Median average UK salary
26th May 2023
Purposeful questions
12th June 2023

Trainee driving instructor question

In this blog, the franchise owner, Tom Ingram, gives some insight into his vision of how the BIG TOM driving training programme assists customers. 


“I imagine it must be a quite confusing experience when PDI’s and ADI’s see all of the social media posts and paid ads about passing the qualifying tests and Standards Checks. Having been qualified now for 14 years and running a very successful driving school, I know how I create value for pupils – and looking at the content of some of the marketing out there, it is jaw-dropping.  


Some of the content makes me more confused having taken the time to actually read it. Here is an example from yesterday (the author obviously staying anonymous): 


Thought I’d share this.

I had a PDI today ask me, “If my pupil wants a prompt for something like checking mirrors, how long should we practice this for?”

So we discussed OUTCOMES.

As the instructor, it’s important to see yourself as the person responsible for instigating appropriate change, to aid the development of your learners.

We need to provide something different than ‘we’ll go for a drive and see what happens’, and it benefits no one to persist with a stale level of help.

Your lesson plan needs to constantly evolve and adapt, to stay in-line with the constantly changing needs of your learner. Their levels of confident and competence will spike as your lesson progresses – so it’s important that you keep up with this.

This is where short phases of practice in search of outcomes come into play.

For example:
Your learner agrees that they’d like you to prompt them for using their left mirror before turning left.

This prompt should be designed to make them THINK – something like “any cyclists?” will knit together their theoretical knowledge of risk, and the practical task in hand.

“Which mirror do you need now” will not, it will only encourage them to look at a piece of glass for your benefit.

But how long do we need to use this prompt for?

What you currently don’t know is… whether it will work with a prompt or not – the phase of practice you’re about to conduct will enable you to arrive at an outcome:

It works with a prompt! OR
It doesn’t seem to be working very well!

The moment you arrive at the outcome, is the moment for your plan to adapt.

* If it worked – it’s time to challenge them further.

* If it’s not working – it’s time to support them further.

So when setting up a phase of practice with help, always take into account how long you think it will take to arrive at the next outcome – this will help you stay in-line with those ever changing needs.

Hope that helps someone! 


The initial question from the PDI is understandable, simple, and straightforward and it really deserves an answer with equal clarity. Why do some trainers feel the need to make things so complicated? If you answer a pupil who is learning to drive with this degree of complexity I very much doubt you will retain that pupil for very long. People, and by that I mean, everyone, want a simple answer to a simple question. For sure, there are some subjects relating to driving where there is a grey area, but the question of: “If my pupil wants a prompt for something like checking mirrors, how long should we practice this for?” is not one of them. 


When I see posts on social media such as the above example, all it makes me think is that the author is treating the art of providing driving instruction like academia, like it is solving an equation. If you can recall your school days, you will either have been a student who relishes in academia or not. I did not. So when my maths teacher started explaining how to solve these equations going through it step by step, about halfway through, my brain was so mushed up, I could not keep up. That is exactly how I feel reading that explanation above. What on earth does it mean? So my maths teacher spent something like 10 minutes methodically going through all the stages of solving the equation, and at the end of investing that time and effort a certain percentage of the class was sitting there feeling pretty stupid, worthless, humiliated, ashamed, embarrassed and incapable. And the author above talks about “outcomes”, even putting the word in capital letters. 


My interpretation of what the author is suggesting is the following. “Well, you need to give some thought as to what is a reasonable amount of time that you think prompting for mirrors should start to sink in with the pupil – let’s say 10 minutes. Try it for 10 minutes, and then ease off a bit and depending on how they then do the mirrors, take it from there.”  


But from my point of view, learning has to be meaningful if as driving instructors we want to sleep well at night. And for sure, there are obstacles to learning, and this is a subject that I am pretty passionate about. But let’s not overcomplicate matters unnecessarily. As a driving instructor, your pupil is paying to be sat next to you. You have their undivided attention (if you don’t, you need to take a serious look at how effectively you communicate as there is only you and the pupil in the car). Your pupil is motivated, and keen to learn. Learning to drive is going to massively benefit your pupil and they know it.  


So how can a trainer of a PDI help the PDI discover the answer to this very simple question?  Firstly we should invite the PDI to consider the experience they went through for ‘use of mirrors’ when training for their Part 2: the explanation given, the practice using commentary driving, the use of prompts from the trainer. That was real, it happened with them, they could consider how long that took them to habitually use mirrors effectively and independently. Secondly, we have Element 6.6.2 “Use a programme of role play”. Any good trainer would be able to realistically and accurately model a pupil with a need to develop effective use of mirrors. This need not take long, with good simulation, the PDI can experience use of those prompts with one (role-played) pupil who responds well to the prompts, and another pupil who does not. For me, the far more interesting scenario is the pupil who does not because that then needs some unpacking like peeling back the layers of an onion. But that wasn’t the question being asked, the question related to how long to prompt for mirrors. 



This is not complex, no one needs to be an academic, we are effectively making use of tried and tested techniques to aid learning. We are using the DVSA standards to guide our work, just like the PDI should be when they qualify as an ADI.  


I would ask my PDI to consider the following. You have explained something to a pupil (use of mirrors), you may have demonstrated using them by driving around for 5 minutes, you have invited questions to increase knowledge and understanding, they KNOW what is expected. You then prompt them a bit for 5-10 minutes, while they drive, and they instantly get the idea of what is expected.  It may not be perfection yet, but they get it. The pupil asks a question or two for further clarification. Your communication is technically correct and very clear. When your pupil practises using mirrors, your feedback is well-timed, accurate and non-judgemental. Your pupil knows the behaviour is expected within the DVSA driving standard, they know why and how, and they know it will be expected at the time of the driving test and then for all the driving done once, they have passed the driving test. The relevance and context are crystal clear.  


If you read the above and like the idea of treating driving instruction like an art rather than a mathematical equation, get in touch, I would love to hear from you.” 


Enquiries for the BIG TOM Driving School Franchise: 01928 508 833