The third most read post on this blog, after the publication of my Mental Health Research and Kate Cory-Wright’s guest post about epilepsy is the one about the English for Driving Theory course that I taught in 2018.
This new post has been published on the same day that the Driving Theory test in the United Kingdom was supposed to change to be more inclusive. However, driving lessons, the theory and practical tests and my ongoing ESOL class have all been significantly affected in the United Kingdom by the Covid-19 epidemic and the cancellation of face-to-face delivery by my employer, Adult Learning (Norfolk County Council), which came into effect in the week ending 20 March. Theory Test suspended until at least 20 April.
I am coming towards the completion of my third EDT course with Adult Learning, part of Norfolk County Council. Much like Traveling Wilburys albums, there was no second post about this course, although there was a second course taught over two terms in 2018-9. As before, the class has been made of mostly refugees from different origins, including Syria. There have also been a couple of settled non-refugee status learners, who have lived in the UK for several years. I am due to be leaving Adult Learning next month and will, therefore, be unlikely to teach this course again. However, the materials, created by Stephen Woulds and Jennie Cole in Leeds, are still available and I have received many emails over the past few years from other providers and individuals who want to use them. You can obtain these from a Google Drive folder – but note that the workbook and some of the PowerPoints are a bit old and would need adapting if teaching to a class or one-to-one.
Changes to the Theory Test
As stated earlier, the publication of this post coincides with the changes to the Driving Theory test, which comes into effect from today, 14 April 2020.
The change will make the theory test more accessible, especially to people with a:
- reading difficulty (like dyslexia)
- learning disability
- developmental condition (like autism)
The change only applies to car theory tests to begin with.
Up until now, any test taker has to read a case study and then answer five questions about it. This tests the learner’s knowledge and understanding of road rules. From now on, the test taker will watch one video clip instead of reading a case study, and answer three questions about it. They can watch the video clip as many times as they like during the multiple-choice part of the theory test. You can watch the video, answer a question, and then watch the video again before you answer the next question. The video clip will show a situation, such as driving through a town centre, or driving on a country road.
The test taker will answer questions like these:
- Why are motorcyclists considered vulnerable road users?
- Why should the driver, on the side road, look out for motorcyclists at junctions?
- In this clip, who can cross the chevrons to overtake other vehicles, when it’s safe to do so?
For each of the 3 questions, you’ll have to choose the correct answer from four possible answers.
The left-hand side of the screen will show the video clip, with controls to:
- play the video
- pause the video
- move to a specific part of the video on a progress bar
- watch the video using the full screen
The right-hand side of the screen will show the question and four possible answers.
The test still requires the taker to:
- answer 50 multiple-choice questions within 57 minutes
- get 43 out of the 50 questions right to pass the multiple-choice part of the test
The hazard perception part of the test has not changed. As with the previous course, I set homework using a ‘traffic light’ system. So everyone has to do ‘red’, those with more time can do ‘amber’, too, while the faster and more motivated learners, can also do the optional ‘green’. The image below comes from a lesson given on 14 February.
However, as I publish this post I have not seen the students since 13 March. The Covid-19 (coronavirus) worldwide pandemic finally reached Norwich in March. With the announcement of school closures, came the cessation of all Adult Learning classes in Norfolk, on 17 March. As teachers, we were also given guidance on working from home and offering something to our learners online. Naturally, I am set up with all the tools to teach groups online at home. However, my learners are not able to do so, and with childcare issues (given ongoing school closures) and other more, important basic needs, learning how to drive became less of a priority. There has been an explosion of online delivery, we have been inundated with webinars, including those delivered by the Learning Technologies SIG, and a huge amount of free upgrades from Educational Technology providers, such as Google, Techsmith and Loom.
Zoom, in particular, has become very popular. I have also been training colleagues (tutors and managers) at the council in using Zoom, which went from around 10 million at the start of the year to 200,000 million users by the end of March. Watch one of those training sessions here.
I also began my adjustments by offering my ESOL learners some ‘homework’ by sharing materials and making videos. The first video was sent on 20 March – the date when I was supposed to have my annual lesson observation – and you can watch it on YouTube as part of a playlist of all the videos that I am in the process of making. An example of one of these videos for learners can be watched below or on YouTube:
These videos have been well received. However, only a few students replied to my request for feedback and some do not like watching videos and completing the workbook in this way. I initially set up a Google Classroom, but then my employer told us all that we had to use Microsoft Teams and, possibly, Zoom, despite the initial security and safeguarding fears. So I have to adapt to how I try to deliver this class online.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been learning about Teams, having meetings via the platform and delivering a few one to one sessions with other tutors, under a new ‘buddy’ system with the council. I am part of several teams with work colleagues and have a single online classroom for my driving course. However, what is so far lacking, is any engagement by my particular learners, as most seem either unable to access their new free, Office 365 account, or are simply unwilling to have any thing other than face-to-face delivery. I did manage to deliver a laptop to one learner, but I have yet to fully engage the other learners on the course, and am worried that they have lost interest. I have made a screencast tutorial for getting started, but had to wait for this to be approved by the Quality Improvement Team, even though it has already been shared in one of the ‘teams support’ groups. Further guidance was given on learners accessing Teams on 14 April, so officially this is what I must do. I have reservations about my learners being engaged with this platform, but I will persist, as I come back to working from home, after the short Easter break, starting today. Emails were sent to them again on 15 April.
Although I have sent regular emails to my learners, the response has been very poor. There are a number of barriers to learning in these difficult times, in addition to the usual suspects. Whilst I have tried to address these, I do get reasons for non attendance given to me, such as “It’s Ramdan, I am at home looking after my children, so I will be too tired to study.”
It is going to be difficult to make sure the learners are still on track. But I will persist and try to get them engaged once more. The class is supposed to finish on 22 May, with a full mock test. I hope that even if we only have one more face-to-face class, then it will be this one. But that is subject to further guidance nearer the time, by my employer.
In addition, after emailing a link to the latest video, I set up a Zoom class on Friday 24 April. Only one learner attended. This one learner, who was achieving good scores when practising with the DVSA app, wanted to apply for a provisional licence, so he could take the test as soon as the ‘lockdown’ restrictions were lifted. Unfortunately, no applications were allowed (other than key workers) during this period in the U.K. It kind of summed up the delay to learning and taking the real theory test that had affected this course from 20 March onward.
[To be completed : draft only]
Endnote: I will add a reflection on the whole course at the end of May and update this post then, before I head to Sheffield for the summer.
Footnote: On 14 April, I also completed a survey by Sophia Mavridi on ‘Language teaching experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic’. This was one of the questions and my answer.