Standards Check – Learners Goals.
The first heading in the ‘Lesson Planning’ section of the ADI Standards
Check Assessment Sheet relates to ‘Learning Goals’.
The examiner needs to be satisfied that the following question is answered in
a positive way:
“Did the trainer identify the pupil’s learning goals and needs?”
This post examines:
• A definition of learning goals
• Process Goals and Outcome Goals
• Traditional versus client-centred goal setting
• Helping learners to set goals
• SMART goals
• Keeping to the learner’s agenda
• Obstacles when changing your approach
With thanks to John Farlham of Smart Driving.
A definition of Learning Goals
Learning goals are specific statements of what the learner intends to achieve during the lesson.
Goals can relate to knowledge, attitudes, feelings or skills.
The term ‘goals’ has been around for a long time; instructors using a traditional (teacher-centred) approach to training often use the term ‘teaching goals’ – however, when adopting a ‘client-centred’ approach we focus on ‘learning goals’ or ‘lesson goals’.
Goals can be long term, for example ‘To learn all the slow speed manoeuvres’ or ‘To pass the driving test’ – or short term, for example ‘To complete a reverse park exercise unaided’ or ‘To slow down early for the next three junctions’.
The difference between ‘teaching goals and ‘learning goals’ is simply their origin. ‘Teaching Goals’ originate with the instructor – ‘Learning Goals’ come from the learner.
Learner and instructor
In this publication the term ‘learner’ is used in a generic sense to mean ‘somebody who is learning’. The term instructor is used to denote the in-car teacher.
The learner in your car might be a provisional licence holder, a driving instructor, a fleet driver, a police driver or anyone else who is attending a training session with you to further develop their driving or teaching skills.
In a client-centred relationship both the instructor and learner will be learning and the relationship will be equal, honest and non-judgmental with no hierarchy.
Process and Outcome.
Goals can be considered in two ways: Process Goals and Outcome Goals.
Process goals define a series of actions that will lead towards the ultimate achievement of the outcome goal. For example, “I want to pass my driving test by Christmas” would be a clearly stated Outcome Goal – the end point of all the efforts between now and Christmas.
A Process Goal might be “I intend to take three driving lessons a week between now and Christmas” – this is a process by which the Outcome Goal will be reached.
The determination of Outcome Goals will require less input from the instructor than that of Process Goals.
It’s fairly easy for a learner to determine an outcome:
“Today, I want to complete some right turns’.
The agreed process, and specific steps by which the right-turns will be achieved will often come out of a conversation between the learner and instructor.
In this chapter the focus is mainly on ‘Outcome Goals’. Process Goals will however be touched on in an example.
An example of an Outcome Goal might be:
“Today I want to successfully negotiate right-turns”.
This subject could be part of a driving lesson, could take a whole driving lesson, or be spread over a number of lessons; the achievement of successful right turns becomes the goal for that lesson (or lessons) – the achievement target.
If the turns are completed to plan – then the outcome has been achieved.
Traditional goal setting.
In a traditional lesson the teaching goals (or aims and objectives) would be set by the instructor at the start of the lesson. The instructor would determine the goals based upon previous experience, previous practice and his/her training syllabus. When determining the goals the instructor
would also use a degree of skill and intuition in determining whether or not the learner appeared to be ready for a specific subject.
All of this works reasonably well – up to a point…
It can be very easy for an instructor to set targets that the learner feels unable to achieve. On the other hand, the targets could too easy – not offering a sufficient challenge. In either event the results will be similar – a lack of engagement and a barrier to learning.
Often instructors will check the targets with their pupils by saying something like :
“This is what we’re doing today is that okay with you?”
They believe that by doing this they are being ‘client-centred’, but nothing could be further from the truth. In many cases the learner will answer in the affirmative whether they agree or not (because teacher knows best!).
Client centred goal setting.
The examiners’ marking criteria for goal setting was mentioned at the start of this chapter:
“Did the trainer identify the pupil’s learning goals and needs?”
Notice that this is very different from:
“Did the trainer set appropriate learning goals?”
This second question might be considered to be more in line with ‘Aims/ Objectives’ found in the old Check-Test marking criteria.
The chances are that if there’s a good equal working relationship, with good rapport between the learner and the instructor, their goals for learning during the lesson would be similar.
Excellent rapport and an equal, non-judgemental relationship are essential for a good client-centred learning experience, but they are subjects for explanation elsewhere – here we are concentrating on goals.
