Disclaimer 1: I use the term ‘crap’ purely as a copy of the words used to describe pupils on social media. Its not written to cause offence or be offensive but is necessary for the point of the article
Prompted by comments (as ever) from social media, I wanted to address the issue where driving instructors talk about ‘crap’ pupils.
Now, I believe that when they refer to them in this way, they mean pupils who do not learn as well, as quickly or any other adjective that does not fit their ‘norm’.
But what is a norm? Certainly, in over twenty years of teaching learners, instructors, and instructor trainers I’ve certainly not found it.
A pupil that learns quickly might have found that the teaching method the instructor used fitted their learning style. Another pupil with the same driving instructor, might not learn so well. Why is this? Well everybody has a different way of learning.
Its inbuilt into us and part of our individualism. It doesn’t mean prefer as if we choose to learn in a particular way. It is actually pre-programmed into us as part of our DNA and affects our choices in life in many other ways like career, choice of clothes, choice of car etc.
There are 4 basic learning styles, known as VARK. These are:
This article is not about exploring these in any detail, this is done in my more detailed videos and articles elsewhere on this website. Here you will find lots of free resources for driving instructors. This article highlights why some pupils do well and some not so well and what can be done about it.
It gets complicated
We need to define ‘learned quickly’ or any of the other adjectives used to describe pupils who, in the opinion of some driving instructors, do not do so well.
What do the pupils who appeared to learn well, learn? It might be they learnt the control skill suffice to pass a driving test but might be lacking in the higher-level skills required to actually stay alive driving. Could you say in the long term, a pupil that passed their test first time with just 20 hours, who later suffered a horrendous crash from poor driving, learnt well?
But what about that pupil who took 60 hours, passed on their 3rd attempt, but went on to drive safely and crash-free for life? Some might say luck played its part but as a famous golfer once said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”
Disclaimer 2: Before you read the following section, I would like to point out that not all instructors are poor or fit the criteria below. In the section I refer to the types of instructors who blame their pupils for the problems and don’t take the responsibility. The instructor who is active in CPD and already knows the solution to this problem will be agreeing to the following section. They will already be teaching learners with many preferred learning styles completely satisfactory.
The problem is, driving instructors like pupils have an inherent ‘preferred’ learning style. As such when it comes to teaching, they tend to use this style as their default method.
Anyone who does not learn using their style or in their way is tarnished with being ‘crap’. The reality is the instructor and pupil were just not a good fit. The pupil often moves on after a period of unhappy and slow learning to another instructor.
This process repeats itself until the pupil finds an instructor they like or whose teaching methods fit. According to the DVSA, the average pupil takes around 45 hours of professional tuition and on average uses 3 instructors. Each time the pupil finds a new instructor that does not fit, they feel more and more like they are the problem and let me stress this, the pupil is never the problem.
The pupil is NEVER the problem!
It is all too easy for an instructor to blame the pupil.
Nobody is really monitoring the instructor. True, they have a Standard Test every 4 years or so but the instructor will take along a pupil who is a good fit, the examiner sees a one off lesson every 4 years where the instructor is teaching their best fit pupil. (Now, how we devise a test that would accommodate all pupils would be challenging!)
How do we know there’s a problem?
For instructors, the pupil might be learning very slowly. They might appear not interested in your lesson or even distracted. The pupil might particularly struggle with manoeuvres and roundabouts. The pupil will often keep cancelling lessons with what might seem like weak excuses.
Pupils will feel like they’re not making progress and don’t enjoy their driving lessons. They will be looking for any excuse to cancel. Often they will feel like they are only turning up for fear their instructor will charge anyway for the lesson. They will begin to feel like they will never learn, and that they are a problem.
Let me say this again, THE PUPIL IS NEVER THE PROBLEM. Is this starting to sound familiar?
Well for the pupil there are 2 solutions:
- Keep trying driving instructors until you find one who fits your learning style. This is an expensive, demoralising method but often there is little choice.
- Find a driving instructor who does not have a one-size-fits-all teaching style. Ask many of your friends about their instructor and try to find a few people learning with one instructor. Choose different friends. By ‘different’ I mean friends who have different hobbies, lessons or jobs. Look for the arty friends and the ones into maths. Look for ones who play musical instruments and the one who like to sit and read. If you find an instructor who all these pupils seem to learn well with, chances are they use a variety of teaching methods to suit each learner.
For the instructor, there are also 2 solutions:
- Carry on as you are, cherry pick the pupils that are your perfect fit. True, you’re limiting your client base and are not really challenging yourself!
- Learn about VARKS and how to identify the different types of learner. Learn how to change your style of learning to fit each learner. Learn how much more rewarding it is to look at EVERY pupil as a success and a rewarding experience. Enjoy more pupils because of it and enjoy your job. Oh, and see far fewer cancelled lessons too, without threatening charges.
All instructors are encouraged by the DVSA, our governing body, to use a variety of teaching styles and methods. Long gone are the days when in school, the teacher just wrote out a load of writing on a board and told pupils to just copy it. Today’s, we as driving instructors have all the resources open to us to learn modern, forward-thinking methods and fortunately, those that are not moving forward are becoming a thing of the past and will eventually meet the same fate as the dinosaurs.
Dave Foster MA, Dip.DI (or Driving School Dave) is the most qualified driving school owner in the country, after completing his Master’s Degree in Driver Training Education in 2011 at Middlesex University. He also holds a diploma in Driving Instruction and is a Cert Ed. qualified teacher. Dave is the founder and Managing Director of 1st 4 Driving Ltd, and also looks after over 15 driving schools across the country on a consultancy basis.