16: Positive and Retrospective Instruction

Warning – this unit was last revised in 2007

Unit 16: Positive and Retrospective instruction

Research Material:
The Driving Instructor’s Handbook

Positive instruction – guiding or prompting in a way to keep the customer at the limits of their ability, while still driving safely and without significant fault.

Retrospective instruction – fixing a fault which has occurred.

Learning a something new in any sphere involves learning how to do it (knowledge), practising the actions of doing it (skill), and having the mental ability to put these together in the real world (attitude). Coaching someone through these steps involves keeping the customer within their ability, but pushing them beyond their current experience, but not into the unknown.

Current experience
(capable, within their comfort zone with known skills and environment)
No Real Learning

The next known step
(learning a new skill in a familiar environment, or testing a familiar skill in a new environment)
Real Learning

The unknown
(beyond current capabilities, new skills being taught in a new environment)

The ideal, and the quickest way for someone to gain learn something new is to keep them within the centre section – always at the next known step, where you have made sure they are capable, but not pushing them too far into the unknown, where they are being asked to do too much.

Positive instruction is keeping control of the session, by planning and your abilities, not letting things go wrong. When teaching a new skill, explain what it is, demonstrate it, or have a dry run before practising it, and convey the importance of being able to use it. Then talk through the actions necessary to achieve the action, being aware that your customer may have holes in their knowledge, skill or attitude which need filling before they fall into them! If they fall into these holes – we’re in the realms of retrospective instruction.

Teaching something new should always be positive. For example, if when practising moving off your customer sets the gas and is about to look all around ready to signal – but are still in neutral, prompt them to engage the gear and find the bite point before anything else. You have spotted the potential for a mistake which could have affected others, and have provided a positive instruction in order to avoid it. Allowing them to put the signal on, take the handbrake off and only then realise there is no bite point would involve correcting something which had already gone wrong – retrospective instruction.

Keep it positive – head mistakes off at the pass – don’t let them happen at the learning stages. Anticipation and experience play their part in this – assess any hazard early, with reference to your customer’s capabilities. If you feel a mistake might happen, adjust your level of instruction accordingly.

This all sounds great until you start to put it into practise – and in the real world you may not be able to anticipate every possible mistake. This is where retrospective instruction becomes necessary, and this should be conducted through the core competencies previously covered. Sometimes it is not possible to fix things on the move – analyse them immediately after they have happened, but things should never be left any later than is absolutely necessary. More on this subject will be covered in Unit 23 – Stop or on the move?

There is an old saying that people learn by their mistakes – they do, but they find it a hell of a lot easier to learn by being aware of the possibility of mistakes, and avoiding them! Much of this ties back in to the level of instruction provided – under instruct and mistakes will be made, your customer will feel bad and may not learn so well. Over instruct, and a comfort zone will become harder and harder to get out of. Pitching instruction at the correct level is very important to progress learning positively.

One area where retrospective instruction becomes necessary and even useful is during mock tests. More on that later.

Discussion Points:
Prevention or Cure?

With positive instruction – if a mistake has been prevented it must still be identified, analysed and corrected

The dangers of too much positive instruction – over reliance on the instructor, and no transfer of responsibility.

Moving Off
Meeting situations
Approaching roundabouts
Parking safely
The turn in the road

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