I love my driving lessons

In this blog from Tom Ingram (Owner of BIG TOM Driving School), he discusses the benefits of using a driving instructor that can adapt to your learning needs.


If I asked you how would your Mum or Dad teach you to change a punctured car tyre, how would they go about it?  Your parents know you very well, they know how you tick.  They will instantly be able to think of ways in which to get the message across to you.

I’m not asking you to imagine or explain how you go about changing a tyre, I’m asking you HOW to practically change a tyre.  The distinction is that this is not a knowledge test, a test of how well you can recall details.  Instead you are being asked to recall a sequence of ACTIONS, and the reason why they are done in a particular order, to ENABLE you to change the tyre.  You will then either be prepared to try it out, or not.  Some will be quite content with the theory knowledge and others wont be satisfied they have learnt it until they actually try it out. 

So in this simple example of changing a tyre, I am introducing to you the idea that the learning has to actually mean something to you, you have to connect with it in such a way that goes beyond recalling of facts. The goal here is to effectively, safely change a tyre – which involves the mental skills of remembering a sequence and the reasons for it, as well as the practical skills of changing the tyre.  I am suggesting that your parents will know very well the best ways in which to facilitate your learning this new skill.  I am also raising the question of whether you tend to be content with knowing knowledge for the sake of having the theory in your head, or whether you realise that practical skills do actually require practical practise.

The relevance this has on learning to drive is that to become an effective, safe driver, it will involve you learning mentally “what to do” as well as turning those thought processes into action so that the practical skills can also be developed.   Driving is not an activity centred around intelligence.  There are different techniques available to facilitate the required learning.

One technique that we use here at BIG TOM is called “commentary driving”.  It is very empowering to pupils as it helps them to understand this balance between the cognitive processes involved in driving (anticipation, judgement, spatial awareness, identification, assessment, decision making, reflection) as well as the practical skills (multi-tasking, co-ordination, fine motor skills, posture, use of the senses).  When a pupil sees a demonstration of commentary driving by the driving instructor, they can immediately relate to the goal, and they are then encouraged to practise it in a stress-free manner with no criticism of any errors made.  The benefit for the pupil is that they can recognise instantly this need to think about what is needed to do, before they start actually doing it….. just like you would do if you were about to embark on changing that tyre.  This skill of thinking PRIOR to taking driving actions is essential to develop in order to sustain road safety for you in the long term.  So pupils will describe what they see around the vehicle, and then explain what they need to do BECAUSE of what they have seen.  It might involve recognising hazards, assessing risk, identifying a speed limit change, planning for a roundabout by using the signs and road markings, choosing options based on their preferences, anticipating the actions of others….. but the common theme is that there is methodical thought going on before they take action such as change speed/direction or take observations.  They are not checking the central mirror every 8 seconds while driving so as to show an examiner that they are checking the mirror (albeit for no apparent reason).

It is a practical example of how pupils on the BIG TOM Intensive Driving Course are encouraged to develop the skill of meaningful and personalised learning in order to help them drive safely.   It complements very well with the established learning technique of verbal reasoning that pupils are naturally often very happy to do while they drive around.  And this is the key to effective learning; identifying techniques that enable a pupil to practise within a stress-free environment that is surrounded in skill development rather than focussing on driving faults.   

BIG TOM Driving School  Enquiries: Admin@BIGTOM.org.uk  Sales: 07756 071 464



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