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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.)
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