Working with the learner.
How do you go about helping your learners to set goals for their lessons?
The simplest answer to this question is that you ask… And the most basic question is “What you want to achieve today?”
Now, at least one instructor will write to SmartDriving to say that if they ask the “What do you want to achieve today?” question the response will be either “don’t know” or something that is totally impractical like “I want to go on a motorway” (the motorway answer is an extreme example, but it’s suggested here to illustrate an answer that might, at first glance, seem totally inappropriate).
Here’s some good news…
If, in response to a ‘What do you want?” question, you’ve had answers that are similar to those above, you are already on the road towards client centred goal setting! But, it’s what you do next that counts.
When faced with a ‘don’t know’ or inappropriate answer it can be tempting to slip back into teacher-centred mode and make a decision about the lesson content, for example: “Well I think we should do some manoeuvres” or “Don’t be silly you can’t go on a motorway until you’ve passed your test.” But responses like this do nothing to engage the learner’s interest or to explore the answers that have been given.
Coming next we’ll look at the two example answers again.
“I don’t know”
The first example: “I don’t know.”
Instructor: “What you want to do today?”
Learner: “I don’t know”
Instructor: “Okay, so what needs to happen in order for you to know?”
Learner: “I don’t know – what you mean?”
Instructor: “Let’s start by thinking about your last lesson, how do
you feel things went…”
In this first example the teacher has now started a conversation that can uncover how this particular learner feels about their progress, what’s going well, what’s not going well and so on.
During this ‘recap’ conversation the instructor might use techniques such as scaling to help the learner to clarify his/her thoughts.
Next, we’ll consider the second example.
“I want to go on a motorway”
The second example: “I want to go on a motorway.”
Instructor: “What you want to do today?”
Learner: “I want to go on a motorway”
Instructor: “And if we were able to go onto a motorway today, how would that benefit your learning?”
Notice immediately that this instructor is not being dismissive – he’s seeking to understand the learner’s answer. We hear a lot about listening skills – perhaps the most basic listing skill of all is to acknowledge and respect what has been said.
If this learner is a provisional licence holder, it’s unlikely (but not impossible) that the lesson will take in a motorway – if it does the learner will not be driving. But this does not mean that it’s OK ‘not to listen’ when the learner answers the ‘What do you want to do?’ question with a ‘stupid answer’ (there’s no such thing as a stupid answer!).
The learner’s comment might well have been flippant, but equally there may be a valid reason for making it. Either way it’s your job to help learners understand that they are responsible for their own learning –just as they will be responsible for their own driving after the test has been passed.
This conversation could now go in many directions… And so let’s move on to consider a variation and development of the motorway conversation (which includes process goals).
“I want to go on a motorway” – Developed
Instructor: “What you want to do today?”
Learner: “I want to go on a motorway”
Instructor: “That’s good; but can you remind me about the rules for driving on a motorway.”
Learner: “I don’t mean a proper motorway I mean the by-pass.”
Instructor: “Oh… That makes more sense – before we discuss that,
I know that you’ve not done your theory test yet. One of the things that’s really important is to get the terminology right for different types of roads. Can you remind me what a motorway is?”
(Brief conversation about motorways would happen here)
Instructor: “OK, so you’d like to go on the dual-carriageway today,
the by-pass. What skills do you think you will need to drive safely on the bypass?”
Learner: “Mmm… I’ve not really thought about it, I just thought it might be fun. There are some roundabouts, and the traffic goes quite fast. Oh yes and the traffic lights”
Instructor: “And can you remind me what we did last lesson.”
Learner: “Moving off and then changing up to second and third gear.”
Instructor: “So given that we’ve not yet been into any traffic or
negotiated busy junctions and roundabouts, what are the chances of success if we do the dual-carriageway today?”
(Note that this conversation needs good rapport – otherwise a question
like the last one could sound judgemental or sarcastic.)
Learner: “Mmm.. That’s a good point I suppose.”
Instructor: “So when do you think it would be reasonable for us to set a target for you to drive on the by-pass?”
Learner: “Maybe in four or five lessons time. What do you think?”
Instructor: “Four or five lessons time is a possibility, but in my experience it’s likely to take nearer to 10 lessons.”
Instructor: “How will you feel after you have driven on the by-pass the first time?”
Learner: “Really fantastic I guess!”
Instructor: “And how soon would you like that feeling?”
Learner: “As soon as possible.”
