, knowledgeable, empathic, in control. I have fantastic people skills! I relate to people on both an intellectual and an emotional level.

A few months ago, I wrote about the PIE triangle. Really just reinventing the wheel, but it's not something many instructors consider.

I've been exploring the idea and came up with a few further ideas.

First of all, one way of visualising and analysing an error is to consider the Physical, Intellectual and Emotional aspects, and to try to ascribe a value to each. The best way I've found, appropriately enough, is to use a pie chart. What is striking is the almost unvarying response. A very small physical/control element, a rather larger intellectual/understanding that together make up perhaps a third of the pie. The rest is emotional/panic/nerves.

If you ask someone who's driving for the very first time, they tend to give the three elements more or less equal values. They don't have the psycho-motor skills. They don't know what they're supposed to be doing, and they're nervous.

The first of the three to get something like sorted out is always the physical. Driving involves the use of 6 main controls, and getting people to be able to use those controls properly tends to happen fairly quickly, within the first few lessons.

The intellectual side of things is far more complex, and it takes time for the judgement and knowledge to mature.

Finally, people become confident (emotional) because they feel like they know what they are doing (intellectual), and because they have the skill to use the controls to make the car do what they want it to do (physical)

Moving off and stopping

Finally, just a few thoughts on this most basic of procedures...

In their minds eye, when you speak to a learner about moving off and stopping, they picture parking next to the kerb, or moving away from the kerb. This is of course a perfectly valid way of thinking about it, but it plays a far bigger part than even most drivers realise.

I can get someone driving down a road at 30 miles an hour on their first lesson, no problem.  Moving away and stopping effectively takes structure and control. It's what you do at junctions, roundabouts, traffic lights, when encountering an oncoming vehicle when the road is narrowed by parked cars, etc.

So my guideline for whether someone drives on kindergarten roads, or whether they're ready to make the transition to more complex situations is primarily whether they can move away and stop.

driving lessons in North Wirral? learn to drive in Hoylake? driving instructor in Birkenhead?


Pete said...

Hi Paul

Your transparency regarding test results is admirable. Not what a true marketing person would do but it is true to your ethics and will attract pupils who appreciate this ethical approach. It would appeal to me if I were a new learner.

When are you going to do your motorbike CBT? I GUARANTEE (apologies for the capitals) that it will give you a new perspective on the dangers of driving. It may possibly also leave you paralysed. Hope that does not happen. Keep me in the loop.

I am going to Sumatra next month for 2 nights only. A 'posh' visa run.

Paul said...

when I can be arsed. and certainly not in the winter,