Backseat Instructional Designer

The Driving Lesson

Early last Saturday morning, I was the passenger, a.k.a. backseat driver, as my husband was giving my almost-sixteen-year-old daughter a driving lesson. I was prepared to be a silent observer, but how could I pass up the opportunity for a real-life case study? I literally started writing this blog in the backseat of the car because I couldn’t believe what was happening before my eyes...experiential learning at it’s best!

It’s All about Practice!

While I was being the silent observer, I instinctively started conducting a learner and performance analysis. (I love this stuff!) I guess it’s really true that I live my profession. Okay, back to the story...

After she went around the parking lot a few times, and went around corners and speed bumps too fast and short-stopping at stop signs to check if cars are coming, I determined that my assessment was correct.

She knew what to do because she passed the written test with a near-perfect score. The performance issue was due to not knowing how to apply the knowledge that she learned in the driver’s manual and structured practice...practice...practice!

More knowledge wasn’t going to make her a good driver. So, my husband telling her how to do this and do that wasn’t working as well as he anticipated. My daughter needed practical application that had the right content, structure, and delivery to achieve desired results.

The desired results were not going to be achieved unless an adjustment to the instructional method was made quickly! Although there’s no time to fix the content, the structure could have been tweaked immediately.

I was thinking that an experienced “trainer” could make this adjustment in real-time. By the way, my husband’s delivery was impressive! He was extremely patient. He never elevated his voice even when he expressed his concern for those curves she almost jumped or the speed bumps that were knocking his wheels out of alignment.

Here Comes the Trainer

But guess what? There was an experienced trainer sitting in the backseat...ME!

I couldn’t resist offering expert advice because learning to drive is one of the most impactful learning experiences in our lives. I thought, “Why not use the skills that I use to help businesses and individuals make learning extraordinary to help my daughter learn how to drive?’ Her being a good driver is extremely important because one day she’s going to have to chauffeur me around. She has to get this right :-)!

Tell Me...Show Me...Let Me

My suggestion was to offer a tried-and-true instructional technique that I use called...Tell me, Show me, Let me. This technique is when someone delivers content to the learner, demonstrates what was shared, and then lets the learner practice the skills that he or she just learned about and observed.

Tell Me...Show Me...Let Me, allows the learner to grasp the concept and then practice it while getting feedback to make immediate corrections. It’s a great concept for learning skills that are based on a process, task, or procedure.

I suggested to my husband that since he’s been trying to tell my daughter what she was or wasn’t doing well maybe he should show her how to navigate the parking lot, the right way, and then let her to do it again after seeing him do it. During her practice after the demonstration, he could then offer feedback.

Guess what? They accepted my recommendation and switched seats. My husband demonstrated how she should apply what she learned in the driver’s manual (well sort of...I’ll tell you more in a second. So...keep reading the next section!)

After he demonstrated, they switched places, and it was a success!!! She improved her performance and is on her way to her next driving lesson next week.

Of course, I have to share how this experience helped me in better communicating how instructional design is so important to making learning extraordinary.

Practical Applications from the Backseat

Here are a few principles that I teach during my train-the-trainer courses, acting out in real life. It’s always good to have real-life examples of concepts in training. This driving lesson provided me with four practical applications of instructional design principles.

Effective training has the right structure, contentmaterials, and delivery. My daughter had the right content from learning the road rules in the driver’s manual. We all know that knowing the rules is totally different than applying them...especially while operating a vehicle. The real learning happens once you get behind the wheel.

This same concept happens when we attend training. We gain knowledge and if it’s effective then we actually learn skills. The real application and behavior change happens outside of the classroom. This is why the effective training has the right content, structure, materials, and delivery. The goal is to achieve actionable results outside of the classroom setting.

Being an expert doesn’t mean that you are a trainer. My husband has been driving since he was a teenager. I would consider him an expert. This means that he knows how to drive but may not know how to structure the driving lesson. For this reason, I had to step in and help with making the driving experience more effective and conducive to learning.

This same concept occurs when those who teach others their expertise conduct training, unless they have been properly trained in how to design, develop, and deliver learning events. They know the subject matter, but may not be giving their learners the best learning experience.

It’s important for those who teach others their experience, to develop skills in how to design and deliver extraordinary learning events. It’s not enough to just know your expertise. Give your learners your best!

One of the best ways to learn (or refresh learning) is to teach. As I stated previously, my husband has been driving since he was a teenager. This means he has a great degree of unconscious competence. In other words he performs tasks when he drives, that he’s unaware of...he drives without thinking about what he does.

While he was showing my daughter, I had to remind him to come to a complete stop, slow down, and just be more deliberate with showing her how to know what I mean, don’t you :-) As he was demonstrating driving techniques to our daughter, he had to concentrate more on what he was doing to ensure that he was driving like the manual says.

Unconscious competence also happens when we are so close to a subject that we skip steps in a process or perform actions in a process without thinking about it. This is why it’s important to have an instructional designer to review your training to ensure that you haven’t left anything out. More than likely, the instructional designer isn’t as familiar with the topic as the subject-matter expert and can identify gaps in the processes and procedures being taught.

Build Reflection into Learning Experiences. I made sure that my daughter took time to reflect on her driving experience. I asked her a few questions to facilitate the reflection process:

  • “How do you think you did compared to last week?”

  • “What do you think you need to improve on?”

  • “What did you do well?”

If I had on my trainer hat at the beginning of the driving lesson as opposed to my backseat driver hat, I would’ve started the lesson with an opportunity to reflect on last week’s lesson. This creates a climate for learning. It also relates the current lesson with past experiences to make it relevant and a building block to previous knowledge and skills.

These few concepts contribute to making an extraordinary learning experience!

Make Learning Extraordinary

Although this post seems to be about my daughter’s driving lesson, it’s really about making learning extraordinary. If we want to continue to show up as our best selves, we must always be ready to learn. Use every experience in your busy day as an opportunity to learn something new.

I’m happy to say that now my husband and daughter know the Tell me, Show me, Let me instructional technique :-) Hopefully, you have learned (or refreshed learning) about how I make learning extraordinary!