The one simple question you can ask pupils that will transform your teaching

Where do you go to when you want advice? Facebook, reference books or rely on knowledge?

yoda highway code

I ask because I am absolutely amazed at the number of wrong, mis-advised and some downright dangerous comments and advice I often see. OMG, I can almost see the hairs going up on peoples necks and the shackles coming out!!

Let me state my defence your honour.

As driver trainers, we teach driving and as such we teach not only the practical elements but should teach the theoretical elements as well. Even if we don’t actually teach the theory, we should be at least practicing this ourselves.

I wrote in an article sometime ago how many driver trainers admitted to not reading or using the Highway Code. I found this amazing, but looking at many responses to questions and posts on Facebook, I’m not surprised.

So why do we need the Highway Code? Does it matter?

Well, if we are teaching driving and ‘instructor A‘ teaches one thing and ‘instructor B‘ teaches another, what happens when the pupils meet each other later when driving? What if they crashed? Each would argue that they were in the right. Who could blame them? They each are good drivers with a good attitude because each are following what their driving instructor taught them. In a court of law, of course the prosecution would not use their personal interpretation would they, they would use the relevant documents and publications in law. While I know the Highway Code is not law, it can and will be used in evidence in court to prove or negate responsibility. Other books and literature would be used too, the Road Traffic (Act RTA) to name but one. So, with all my questions, the most important one is, should not all driver trainers be using the Highway Code?

Should all driver trainers not all be using the Highway Code?

And while we’re in court!

Would it not be possible for a former pupil to later sue a driver trainer for bad or wrong advice if they themselves were prosecuted or crashed because of this poor advice or poor training?

Well yes. Its happening in many other industries and professions and for years I, and many of my colleagues have been waiting for the first big case to hit our courts. How would a court view the evidence that a driver trainer on a public forum admitted that they have not read the Highway Code or any other official material since passing their own L test? Or said trainer states in court, “I don’t use that material, it’s not law and I think it’s rubbish” or words to that effect.

Fancy your chances?

Some might say I take things too serious and it will never happen. But I train instructors and run a driving school, I need to know that the information I give is empirical. I need to know it’s correct and proper and is given to the best of my knowledge and ability. Its my USP so to speak, ask anyone who’s been trained by me or knows me well. A prosecution or civil lawsuit of this nature would cost us £1000’s in fees and even more £1000’s in damages if awarded. Fortunately, we have our professional indemnity insurance (you do have this don’t you) to cover us. If you read the small print of any policy, there will be caveats. Caveats that would be there to protect the insurance company, things like we took all reasonable care to ensure we were up to date with regulations etc. Behind in our CPD, not up to date with the most recent legislation could negate up from claiming against our policy.

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No, it’s not true I know the whole traffic regulations etc off by heart🙈Honestly 😁

You do not need to know all the information within the correct books and publications, relax.

You just need to know where to find it. You need to know how to interpret it and how to transfer this knowledge to your pupils. One of my favourite sayings, and the one recently that prompted this article is “where can we find that information?“. I can’t tell you how many times a trainee, or for that matter qualified driver trainer has said something to me, explained something to me, and I’ve said “what does it say in the Highway Code?” Normally met with a blank expression, a bad guess or an “I don’t know”.

I wanna tell you a story (Max Bygraves style)

Many times, when training instructors I would be told something like “you need to check your mirrors every x seconds” (fill in your own figure for x as I’ve been given many). I was being trained by rote to check them at each precise time. After a brief period, I would come out of role and ask, ‘what does the Highway Code say?’ each time met with similar responses, I don’t know etc. I would get them to read the relevant section.

Later I would often find my trainee say something like they were confused. Their old trainer told them one thing and now I am telling them another. “No,” I would explain, “I’m not telling you to do anything.” Its up to you on your part three or standards test – you can tell the examiner what you want. You can tell them what your old trainer said, or you can give them what’s in the Highway Code, it up to you. I would follow with rhetorical question, “what do you think the examiner would prefer?”

But it’s much more important than some test with an examiner, this is peoples lives we are playing with. They are paying good money to have the best advice and the correct advice, and we owe it to them. We owe it to ourselves.

This will transform your driving lessons

Start using the phrase to pupils, or trainees if you’re a trainer “where can you find that information?” Don’t quote rules verbatim even if you know them too often.

yoda with highway code
The Highway Code can be your best friend. (Image not to scale!)

The knock-on effect

The best bit of all this is that our role becomes not only easier, but we teach with more authority. All though we don’t give the rule, pupils feel we have. We have given them so much more though. The ability to find out for themselves.

Example A.

Pupil: Do I need to signal here?

Instructor: Yes

Pupil (at another junction):  Do I need to signal here?

Instructor: Yes

Pupil (at another junction): Do I need to signal here?

Instructor (sounding more annoyed) : Yes

What is the pupil learning here?

  • They’re learning that at specific junctions they must signal
  • They are NOT learning a transferable skill
  • They are learning that if they ask too many questions, they annoy the instructor
  • They are feeling like they’re being stupid

Example B

Pupil: Do I need to signal here?

Instructor: What does it say in the Highway Code about signals?

Pupil: Pupil reads, or says “signals must benefit, signals must not confuse.”

Instructor: Would anyone benefit from a signal here?

Pupil: Pupil looks round and decides they would

Instructor: Would it confuse someone?

Pupil: Pupil decides it would not

Instructor: Do you need a signal here?

Pupil: Yes, and puts the indicator on.

What is the pupil learning here?

  • They are learning a transferable skill
  • They are learning their instructor has patience and knowledge
  • They are learning they are valued and worthy

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May the force be with you

There is no secret to where the information you need is.

I don’t need to list the publications you need to read and if you are wondering then “where can you find the information?” (All those who said Facebook, go stand in the corner LOL). The trouble is, so much of what we read seems believable. If we don’t know any different, then it sounds logical and correct.

Well he’s been an ADI for 20 years so he must know!” But in reality, in all walks of life someone may have been doing something for many years but they might have been doing it wrong for all those years. One of my sayings when delivering Speed Awareness courses was “you might have been driving for 40 years but if you have not updated knowledge and skills since your driving test, you have one year of experience repeated for 40 years!”.

The same is true of many trainers. I run a driving school and if I want business advice, I don’t go to driving instructors, I go to my business group. Now, they might give me suggestions and advice but ultimately, they will say to seek the proper legal advice. Fortunately, in my group there is almost always someone in each discipline to help. I would not ask them for driving advice. Interestingly a common question on the forums is about the best way to finance a vehicle and tax advice. As every vehicle is different and each person’s needs are different, who would be the best person to get this advice from? (OMG here I go again LOL).

You can become the expert in your field without masses of knowledge just by knowing where to find it. Let’s call it the force!

In conclusion

You don’t need to know every bit of regulation, just where to find it. Learning this can make you a better instructor and you do less work. You do need to keep up to date yourselves. This is in essence the basic principles of a client centred approach to your tuition. Your pupils will thank you and best of all, you won’t get sued later. Probably! 😉

2 thoughts on “The one simple question you can ask pupils that will transform your teaching”

  1. There’s always going to be a situation when someone asks a question that you don’t know or are not 100% sure about the answer.
    I have several dvsa books in my car one of which is the Highway Code and I’m not embarrassed to look in the books in front of my pupil.
    That way we both win the important thing is you give correct information.
    I always tell my pupils there’s no such thing as a silly question.

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