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From the Archives – BTEC Part 2

One of the things I get asked from time to time is how I obtained my BTEC in advanced motorcycle instruction. This is the second part which covers the assessment of practical training carried out by Malcolm Palmer and Steve Dixey.

A couple of weeks before the second practical assessment part of the BTEC, Malc dropped a couple of training scenarios in the 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.

So of course, because of the pressure of work through August and September , I left everything to the last minute. When I looked at the first scenario (fairly new rider having problems with bends and following boyfriend), 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”.

Yet another email to Malc got a helpful reply:

“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 drafts later, I had fleshed out that bald statement and presented a lesson plan.

Back came the reply – close but no cigar. Another evening and one final rehash and I had it. 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, a way to assess the results and 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 might be true for an experienced instructor but the planning format gives us major benefits: 1. We can identify and work on specific objectives to ensure that learning takes place; 2. 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). 3. Having identified the key information using the format will make planning (and training) more accessible.

Furthermore, a relatively inexperienced instructor will have a much better chance of doing a decent job if he/she follows a carefully prepared plan. In my opinion this is something that current instructor training would be well advised to look at.

I do think that taken to extremes there is a danger that this kind of approach forces a “one size fits all” training onto riders and instructors alike in the same way that CBT does, and takes away individuality, but that’s something else altogether and for another column.

Back to tbe BTEC. I turned up at the venue in Newbury, and was met by Malc and introduced to Steve Dixey from the BMF (in person – 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 I spent a little time going over my portfolio with Steve 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 and I was to try to ride to advanced standard, and Malcolm would assess us both. When we got back Ian and I sat down independently and assessed my ride.

Predictably I rode like a plank with all the eyes watching my every move and barely scraped through with an advanced pass so I have every sympathy with the trainees when they have a bad ride. Interestingly given our very different backgrounds, even though there were predictable areas of disagreement on progress and comfort braking, our marking sheets of the ride were eerily similar.

After lunch, we ran through the mock lessons. The 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” of the lesson plan as prepared is determining exactly what is to be taken as seen and said, and exactly where we are in the lesson, but Malcolm’s briefing and play-acting made it reasonably straightforward for me to determine exactly what was expected of me and to brief and debrief the nervous” rider accordingly.

It was a moderately tough but thoroughly enjoyable day. Steve and Malcolm were efficient but friendly, and it was interesting to have along a police rider as a contrast in styles.

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

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