Instructor: “So we need to put together a plan of how many lessons you can do each week and how much home practice you can get.”
Learner: “Well my dad said that now the lighter nights are coming he can take me out for two or three hours each week – and I think I could afford to take two lessons a week with you.”
Instructor: “OK, so it looks like you could be on the by-pass in three or four weeks. So bearing in mind the skills that you think you might need on the by-pass, what would you like to have accomplished by the end of this lesson?”
Learner: “It will be good if I could get onto a busier road.”
Instructor: “And what else?”
Learner: “I’d like to do some more right turns; we did a few left terns last week but only one right turn.”
Instructor: “That’s great; it looks like a plan has started to come together.”
This instructor and learner have determined some ideas on which the goals can be based. But they haven’t actually set any goals yet. However, there are foundations for the two types of goals mentioned earlier.
Process goals: The plan to do to lessons a week and three hours home practice.
Lesson outcome goals: Busy traffic and more right turns.
Now all that needs to happen is that the goals need to be made a little more concrete…
A brief conversation about the process goals might include deciding whether the targets for practice are reasonable, booking some lessons, deciding when the home practice will be and coming up with contingency plans in the event of other things getting in the way.
Lesson outcome goals
Before talking about the lesson goals it’s important to recognise this and valuable learning has probably already taken place in this lesson.
It’s important that the learner has a realistic idea about time scales and possibilities. The learner has also started to take responsibility for his own learning.
In terms of the lesson goals our learner has stated that he would like to drive in busy traffic and do more right turns, so what we need to do now is to discuss these in detail – a good model for this is the SMART criteria for goal setting.
SMART is an acronym that can help you remember the key factors involved in formulating really useful goals. I prefer to think of them as, ‘Positively SMART’ goals (explained below).
If you do a little research, you’ll soon discover that the acronym ‘SMART’ has a number of slightly different variations that can be used to provide comprehensive definition for goal setting. The specific SMART model you choose to use will depend on the context of the activity.
These are some of the variations of the meaning of each letter:
S – Specific, Significant, Stretching
M – Measurable, Meaningful, Motivational
A – Agreed upon, Attainable, Achievable, Acceptable, Action-oriented
R – Realistic, Relevant, Reasonable, Rewarding, Results-oriented
T – Time-based, Timely, Tangible, Trackable
Positively SMART goals
I like to add the word ‘Positively’ in front of SMART as a reminder that goals should be phrased in the positive as opposed to the negative – they are about what you want to achieve not what you want to avoid.
“I don’t want to fail my test this year” – becomes – “I want to pass my test this year”
“Turning right without cutting the corner” – becomes – “Keeping well to my own side of the road when turning right”
“Without forgetting my mirrors” – becomes – “Remembering to check my mirrors”
“I won’t stall at roundabouts” – becomes – “I will move off under full control at roundabouts”
Remember that you are working with your learner’s goals, not yours, so you will probably need to ask questions to clarify the meanings.
When goals are specific, as opposed to general, there is a much greater chance of them being accomplished. “What do you want to achieve?”
(If you like playing with language try “What would you like to have achieved by the end of this lesson?” and notice the difference in the level of thinking).
This question gives a general overview of where you are heading. An example of a general goal that answers the “What do you want to achieve?” question might be something like: “I want to reverse round the corner to the left” – but this doesn’t give a lot of detail. You can explore the detail of this goal using further questions:
• What kind of corner?
• How fast?
• How accurate?
• When would you like to have mastered this goal?
• Why is this goal important?
• What help will be needed?
• What are the benefits?
After discussing the issues around these questions a more specific goal might end up as something like:
“By the end of this lesson I want to reverse around a sweeping corner to the left accurately and under full control using my clutch control and observation skills. I will then have another skill for the driving test and beyond.”
The goal sounds a bit ‘wordy’ when written out formally like this but it is fully formed and has a much clearer focus. It might be more easily digestible as bullet points…
“I want to reverse around a sweeping corner to the left:
• With good clutch control
• With proper observation
• To prepare for the test an beyond”
In stating our specific goal we’ve already started to look at making it measurable with words like ‘accurately’, ‘control’ and ‘observation skills’.
But we need to know a little more detail about what these terms mean.
Making goals measurable answers questions such as:
• How will I know when I’m achieving it to the desired standard?
• Do I need external verification?
• What can I measure for myself?
