We now know--and we can't pretend we don't know--that M$F curriculum has been found to be ineffective in producing safer riders. And, as the riding season approaches, it's a good time to ask yourself what the hell you're doing out there if not producing safer riders. You should know, if you've been reading the blog in the past, that outside-in efforts (helmets, ABS, etc.) aren't producing the safety levels people thought they would. In fact, the thing that has the best possibility of creating safer riders is better training in hazard awareness/risk perception and strategies for avoiding danger. Which, if you've been reading the blog for over a year, you know is one of the key things removed or minimized by the BRC.
But what can you do since you're trapped by the M$F into using their curriculum? Here's an idea that can make the course more effective in teaching safety and not just operation. In fact, it teaches operation in context of safety:
One of the sources for the illustrations last week was the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s manual, Tuning Up, which isn’t—as it sounds—for the experienced rider but is a riding instruction guide. Canada operates quite differently than the USA and ICBC is sort of like a cross between our DMVs and insurance companies. It’s what’s called a “provincial crown corporation” and provides universal insurance to road operators in BC and is also responsible for vehicle registration and licensing and driver licensing.
Unlike MOM or the BRC handbook, it’s not afraid of using as many pages as it needs to get the job done and done right. And what a job it does! There are many things in there that I think rider education programs could benefit from and I strongly suggest administrators take a look at it: http://www.icbc.com/licensing/lic_ut...tuningup_r.asp
I was particularly impressed with the “Rate Yourself” sections at the end of each lesson—and the supervisor (coach) rates the student at every step of the way as well. The student is then directed to compare their evaluation with the coaches. To me this is an example of both student-centered and adult-learning but gives the student more helpful feedback without being too directive.
For example, the session on gears and brakes (session 7) asks the student to rate themselves (1-needs work; 2-getting closer; 3-competent) on various questions like: Shifts gears smoothly, Upshifts without losing road speed; Downshifts smoothly, avoiding sudden deceleration; Keeps eyes up; Maintains a straight riding path.
This I think is an incredible improvement over M$F curriculum: the self-rating (and the coach’s rating) gives the student on-going evaluation. Unlike the touchy-feely Rider’s Edge attempt, this gets the student to look at the specific skills and in a positive way (needs work/getting closer) rate themselves as they progress. It allows the very kind of processing that Rider’s Edge thinks is important but, instead of feelings, it’s asking for a more rational assessment. And the coach is also giving feedback that can be reflected on after the exercise—comparisons made and the student is able to see how closely their judgment matches an expert’s opinion.
That it is given via paper is gentler—the student can compare the two in private, mull it over if there’s discrepancies and approach the coach to discuss it. And that, too, addresses some of the problems instructors report—that some students become angry because even the effort to draw them to the side is too public. If the student has consistently received 1 and 2, it’s less likely they’ll experience the shock and upset some riders feel when they are approached by the instructor in terms of additional tutoring or counseling out—or why they failed the course at the end. It protects the instructor then as much as it can help the student.
Another advantages is that the written on-going evaluations are very simple—just a check mark. In this way it’s adult-learning as well: the instructor isn’t giving a lot of direction—just a simple heads up. It puts it on the student, then, to seek out more information if they desire. Otoh, the instructor still can take further steps for more egregious errors. So this is particularly beneficial for the mediocre student—the one that doesn’t obviously err but isn’t doing splendidly. Iow, it can increase positive feedback in an unobtrusive, lasting way as well as a gentle pointing out of what needs to be improved.
While I admit it adds time and effort on the instructor’s part, the benefits may outweigh the disadvantages. Particularly since it’s a way of improving instructor performance—the instructors really do have to be able to determine how each rider is doing and it’s less likely that a student will slip through the cracks.
But what I like best about the on-going self-ratings is what it asks. The questions focus on exactly the things that will make the rider safer and will make the rider competent. Iow, while the instructor does, I’m sure, emphasize smoothness and keeping head and eyes up, the written evaluation underscores that is truly what is important and isn’t mixed in with everything else that’s said about the logistics of the exercise or praise etc. Iow, at the end, the student is reminded about what were the objectives of the exercises. The take-away, then, is exactly where rider ed needs to be improved: a rider’s understanding of what is most important about riding.
Furthermore, from the very beginning, the ICBC includes road behavior like checking mirrors—the student is trained as they will be riding on the road instead of a parking lot. The basic skills, then, are inseparable from basic safety behavior on the road. And that’s excellent imo.
These two things—the student rating themselves and the inclusion of road safe behavior—alone fills in a terrible gap in the M$F BRC today. However, that’s not the only way the ICBC is far superior.
Related to this is the “Self-Check” called “Exploring your risk profile” that are scattered throughout. Since M$F’s members want the rider to admit they are responsible for their own ride as a liability protection, this is something that M$F really should consider adding in. For example, the first one is at the beginning of Session 10 Basic Skills Review. There is a series of statements on both ends of a continuum—which is far more effective than a numbering system as it allows greater precision in response. The questions are ones that get at the heart of the risks of riding, too. For example: “I am realistic about my riding skills is paired with I can rely on my riding skills to get me out of any kind of trouble”; If I see someone approaching a crosswalk, I’ll prepare to stop” is paired with “If I see someone approaching a crosswalk, I’ll speed up to get through it first.” The questions force not only hazard awareness thinking but the student to examine what they believe about taking risks—and the possible answers seem to me to be far better classroom discussion starters.
