Learning how to teach is a skill; for the Driving Instructor, it's one of the most important (and difficult) parts of
their training. Indeed, the final practical exam (ADI Part 3) focuses on a pupil ending the lesson with a clear picture of the subject that was taught and why they
were taught it.
Perhaps it's surprising then, that a lot of pupils who come to us have no idea why they are carrying out even the most basic
driving tasks in a particular way!
When a pupil comes to us from another Driving School, we carry out an assessment. This culminates in a short drive to
see what level the pupil is at with their training. Often, with a few simple questions, we begin to see important chunks of information missing
from their knowledge.
This can be in virtually any driving subject, but a good example is the 'use of mirrors' (one of the most consistent
reasons why Learners fail the driving test).
We will ask which mirrors should be used when turning left and most reply: "centre mirror then left mirror".
But when we ask why - they don't know.
This is a prime example of a Driving Instructor not telling the pupil WHY they are being taught to do a task in a particular way.
Without a reason why, the learner is only getting half the picture and will probably end up not bothering because they dont
know why it's important.
The worrying part is that if a pupil doesn't know the reasons why they are carrying out the basics a certain way - how much
other information has been missed?
This is why the DSA pushes 'Safe Driving for Life', as do Driving Schools. To the learner however, this sounds
like a strap line and many simply assume it means 'learning to drive'.
It doesn't! A safe driver understands why they are carrying out certain tasks because they have been taught why it is
the best and safest way to do it.
In reference to 'use of mirrors', the first lesson is when pupils should be taught why they must look in the centre mirror
before the side mirror. They should have learnt that the centre mirror is flat glass whilst the side mirrors are convex. That the centre mirror gives a
true representation of distance whereas the side mirror can make objects appear further away than they really are.
It doesn't take much to imagine the dangerous implications of missing out this important information when learning to drive!
So why does it happen? Well, if pushed, we'd say there are 2 main reasons.
One is down to first lesson pressure, that is: getting the pupil driving as soon as possible. Many instructors see
this as a selling point because it's assumed, it's what all pupils want. Because of this, one of the most important lessons becomes
condensed and rushed.
The second reason is down to being stuck in the mud (not literally!), that is: an instructor who does it their way and always has done.
Generally, pupils that come to us from these type of instructors were driving almost immediately they got into the car on the 1st lesson! They have more
driving experience, but are often clueless as to why they're carrying out certain tasks.
Taking 'mirrors' as the example, the argument is often offered up that the information can be taught whilst driving. Though true,
the steep learning curve coupled with the amount of distractions during the initial driving means a beginner is likely finish the lesson with a mass
of experiences instead of having learnt a solid foundation of the core lesson subjects.
In summary: if, as a pupil, you're not told why you're being taught to do something a certain way, always ask. A good instructor
will be telling you as they teach each subject, they don't wait to be asked.