Yesterday I received an email asking my opinion on whether there should be four-hour classroom sessions allowing a teen to complete a driver education program within 8 days. Such a contemplation would be equivalent to saying, “we should teach teens a foreign language in eight days and expect them to read, speak, and understand complex subject matters in that language even though their lives may depend on it.” That is more than ridiculous! It demonstrates a complete lack of understanding for how a teen should learn the mental preparation of risk-prevention and space-management, which is the equivalent of learning a foreign language. An effective space-management curriculum cannot be poured into teens’ heads as a continual flow of knowledge. The jug would overflow within five minutes of the four-hour class.
William Glasser and others have cited the following statistics: a person retains 10 percent of what is read, 50 percent of what they see and hear, 80 percent of what they experience, and 95 percent of what they are able to teach to others. Every lesson in an effective curriculum should provide activities that allow students to become teachers and to use risk-prevention, space-management behaviors in such a way that they can be nurtured into life-enduring habits.
The major function of a classroom session is to prepare the student for in-vehicle performance. The more preparation the student is given in the classroom, the more responsibility he/she should assume for knowing what is correct behavior while operating in the vehicle.
An effective curriculum takes into account brain-developmental concepts such as providing the learner with meaningful problem-solving opportunities in a non-threatening environment, and giving the learner positive feedback within seconds of successful performance. Classroom activities must give students an opportunity to learn and apply the concepts and behavioral patterns they will be expected to perform during the next in-vehicle session.
There are truck loads of research clearly demonstrating that lecturing to teens, or reading to teens from the text book –– which is most likely to happen as the period of classroom time increases –– has little to no educational value. And, the average attention span for a teen is 8 minutes. If they are interested in the topic, their attention may leap to 20-30 minutes. When a teacher is confronted with a four-hour time period, it would take a highly energized and extremely effective teacher to turn the 240 minutes into 30 dynamic 8-minute student-centered activities. It most likely will not happen.
We at the National Institute for Driver Behavior are adamant in our belief that the content of a typical driver education classroom should not be presented within four-hour classes over a period of 8 days. Perhaps a driver education curriculum should be presented in 8-minute activities spaced over a period of FOUR YEARS –– which will be the topic of a future posting.
About the author: Frederik Mottola, Professor Emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University and Executive Director of the National Institute for Driver Behavior, has, for the past 50 years, researched and developed techniques to help drivers learn good habits for space-management. A scientist, inventor, educator, and author, he has designed successful crash-reducing programs for corporations, municipalities, police, military, emergency vehicle operators, and traffic safety educators on national and international levels.