Driving Instructors Teach to the Test, but also Teach Through the Test
A driving instructor will never say teaching you to the test isn’t proper teaching. You’d get a new one immediately if they did. Yet many teachers in school take the view that teaching to the test is somehow cheating. It isn’t, as the driving lesson shows you.
There is one overwhelming danger of teaching to the test. Many schools rewrite their curriculum each time there is a new GCSE – ‘oh, this skill is now assessed in year 11, let’s put it in year 7 or 8, so the students are fully versed in it.’
Remember, your driving instructor doesn’t do that. They have already worked out the sequence of what they want to teach you, because they have to teach you to drive.
This is an important distinction. Although your instructor needs you to pass the test, they also need you to drive properly right now, so you don’t crash or injure someone.
Instead, the driving instructor teaches you mastery by taking you constantly on the test routes.
They never say, “I’ll give you a mock exam two thirds of the way through our series of lessons.” Instead, they test you every single lesson.
Your driving instructor will not say, “You’ll take the exam in one years time when we have covered the whole curriculum, had some revision sessions, a mock exam and a parents’ evening.”
A Mastery Curriculum
In the same way, we should not teach to the end of the key stage, but try to make progress as quickly as possible. In an educational world without political interference, we’d enter students for GCSE in year 9 or 10 (no, I am not making this stuff up, I used to give students GCSE in year 9).
Ok, you’ve been interfered with! Skip the GCSE for every student who entered at level 5, and teach them the AS course by year 11. How would that compare to your current curriculum?
If you were paying for your child’s education, like you would for a driving instructor, which school would you choose, yours or the one described here?
Past Paper Answers
Driving instructors don’t use a text book. They teach you through the equivalent of past papers: you take the test routes all the time. The equivalent for you is teaching your subject content not through a text book, but through every past paper you can lay your hands on, using 100% answers of a length that students could write in the exam time.
This will be a radical departure for many of you. However, it dramatically increases the pace of learning. In CPD, I have taught a full exam answer on volcanic activity in relation to the movement of tectonic plates entirely from a full mark answer – no actual teaching, or explanation, no diagrams, no video. And of course I know nothing about the topic – I am an English teacher. On each occasion I do this, I simply present the text (about 8 lines), take it to pieces and put it back together again.
Teaching From the Text (the Full Mark Answer)
We do cloze exercises of different types. We take out all the verbs, then the subject specific vocabulary, we introduce vocabulary which is very similar but wrong, we resequence, we turn it into true or false statements. Each of these activities is super quick, taking 1-2 minutes.
After 20 minutes, everyone gets between 90 and 100% on the test of knowledge.
Obviously, you will need to return to this knowledge in later lessons, just as your driving instructor does every lesson.
But that 20 minutes has replaced two lessons on teaching volcanic activity and the movement of tectonic plates.
Do you Have a Proper Curriculum?
Here’s another thing – your driving teacher will teach you how to drive from the age of 17. You don’t get called a first year, because you’ve just started – you learn the same as a 30 year old. This is a serious point – the knowledge of how tectonic plates a