Learning Theories and Driving A Car
I am taking a different slant on this week's blog prompt since I don't teach in a traditional K-12 classroom like most of our class.
Instead, I want to apply the learning theories to a new teaching opportunity I have recently had - teaching my teenage son to drive.
It has been 34 years since I started driving. Now that I have a teen that is old enough to drive, I realized we would both have a lot to learn before he is ready to get his license. My husband and I decided that I would be the primary guide to help him learn the complexities of driving - not sure how that happened but it did.
It was overwhelming to think about how to teach driving to son, how to break it down and explain all of the assessments and decisions you make with everyday actions like changing lanes or parking your car.
I also knew that how I would teach my son would have to be tailored to his learning style. Generally speaking, he is pretty cautious and attentive, but he also doesn't like to take criticism or feedback from me.
First, I gave my son the book on the Alberta Drivers Handbook so he could learn the road rules and essential driving skills in order to pass the Learners Permit exam. He read the book, studied the signs and rules until he felt ready to write the online exam. (COGNITIVISM).
Although I gave him the book at Christmas, it took several months before he had the intrinsic motivation to actually read it.
I want my son to be a good and safe driver. But there is alot to learn, including:
- Knowing the law and the motor vehicles act
- Understanding the inner workings of a vehicle and how your car functions
- Identifying the rules of the road, and important signs
We started slowly to build his foundational knowledge and skills. At first, I would model my driving actions and choices while I drove and he was in the passenger seat "Now, I am shoulder checking to see if the lane is clear before I change to it".
Once he passed his Learner's exam, he was given his permit which allows him to drive with an adult. This encourages the student to practice the skills required to successfully learn how to safely operate and drive a vehicle.
The first time that he would sit behind the driving wheel he was fearful of whether or not he could actually drive the vehicle (BEHAVIOURISM). But we took it slow, and we had him practice in a large empty parking lot. This helped reduce stress, and nervousness so he could focus on the task before him. We made slow and deliberate turns to become familiar with the feel of the vehicle. (CONSTRUCTIVISM)
We progressed from the large parking lot to practicing on the streets of our neighbourhood. (TRANSFER OF KNOWLEDGE). He was able to transfer his practice from the parking lot to the streets he is already familiar with. The transfer of his knowledge was automatic and applied to a familiar situation to that the differences were not that challenging.
My son was eager to get behind the wheel, and had a serious case of overconfidence and ability. As his teacher/driving instructor we came to an agreement that he would listen and follow exactly as I instruct him to do. I provide immediate feedback such as "great job turning into the right lane" or "you are going to fast, slow down". These are examples of classical conditioning using positive and negative reinforcement.
When we are practicing driving and he attempts something new such as merging onto a busy road, or parallel parking he gains confidence in his abilities as a driver and this is an example of operant conditioning as he has learned a new skill that rewards himself. It was
- He has learned that if you turn the wheel left, the car goes left. The car going left reinforces the behavior of turning the wheel left. The behavior of turning the wheel left when he wants to go left increases.
- He has learned that when you press on the brakes, the car slows down. The car going slower reinforces the behavior of pressing the brakes.
He tells me he is very comfortable driving because of the years he played "Mario Kart" on his Wii video game console. (CONSTRUCTIVISM). One thing I have become acutely aware of his that now he is invested in learning to drive, he looks to how I handle myself behind the wheel. What I do and say are modelling what is ok and what is not.
Wish me luck as we navigate the next phase beyond our own neighbourhood and onto the busy streets of Calgary!