So it might be determined that accurately means ‘within 45 cm of the kerb’, control might mean ‘smoothly at walking pace’, observation skills could be defined as ‘seeing any other road user that might be affected by the manoeuvre’.
Achievable or Attainable:
It’s all very well coming up with specific goals, however, are the goals achievable.
• Is there enough time to achieve this goal?
• What’s the average time taken to achieve this goal?
• Will it be possible for me to achieve this goal?
• Will the location we choose affect the outcome?
If the goals are not achievable it will be difficult to maintain motivation.
It might be possible to achieve a specific goal, but the expectation could be unrealistic and dependent on too many variable factors.
• Do I have the required sub-skills to tackle this goal?
• Is there a suitable location to achieve this goal?
• What other factors might get in the way?
By defining a timeframe that the achievement of goals there is a sense of challenge – without a timeframe goal is simply wish.
Of course, by setting a timeframe you also set an element of risk “What if the goal is achieved by this timeframe, does that mean I’m a failure?” this is why taking time to ensure that the other factors related to SMART goal setting are considered in detail.
• What is our target time to complete this goal?
• What might prevent the completion in this timeframe?
• Is this timeframe realistic bearing in mind the factors discussed so far?
Ticking the SMART boxes
Note that you will not always ‘tick the boxes’ in order. For example if time was short the process might start with “What is the time frame – is there enough time today?” (If not, when?)
Exploring the goals.
Let’s take a look at how the ‘goal ideas’ from above might be transformed into something that is more solid.
Instructor: “Okay, let me check… You say you’d like to drive in some busy traffic and do some more right turns, is that correct?”
Instructor: When you say busy traffic, how busy specifically, for example how would you feel about driving in the town centre?”
Notice that the last question is ‘loaded’ with info from the teacher’s agenda [reference to town centre] and so it could be argued that it is not client centred, but it is designed to help the learner explore his goal).
Learner: “Oh no… Not that busy. Maybe round the estate near where I live… Would that be okay?”
Instructor: “Do you feel that you will be able to cope with the traffic there today?”
Learner: “Yes I think so.”
Instructor: “Good. And how will the busy traffic and the right turns help you towards your goal of driving on the dual-carriageway?”
Learner: “It’ll help me gain some of the skills that I need for driving when there are more people around.”
Instructor: “That sounds good to me. Now, when you say you want to do more right turns, do you mean right turns in the busier traffic or right turns on the quieter roads?”
Learner: “Can we start on the quieter roads and see how I get on?”
Instructor: “Absolutely… Bearing in mind how we were getting on last week, how much of this you think it’s realistic to you to do for yourself today – without me interrupting too much?”
Learner: “Could you help me a little bit just to get started – but then let me have a go for myself?”
Instructor: “OK – But how about if we do a deal… I’ll help you if you help me?
Learner: “What do you mean?”
Instructor: “Can you let me know when you feel ready to have a go at any of this yourself?”
Learner: “No problem.”
Instructor: “Now as you know we only have an hour-and-a-half for today’s lesson, so on a scale of 0 to 10 how confident do you feel that you will be able achieve the busier traffic and right turns
before the end of the lesson?”
Instructor: “Mmm… About an eight.”
Instructor: “And are you happy with eight?”
Instructor: “Finally before we move off – how will you know when you’ve reached your eight?”
Learner: “That’s easy, it will feel right because I’ll be able to do the right turns without your help and I’ll be starting to feel comfortable when there are more cars around me.”
The conversation above covers all of the SMART criteria
The learner’s agenda.
When you engage in client centred training there is only one agenda – the client’s!
In the conversation above you will notice that it is the learner who develops the ideas. The instructor simply asks questions and tries not to ‘lead’ the conversation.
There are several benefits to working with the client’s agenda; not least is that their motivation to learn is likely to be greater because they will feel a sense of ownership of the learning.
Predetermined lesson topics.
In the examples of exploring the learner’s goals there is a ‘clean sheet’ start (“What do you want to achieve?”) – but on some occasions there will be a predetermined topic, perhaps something agreed the week before, or someone who has approached you for help with a specific topic. In these cases the lesson might start by exploring the relevance of the exercise.
• What does the learner already know about the subject?
• What do they hope to achieve during the lesson?
• What excites or frightens them about the lesson?
• How and where they would like to do it?
• What, if any, input they would need from the instructor?
The things you discuss will vary from person to person and topic to topic.
The important issue is that you need to discover what they would like to achieve and what is motivating them to achieve it.