Session 17’s self-check “Exploring your risk profile, part 3” is particularly helpful, imo. It get at drinking behavior, riding with an illness or being tired, gear, and emotional factors that can affect safety.
Once again, this is what adult-learning and student-centered learning is supposed to be. Unlike Ochs, Raines and the others who worked on the BRC understood it, this truly allows students to take control of their own learning by providing some way for them to self-measure their learning as it progresses and decide what they want from it.
But it also functions as a way instructors can ascertain, more accurately, how students are understanding classroom material and if they are taking it to heart: riskier choices—particularly if many share the same clusters—could be used to adjust what the instructor emphasizes in class.
And, it occurs to me, that the answer sheets could also be further liability protection for the program sponsors and curriculum developers: the student’s self-admitted risk profile is there on paper to be used to defend instructors, the program providers and so forth. If a student goes out and kills themselves in a curve and the risk profile indicates that’s exactly what he thinks he’ll do when he gets a chance, it helps you defend yourself—that is, if the curriculum addresses the risk areas. It suggests that the rider had the opportunity to learn but refused to listen and adjust behavior.
In all ways, then, the risk profiles are a good thing to add into a rider ed course—but especially good to make the student apply to their own lives what is being taught in the course.
But that, too, isn’t all that’s better about the ICBC: Interestingly, something like SEE—only better—is found in the manual: See-Think-Do. As the manual explains in “Using Tuning Up” it’s meant to “help the rider develop a systematic way of seeing the riding environment, thinking about it and taking appropriate riding actions”. The acronym still isn’t as good as SIPDE as it still conflates too much into “Think” but thinking is far more connotative for the processes involved than “evaluate” as that suggests even less. And “Do” is a much more positive and friendly word that “Execute” which, of course, does have that connotation of violent death.
While there’s no indication that this is where Ochs got SEE from and simply reworded it, it does show that the same idea—and the exact same way of truncating SIPDE—is not M$F’s sole provenance either. In a way, this is immaterial as TOMS doesn’t use the acronym.
The “Reminders” and “Try This” are great—particularly since they are in the manual so a rider can go back after the class and revisit them—something the current BRC handbook does not have. The sections “Choosing a route” is terrific—even though USA courses are not on-the-road, this is excellent information for a new rider to have once they leave the course. It suggests a safe progression, what the rider should look for and plan beforehand in setting a route for their level of ability.
And the organization of the material is much more useful and contemporary—far more TOMS than BRC—in the pull-outs and boxes that make it easier for students to find what they are looking for.
The ICBC, though, excels in another way—it has low traffic, moderate traffic and higher speed practice sessions—a very good on-the-road component. While this ain’t happening soon in the USA, there’s some exercises that can be used in USA curriculums:
In Session 12 Intersections, there’s a very handy observation exercise that could be adapted and assigned at the end of the first classroom session and discussed at the beginning of the next one. Students are directed to spend at least 10-15 mins at a busy intersection with traffic lights. “watch and rate the drivers on how well they observe, communicate and follow the rules” and they are directed to rate at least 10 drivers. They are to notice these types of things: whether a driver scans the intersection before moving; signals well ahead, stops before the stop line, follows the right-ofway rules, uses correct lane tracking; speed; and stopping for a yellow light “if it is safe”. Session 13 involves curve research where the student is directed to specifically note the path vehicles take around curves, the speed they go, and whether and when drivers apply their brakes.
Iow, the student—once again the best kind of adult-learning/student-centered teaching—is given the opportunity to look at normal traffic from a rider’s perspective before attempting to ride in traffic. To re-evaluate and re-see what they take for granted in their cars. And what the student is directed to look at goes directly to the heart of what can save their lives: better hazard awareness and risk perception.
Since these exercises take place apart from the course, there’s no reason why a safety-minded instructor/program wouldn’t add these into the course.
And, of course, the ICBC includes so much of the information that the RETS-DOT committee and Ochs/Raines didn’t feel was important to safety—things like correcting one’s path in a curve, how exactly to start on a hill and so forth.
All in all, I think any rider educator—instructor or administrator—will benefit from reading the ICBC manual. And, I think, it’s going to be abundantly clear that the M$F curriculum can do much better than it is at creating a safety-conscious and skilled rider than they do now.
It should be noted that the British Columbia curriculum (this manual is just in addition to the actual riding course) was the only one where a correlation between effectiveness and training was found by researchers. And, it should be noted as well, that despite a similar boom in motorcycle sales and registrations, Canada’s motorcyclists are not having the enormous, out-of-proportion increases in fatalities.
Iow, there just might be a connection between Canadian curriculum—whether in manual or course—and safer riding. For that reason alone, it might be worthwhile looking at the ICBC manual since, because of an alleged verbal agreement with the CSC president and Tim Buche, we cannot get or use the Canadian materials south of the border.