Sunday, 2 April 2017

Teaching in an electric car

This post is about the experience of an ADI who has recently bought an electric car to teach in. It makes a very interesting read and certainly makes you think about choosing an alternative to petrol or diesel. I have to give Rob Cooling full credit for this post.

For anyone interested this is a brief update on my experiences teaching in an electric car (Nissan Leaf). It's been a great success and I'm looking forward to the day when I can sell my manual and spend my entire working week in the automatic (my deadline for this is October).

It's so much easier, it makes me wonder why we make driving any harder than it needs to be - the idea that 'proper' driving is only a manual seems increasingly silly to me. Driving is about what happens outside the windscreen - the ability to understand the complex movement of traffic at varying and increasingly confusing scenarios. The more of the drivers 'processing power' that can be devoted to that the better. I've been stunned by the difference it makes to pupils when they switch to the automatic, the improvement on their overall driving is sometimes quite dramatic (they have so much better awareness, planning and anticipation). The less there is to think about inside the car the better, it's much more important to have that attention on the outside world.

Expectedly some of my current pupils who really should have been in an automatic from the start switched to the electric with very positive results. Rather unexpectedly a few of my other manual pupils have opted to switch to the automatic following a trial lesson (1 x Aspergers, 1 x autism, 1 x dyspraxia) and a couple of others are contemplating doing the same - automatics are so widely available nowadays that the restriction to an automatic licence isn't much of an issue. My wife has a manual licence, but chooses to only drive automatic. I will never return to driving manual myself. In my desperation to clear all my manual pupils I'm working overtime to get them all through the test so I can properly fill my diary with only automatic pupils.

Interestingly I have noticed a slight pattern regarding pupils who really wanted to learn in the automatic (electric) but were told by the person paying the money (parent/partner) they want them to learn manual, I think we have a generational thing going on at the moment which should change over the next decade. I think there's a lot more pupils out there that would choose automatic if it wasn't for someone else making the choice for them (for good reasons, there are more manual cars out there).
Demand for automatic (and the electric car) has been staggering. I've barely sorted out the promotion for it and without exaggerating I'm getting 2-6 requests a day, I can't take any of the work on as I'm fully booked and have pupils queueing on the waiting list. I'm only taking on pupils onto my waiting list who have learning difficulties / special needs as this is where my passion lies.

The electric car is smooth, quiet and comfortable. It's fantastic and the range has so far presented no issues (nor do I believe it ever will do for me due to the way my work pattern is setup). I do 3 x 2 hour lessons in a day and never seem to exceed 100 miles, plus I have a large gap between my 2nd and 3rd lesson allowing 3 hours to fully recharge. In a couple of years I'll upgrade to the 2018 Leaf which is supposed to be capable of 200+ miles on a single charge. My current Leaf will do 95 miles on a single charge (although I wouldn't feel comfortable allowing it to get lower than 15 miles without recharging). My range anxiety fears have ebbed away.

I've been tracking the costs and it seems to be about £2 per 100 miles, which for me equates to about 70p per 2 hour lesson. I'm not using a cheap energy supplier either, this is based on using Ecotricity who I think are brilliant (not cheap). It's worth pointing out they gave me a £40 discount off my yearly bill because I own an electric car and I get free access (52 charges per year) to their rapid charge network.

Another unexpected bonus in the Leaf is that I no longer have pupils struggling to release the parking brake, as it's foot operated it seems to be easier - I was wary at first but now quite happy.
Downsides? I've temporarily put Pass Plus on hold as it's a 230 mile trek which would be tight (not impossible) in the electric car. I'll need to sit down and do some planning, I think I can make it work with a few tweaks. The only other nuisance is the Leaf squeals when braking while reversing, from my research this seems to be a common problem. Having said that I think it's improving, it's just annoying having a beautifully quiet electric car when then squeals when you brake during reversing! If it doesn't stop I'm going to take it to Nissan and see if anything can be done.

I never hide the fact the I don't like driving (which is pretty weird given my job). I emphasise I hugely enjoy TEACHING not driving. But suddenly I want to drive, the fascination with the technology involved in electric cars and the potential environmental benefits mean a lot to me. For the first time I'm actually really enjoying driving.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Standards Check - Client Centred versus Coaching

Choose your approach.

When do I use Client Centred Learning, when do I coach and when do I instruct?
Being a driving instructor can be difficult at times knowing when to either instruct, coach or use client centred learning? Often there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this subject. Sometimes we have to be flexible and have all three of these teaching techniques in our armoury, but I suppose the key aspect is knowing when to use them?
What is important, is that when teaching we try to make it client centred as possible i.e. we are putting the learner at the centre of the learning process. The DVSA made a statement saying that it’s not all about coaching, it’s about client centred learning. They have also said that instruction based around the old Part 3 core competencies is still pretty good so this should not be thrown away.
The DVSA have increased the number of options available to us so that the learner can learn in an active way. So, this means that we may have to use a combination of teaching techniques.
Coaching is a powerful tool when used correctly but it is not a replacement of your existing techniques, it’s just an add-on. The principle that underpins coaching is that an engaged pupil is likely to achieve a higher level of understanding and that self-directed solutions will seem far more relevant.
Direct instruction is useful in the early stages of the learning to help the pupil cope with new situations or supporting a pupil who is clearly struggling in a certain situation. It’s often said that a good instructor will use the correct technique at the correct time and therefore matching the pupil’s needs.
If I do use direct instruction, then I usually try to encourage the pupil to analyse what the problem was and see if they can take responsibility for learning from it, therefore reinforcing learning?

Client Centred Learning.... generally requires the ADI to fully understand the pupil’s needs and to act in the best interests of the learner and not just what the ADI wants to do. Therefore, you’ve got to know what the pupil’s needs are. This information can normally be found by clever use of Q&A and both the ADI and pupil are having a conversation about appropriate goals for the lesson. Your goals may have been discussed on the previous lesson, if so, then ensure that you ask your pupil if the goals are still the same as previous set

So let’s say your pupil wants to improve on T-Junctions, then you can ask them what bits would they like to improve about the T-Junctions. You could ask them where would you like to practise the lesson. You could ask your pupil if they would like a full briefing again? You would ask them if they wanted to see any diagrams again? You would ask them what level of support do they want from you i.e. a full talk through to begin with or prompted or maybe they want to have a go themselves. By asking similar questions you are being client centred.
You may find that your pupil wants a full briefing followed by full talk-through practise, this is fine as it’s still client centred.

Instruction.... is usually described as "guided practice". The instructor tells the learner what to do and the learner carries out the actions. This is fine, but good instruction goes a little further than that. If I give guided instruction then I will tell the pupil why I'm telling them to do it this way and I would perhaps tell them what the consequences are if doing things a different way. So for example, I may tell my pupil who is approaching a T-junction to bring their speed down to 10 mph at least 4 car lengths before the junction because I want you to stop smoothly at the give way markings. If my pupil is hesitant let's say and not making progress on a national speed limit road and it's safe to get to the speed limit, then I would probably instruct the pupil to be at 60mph before they reach the second telegraph pole and tell them the reason why.

I always try to ensure that my pupil knows what action to take and why to take that action and how it is relevant to everyday driving.

Coaching.... There are different various definitions of coaching but in one way or another they all refer to "self-empowerment". The self meaning your pupil.  As an example, it's unlocking your pupils potential to maximise their learning and own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.

Because there are many different coaching models, I'm going to write a whole article in my next letter to you which closely looks at coaching models and the benefits of coaching versus traditional methods. Please look out for my next article in a few weeks time.

Kind regards