Think back to your elementary school classroom. Was it a peaceful, controlled, and relaxed environment? Much to the chagrin of your teacher, probably not. Teaching children is an important job that comes with a huge set of challenges. Luckily for you, your professional driver trainers don’t face the same difficulties as elementary school teachers. That’s not to say that teaching adults is easy. In fact, teaching adults comes with a whole new set of hurdles. If your trainers are aware of the do’s and don’ts, they can avoid common mistakes and more effectively train your adult learners to be safe, professional drivers.
Adult Learning 101
Adults don’t learn the exact same way children do. If you approach new driver training the way an elementary school teacher approaches teaching 5th grade math, you’ll frustrate everyone involved. These differences are why the psychological field of adult learning theory exists.
Adult learning theory is complex and has been studied by psychologists for decades. Your trainers don’t have to be experts on the psychology of learning, but some background knowledge can have an immense impact on your trainers’ success. Here are some basic adult-learning principles that every driver trainer should understand:
- Adults Want To Know Why
We call this W.I.I.F.M. (“What’s In It For Me?”). Unlike very young children in a classroom setting, adults want to know why they should bother learning something. When adults know how they can benefit from learning something new, they’re much more likely to invest time and energy into it.
- Adults Learn by Making Mistakes
Training is all about teaching people skills, and we learn skills by practicing them. Part of practice is making mistakes. Your drivers need hands-on practice and they need to make mistakes while they’re on the closed course. This will better prepare them for safe driving where it really counts.
- Adults Want to Know The Relevance
Unlike children, adults have a whole lifetime of experiences to draw from and connect new information to. Adults learn best when new skills are connected to things they already know.
The 3 Biggest Mistakes Trainers Make
Like we said, your trainers don’t have to be experts in adult learning to develop a fleet of safe, defensive, and competent drivers. However, left to their own devices nearly every trainer - new or experienced - will make these three costly mistakes.
- Handing New Drivers The Answers
Adults don’t learn when you just spoon-feed them answers. Sure, it will make your trainees happy if they don’t have to work to learn new material, but adults learn best when they’re engaged. It’s called discovery theory, and it’s founded upon the idea that if we find things out on our own and look into problems, we learn it more deeply and remember it longer. Your trainers should ask open-ended questions to get new drivers thinking. They should let new drivers make mistakes. And, they should make new drivers work for the answers.
- Being a Poor Role Model
Instructors are role models. Trainees watch what their trainers do, what they say, and how they say it. They pick-up on subtitles and attitudes towards your company, policies, and procedures. They often adopt these attitudes as their own. That’s why your trainers must exude positivity and excitement about the training process.
- Failing to Preach the Relevance
Adult learners want to know the value in something before they exert the effort to learn it. That’s why the biggest mistake a trainer can make is not making the benefits clear from the beginning. Before your new drivers learn any skill, your trainers should explain the importance of the skill, why it matters, and how it will make the trainees’ lives easier.
Training is a Skill
Training is all about teaching skills. However, training in and of itself is a skill. Nobody is born a great trainer - people need proper instruction and practice. If you want the best results for your driver training program, we recommend a train-the-trainer model like LLLC Instructor Certification. The most effective train-the-trainer programs will teach your trainers relevant adult learning theories and best-practices while simultaneously offering practice coaching adult learners in defensive driving. Having highly-skilled trainers is a key component to building your fleet of all-star drivers.