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Working towards a BTEC - part 2

A couple of weeks before the second practical assessment part of the BTEC, Malc dropped a couple of training scenarios over in an email, and asked for a draft lesson plan for each. My initial view of this was that it would only take a minute or two to knock up the required plan, as both scenarios were something I have dealt with dozens of times in real courses. For example, when I looked at the first scenario ("fairly new rider having problems with bends and following partner"), I thought "easy enough, I've run this one myself several times". So of course, because of the pressure of work through August and September, I left everything to the last minute.

When I sat down to finish the assignment, my initial thoughts ran along the lines of:

"Don't take anything for granted and go for a ride along a road with some nice bends. The rest of the lesson would be based on what I detect as a problem from that point on. I really wouldn't work to much of a plan because it's 'problem solving', not training to a syllabus or set plan".

Having submitted that in an expanded format as a draft for the assignment, another email from Malc bounced back with some helpful hints:

"But would you arrive 'cold'? No ideas of what to expect i.e. what clues are iin the information provided? Would you bring along anything besides yourself & your bike? You've already started to plan, like it or not, by choosing a road with 'nice' bends! And what does your experience tell you to expect? Look back at the clues in the scenario again."

I began to see what Malcolm was driving at... several hours and several balled-up printouts later, I had fleshed out that bald statement and presented my idea of a lesson plan.

Back came the reply. I was close, but no cigar. It wasn't in 'lesson plan' format.

Err. OK, what was it about my lesson plan that wasn't a lesson plan? I spent a few evenings on the internet discovering how to structure my plan into the kind now used by teachers.

I sent off a second draft. Almost there. A couple of constructive criticisms, another evening of work and one final rehash and I had it in shape - Malc passed it.

As I just hinted, any teacher would be instantly familiar with the format. Every activity is clearly explained with the aims of the exercise, the time to be taken, the results to be achieved and a way to assess the results. Also listed are the resources required, right down to pen and paper.

Now you might well argue in 'real life' we run sessions in a much more flexible manner, because we have the knowledge, experience and skill to do adapt quickly to a 'real person' when they meet us for training. That may well be true, but by formatting the planning for a session we do gain benefits:

we can identify and work on specific objectives to ensure that learning takes place

our knowledge, experience and planning skills are clearly demonstrated not only to any external assessor, but also to the trainee, and heaven forbid, anyone looking at the course after the event with a view to preparing a liability claim

having identified the key information using the format will make planning (and training) more accessible

Where there is a clear benefit is for a relatively inexperienced instructor. He or she will have a much better chance of doing a decent job following a carefully prepared plan. It took a long time but ultimately the DVSA moved in this direction with CBT and DAS training just a few years back.

Nevertheless, I do think there are limitations to the use of lesson plans.

One thing that we can be sure of is that when we encounter a trainee in person, we may have to revise our plan based on our assessment of their real-life abilities. Although my pre-training discussions with the trainee usually get the trainee onto the appropriate course, it's not unknown for me to have to change the course. Usually the trainee has underestimated their ability and I'm able to move them from the Confidence: BUILDER one-day course to one of my more advanced sessions. Only occasionally do I have to go the other way and drop to a less-technical course but it has happened.

But of course, I do have multiple lesson plans to deal with trainees with different needs and different wishlists. But it's not unusual for a lesson plan based approach to lead to a 'one size fits all' approach to training, forced onto trainers and trainees alike - CBT is a good example. For all the recent changes which encourage trainers to make the course 'client-centred', the course is so prescriptive, so heavily dominated by the DVSA's lesson-planning approach that says what can be done and in what order, that it has little room for flexibility or originality. But that's something else altogether and for another column.

Back to the BTEC story. I turned up for the practical assessment at the venue in Newbury, and was met by Malc, and introduced to Steve Dixey (formerly of the BMF - I've known him online for many years) and a gentleman who turned out to be an external moderator from Edexcel. I was on assessment with copper, writer and road tester, Ian Kerr.

Initially Steve and I spent some time going over my portfolio to fill in a few holes in my explanations and to answer a few penetrating questions. After a short Highway Code/Roadcraft multiple guess test, next up was an interesting exercise. Ian, as a class one police licence holder, was to assess my riding whilst I tried to ride to advanced standard. Malcolm would assess us both. And when we got back, I would also sit down and assess my ride.

I have every sympathy with trainees who ride badly when being watched because I do too. Entirely predictably, with all those eyes watching my every move, I rode like a plank. Ian concurred and said I would have barely scraped through with an advanced pass in his view.

But what WAS interesting, given our very different backgrounds and even though there were predictable areas of disagreement on progress and comfort braking, was that when Ian, Malcolm and I compared our marking sheets, they turned out to be eerily similar. The implication was that even though our backgrounds were very different (I was a self-taught courier and CBT/DAS trainer, Malc used to run the BMF 'Blue Riband' advanced scheme and Ian was a trained police rider), we all spotted the same mistakes and the same good points, and had very similar ideas of what constituted good technique.

