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Finding the Right Driving Instructor

You will find dozens of articles by driving instructors giving advice on choosing a driving school; however, they put down trainees and talk of prices and pass rates but they never tell you how to evaluate a GOOD TEACHER, which after all, is what you’re buying. This article is different.

I am going to tell you how to recognise good instruction. You are about to pay good money to learn to drive but if you’re not sure what good driving instruction looks like, then you won’t recognise value for money!

Like most things in life, the average dominates, a few are very good and many are below average. Examples you might relate to are: bosses, most are average, a small number are very good and I am sure you have come across really awful ones; teachers, same; doctors, builders, hairdressers, & garages, same; so it is no surprise to find that this is also true with driving schools, a few are really good, most are average and some fall well below average. That’s life.

So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff, the really good ones from the average and below average?

Generally, if you want good quality you pay a little more for it; so if you simply choose your driving school because they are the cheapest, don’t be surprised if you get what you pay for.

Pay Peanuts, Get Monkeys!

Durham University published a report in October 2014, on behalf of Sutton Trust, titled "What Makes Great Teaching?" jointly authored by Robert Coe, Cesare Aloisi, Steve Higgins & Lee Elliot Major.

The report lists six components of good teaching. The two components that had the strongest impact on learning should come as no real surprise. They are a ".... deep knowledge of the subject" and "Quality of Instruction".

Let’s assume the majority of driving instructors have a good knowledge of the subject. As part of the qualification process they have to demonstrate a high standard of driving by passing an advanced driving test. So they know how to drive. But can they teach it to someone else? That’s the big question!

"Quality of Instruction" is the differentiator between good driving schools and poor ones. That should be no surprise either. Even the DVSA have recognised that the quality of driving instruction is diverse and in April 2014, changed the way driving instructors are evaluated as part of their continued registration. The new assessment emphasises teaching ability. In order to stay on the register, driving instructors must demonstrate effective teaching practices such as lesson planning and a variety of teaching techniques tailored to the individual student. This is referred to as Client Centred Learning. Does your instructor know what this means?

You could ask instructors when you enquire about lessons if they have taken the new DVSA standards check and what grade they achieved. Grade A instructors have demonstrated a better understanding of Client Centred Learning.

To achieve a high grade, driving instructors must continually update and improve their teaching skills. Improving skills is common to many jobs and is known as Continued Professional Development.

What professional development activities does your driving instructor do on a regular basis? You don’t know? Ask them. Many don’t do any!

I would also advise you to shop around. Do a lesson or two with more than one driving instructor. Make sure you get on with the person and importantly, their teaching style. The instructor may be friendly and have a laugh and this might put you at ease, but it is not the most important characteristic. The instructor needs to be professional; he/she is not going to be your best mate!

What is really important is that you learn something. So after each lesson, reflect on what you think you have learned. If you haven’t learned anything then try another school. After all, you are paying to learn, not have a laugh!

How do you know if you have learned anything? Well, did you know what the learning goal was; i.e. what you were expected to learn in the lesson? What can you recall doing in the lesson that shows you achieved the goal? If you have no idea what the goal was, or whether you achieved it, then you just wasted an hour and a lesson fee. That isn’t the most efficient way to learn. If that is what happens in your lessons, then be prepared to spend 40+ hours and still fail your driving test - maybe more than once!

Don’t be persuaded by "pass rates". This is the most misleading information a driving school can give you. Let’s face it, no one is going to tell you their pass rate is rubbish anyway? These claims are so unreliable it is unreal. They don’t tell you how good the instructor is even if you could believe them! Some driving schools specialise in teaching clients that really struggle to learn driving and so their pass rate might be a little low but the instructor has to be really good at his/her job to help these clients pass their test. Some schools steer clear of such clients and their pass rates might be higher but the instructors might be very mediocre, all the credit for passing the driving test down to the client! Shop around. Pass Rates tell you NOTHING about the driving instructor!

On a driving lesson take note of the following:-

  1. Is the instructor punctual? Do they finish on time?
  2. Do they keep notes of your achievements?
  3. Do they state clearly what your learning goals are? Do you know what the goals looks like? No? Ask for a demo!
  4. Do you know whether you achieved them or not? Can you give evidence you achieved it? What did you do to prove you learned the goal?
  5. Do they take time to explain things clearly?
  6. Do they set challenging exercises that help you achieve the learning goal?
  7. Do you get objective feedback on how close you achieved the goal? Do you know how close you came to acceptable performance?
  8. Does the feedback help you move closer to the goal?
  9. Is it a two way communication?
  10. Are you encouraged to take some responsibility for the learning?

Take the time to choose your driving school. Not all driving instructors are the same and you are likely to spend in the region of £1000 overall in learning to drive. If you want to keep cost to a minimum then you need to maximise learning and minimise hours. This can only be done if the driving instruction you get is the best it can be for you. It is not cost effective to go with a cheap driving school unless the driving instructor is also good. Check out the driving instructor first, not just the prices! A good Driving Instructor is worth paying for!

[NB: If you’re an ADI interested in Assessment, this book is really good: Embedded Formative Assessment, Dylan Wiliam. ]