My last article looked at Unit 6 of the National Driver and Rider Training Standard, which focuses on developing and implementing a programme of role play for those training to be driving instructors. But how should we use role play to develop a trainee driving instructor? The point of role play is not usually to show the trainee how a real pupil is likely to behave, though this can sometime be a valuable aside. For the most part, however, it is to develop the trainee, helping them build up the repertoire of skills and techniques they will need to apply when teaching their learners safe driving for life.

To Be, or Not To Be

It might be helpful to compare role play to levels of instruction, where both are options to develop skills in someone learning a new task or refreshing their understanding. When considering levels of instruction, you would initially talk or guide a learner driver through a new task so that they know exactly what it is they need to do at each stage in order to successfully execute the skill. If this is to do with junctions, for example, you might be talking them through the MSPSL routine. As they get the hang of this, you would be easing off with the guided instruction, moving onto prompting instead. Eventually, you would sit back and let them have a go on their own, putting everything into place. You might just give them bits of encouragement and discuss aspects once the turn is completed, such as, ‘How did that feel?’ ‘Were you happy with your speed?’ etc. Essentially, you have used your teaching skills to work with the driver until they are capable of executing the exercise independently. This is also how role play should work, where the trainer uses their client-centred learning techniques to work with the trainee until they are ready to execute the exercise independently. Many ADIs still refer to the way they were trained as being completely thrown in at the deep end, with their trainer driving like an idiot, leaving them feeling totally overwhelmed. This isn’t effective training – some people will get it eventually, but many will not.

Taking to the Stage

Let’s take a look at an example of how a trainer might develop fault correction techniques in a trainee driving instructor.

Act 1: The trainer needs to establish that the trainee knows where and when to look in order to identify faults. After a conversation, the trainer might ask the trainee to swap seats and drive around the block for two minutes, during which time, the trainer tells the trainee where she is looking, for example, ‘So, you are about to take the next road on the right and I have already located the junction, assessed any risk, checked my mirror so now I am looking at your eyes and I don’t look away until I have seen you check the mirrors. Then I catch that you have indicated correctly so I look at the road and check my mirror again, making sure you are taking up the correct position.’ Etc. This might be repeated after discussion.

Act 2: The trainer now drives, but the trainee talks out loud where they are looking with any necessary prompts from you the trainer.

Act 3: The trainer puts in a fault, possibly two, but stipulates how many and helpfully describes whether they will be inside or outside of the car, or a mixture. The route remains the same as before, and the trainee just needs to sit back and watch. At the end of the short drive, the trainee states how many faults they saw and how often they were repeated.

Act 4: The exercise builds so that the trainer puts in the same faults, but says one will need to be dealt with at the side of the road at the end of the circuit. The trainer needs a good reason for why they have put in the fault, so that the trainee has a chance to analyse it. The trainer and trainee work together identifying and analysing the fault.

Act 5: The trainer focuses on the remedy and goes around again, so that the trainee can learn how to prevent the fault from re-occurring.

Act 6: The trainer is now in a position to set up the role play and must decide what kind of pupil to play so that the trainee can practise what they have just learned in a realistic environment. The trainer doesn’t want to overload the trainee with having to give a lot of varied teaching, so will probably need to play a pupil who drives to a reasonably good standard, but has a couple of issues with junctions. This way, the trainee has a great chance of being able to see how the fault correction technique they have been practising actually combines with goal setting, route planning and feedback in delivering a great lesson.

Next Month: Looking at how the ORDIT assessment fits in with instructor training.