After lunch, it was onto the mock lessons where I had to to brief, observe, assess, correct and finally debrief the 'nervous' rider accordingly. Each on-road training scenario was complex enough to be reasonably challenging whilst nothing I had not seen before. The main problem in teaching 'select chunks' from a broader lesson plan is determining exactly what can be taken as 'prior knowledge' and exactly where in the lesson we actually are. But Malcolm's own briefing and play-acting made it reasonably straightforward for me to determine what was expected.

Rather amusingly, I picked up an issue that wasn't part of the play-acting. I noted that Malc's foot position on the pegs could have led to a dragging toe at greater lean angles - there a danger that if you hit a bit of a bump, the foot can then get dragged backwards under the peg, breaking an ankle. So when I mentioned it, thinking it was part of the scenario, Malc looked a bit surprised. He said it was his normal riding style and that he'd check it out.

Many hours later, we finished for the day. It was tough enough to be a challenge, but it was also a thoroughly enjoyable day. Steve and Malcolm were efficient but friendly, our BTEC moderator sat quietly in the background and only occasionally asked a clarifying question, and it was of particularl interest to have along a police rider to watch the contrast in styles.

So, now all I have to do is wait for the the result!

(I'm pleased to say my BTEC was granted shortly afterwards.)

Kevin Williams
Survival Skills Rider Training

...because it's a jungle out there


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What is Survival Skills all about?

How are Survival Skills Courses put together and taught?
The Making of a Good Instructor - musings on my Driver Education course

Would a National Standard for advanced training be appropriate?
Writing a riding tip - what detail is necessary?
What to do if you've had an accident
Accident Statistics - dispelling some myths

Improver or advanced, pragmatism or perfection?
Piling on the miles
Compartmentalisation & Practice -  the key to learning new skills
Countersteering - Question and Answer

Braking Rules and Tips
Over-confidence and Riding at the Limit
Practice makes Perfect
The Danger of Misunderstanding
Learning from your Mistakes
A Moment of Inattention
Staying Warm
Staying Awake
Don't just ride for yourself, ride for others
Filtering - what's legal and how to do it
Cornering Problems 1 - Lean or Brake?
Springing into Summer - polishing off the winter rust
Group Riding - Rules and Tips
Awareness of Risk and Risk Management
Cornering Problems 4 - Stability and the "Point and Squirt" technique
Cornering Problems 3 - Staying out of trouble! Pro-active Braking or Acceleration Sense?
Cornering Problems 2 - Staying out of trouble
What is Risk?
Avoiding Diesel
The Vanishing Point - is it enough?
Posture - the key to smoother riding
When the Two Second Rule is not enough
Riding in the Dark
Roundabouts - straight lines, stability and safety
Slow Speed Control
Aquaplaning - what it is and how to deal with it
Rear Observation - when to & when not to!
Staying upright on icy roads
KISS - 'Keep it simple, Stupid' or Low Effort Biking
Overtaking Safety - avoiding vehicles turning right
Proactive versus Reactive Riding
Living with  Lifesavers
Which Foot? The Hendon Shuffle - Question and Answer
Carrying a passenger - Question and Answer
Riding in the rain
Riding in strong winds
Sorry Mate, I didn't see you - an analysis of SMIDSY accidents
Ever gone into a corner too hot and had it tighten up on you?
The Point & Squirt approach to corners
A time to live...
Target Fixation - Question and Answer
The Lurker, the Drifter and the Trimmer
The five most important things I learned as a courier
Overtaking - Questions and Answers
Precision riding - or keeping it simple?
Wide lines, tight lines, right lines - the law of Diminishing Returns
Surface Attraction
Euphoria - when your riding is just too good to be true
Straight line -vs- trail braking
Sit back, close your eyes, relax... and hope for the best
Before you overtake, do you...?
Do you need to blip the throttle on a downshift?
Holiday Riding Tips 1 - Dealing with hairpins (a new occasional series)
Holiday Riding Tips 2 - The (drive on the) Right Stuff
Why SMIDSYs happen
Avoiding dehydration - riding in hot weather
Riding errors - and avoiding them
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness - riding in fog
Where does Point and Squirt come from?
Overtaking - lifesavers and following distances
Offsiding - what is it, and why you should think before you do it!
Anger Management - dealing with "red mist" and "road rage"
That indefinable gloss
Overtaking on left-handers - experts only or best avoided?
Apex or Exit - what's important when cornering?

Developing 'Spidy Sense'

Armchair Riding - how to improve summer skills in winter

Working towards a BTEC in post-test instruction part 1

Working towards a BTEC in post-test instruction part 2

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