Client-Centred Learning and the ADI Part 3 Test

client-centred-learningWell before the introduction of the Standards Check in April 2014, questions were being raised about the ADI Part 3 test and whether it was still fit for purpose. Many ADI Trainers have been solely equipping their trainees with instructor-led approaches using the pre-set tests (PSTs) as a focus for their training. In our opinion, these trainers are leaving their PDIs with a fairly significant gap in their skills after qualification, and one in which ‘retraining’ prior to the Standards Check will often be necessary.

So what about client-centred learning? Can client-centred techniques be used successfully on the ADI Part 3 test?

national-standard-for-driver-rider-trainingThere have been lots of changes in the driver training industry recently, and for the most part, we think these changes have been very positive. The Standards Check assesses how ADIs measure up to the National Standards for Driver & Rider Training (NSDRT). But the Part 3 is not. At least, not at the moment.

Client-Centred Learning

It is perhaps worthwhile first reflecting on the concept of ‘client-centred learning’. In the NSDRT, the DVSA loosely define client-centred learning:

Client-centred learning isabout creating a conversation between the learner and the instructor that is based on mutual respect the instructor brings to the learning process their hard-earned knowledge, understanding and experience. If they rely simply on telling the learner what they should do they will probably be able to teach them enough to pass their test. However, all the evidence suggests that learners in this sort of relationship do not really change the way they think and quickly forget what they have been taught. There is a better chance of a long-lasting change in understanding and behaviour if the instructor

–  presents their knowledge, understanding and experience clearly and effectively

–  listens to the learner’s reactions to that input

–  helps the learner to identify any obstacles to understanding and change

–  supports the learner to identify strategies for overcoming those obstacles for themselves

Many ADIs would say that there is nothing new here, and it’s the way they’ve been teaching for years. But it’s not necessarily the way they were trained as PDIs, which in our own experience was based on traditional models of instructor-led teaching. We know that a significant proportion of ADI Trainers still follow the instructor-led approach, so in the article we will explore ways in which PDIs can use client-centred approaches within the traditional Part 3 structure.

Part-3-marking-sheetTypical Part 3 terminology revolves around:

Fault Identification
Fault Analysis
Remedial Action
Level of Instruction

The NSDRT and Standards Check brought along some more terminology:

Responsibility for Risk
Lesson Planning
Risk Management
Teaching & Learning Strategies
Reflective log

The DVSA are currently looking at ways in which the Part 3 test can be improved to bring it in line with the NSDRT and the Standards Check, but in the meantime, I don’t see any reason why the Part 3 test can’t involve ALL of the NSDRT and Standards Check elements. In fact, I would go so far as to say that all Trainers delivering Part 3 training should be introducing these elements to facilitate client-centred learning.

Let’s look at the typical Part 3 lesson structure and see how we can integrate the above elements to focus more on client-centred learning…

The Lesson Introduction

Although the instructor will be starting the lesson with a ‘pupil’ they have never worked with before, and therefore has no training records to reflect on during the lesson introduction, the great thing about the Part 3 test is that the lesson topics are set in stone. The lesson topic physically printed on the chosen pre-set test marking sheet is the one the PDI will be doing. Even with that being the case, there is nothing preventing the PDI from demonstrating their client-centred learning approach by them being encouraged to ask things like:

“What skills or topics did you and your instructor agree to work on today?”
“What did your last instructor say he/she would be good for us to do today?”
“Based on your progress last lesson, what particular skills or topics would you like to work on today?”
“I had a word with your other instructor and today he said you agreed to work on crossroads. Is that still OK with you?”

The pupil’s answer will be obvious. But PDIs need to get into the habit of agreeing the lesson goals at the start of the lesson with the pupil.

driving-instructor-questionsThe Briefing

At the moment, the briefing is still very much an important element within Phase 1 of the Part 3 test. But there’s nothing to stop the instructor from keeping that briefing very interactive by encouraging the ‘pupil’ to provide their own thoughts and ideas on how to carry out the exercise. After all, he/she has experience from earlier lessons, so it’s good to make use of it. The only thing the PDI needs to be aware of is that asking questions, reflecting on and summarising the pupil’s responses takes more time than an instructor-led approach. As the time allocated on Part 3 is very limited, they would be best advised to keep a check on the time spent on this discussion so as to have sufficient time for on-road practice.

Responsibility for Risk

Pen on the contract papers In the Standards Check guidelines in the ADI 1 Standard Operating Procedure, it states:

The ‘balance of responsibility’, between the pupil and the ADI, will inevitably vary in different circumstances. For example, compare the following two scenarios:

a) A pupil in the very early stages of their training, in a car fitted with dual controls.

In this situation it might be reasonable for an ADI to start a lesson by saying something like:

‘At all times I expect you to drive as carefully and responsibly as possible. I will expect you to be aware of other road users and to control the car. However, I do have the ability to take control of the car in an emergency. I will only use these controls when I feel that you are not dealing with the situation yourself. If that happens we will take some time to talk about what happened so that you understand for next time.’
b) A pupil who has passed their driving test but has asked you to give them some additional training in their own car, which is much bigger and more technically advanced than the one they learnt in.

In this situation an ADI might say something like:

‘You have passed your test and I will therefore assume that you are taking full responsibility for our safety. I will be talking to you from time to time but I will try to keep that to a minimum so that I don’t distract you. If I am quiet don’t worry; that just means I am comfortable with what you are doing. I will, of course, let you know if I see any risk that you appear to have missed.’


We actively encourage all our PDIs to outline responsibility for risk at the start of a lesson, particularly with a new pupil who might have different expectancies. On the Part 3 test, the PDI is working with two new ‘pupils’, at different stages of learning, for the first time. So on Phase 1 (Emerging from T-Junctions), for example, a discussion along the following lines might be appropriate:

PDI: “OK, so you said you’ve been dealing with major to minor turns at junctions really well up to now, so would you be OK dealing with those on your own today?”

‘Pupil’: “Yes – I should be fine with those, thanks”

PDI: “Great. I might ask questions from time to time just to find out what your intentions are, but for the most part you can show me how well you handle those yourself. When we come to any T-junctions though, I’ll give you lots of help at first if that’s OK, just to make sure we get them right”

‘Pupil’: “Yes, OK”

PDI: “As we progress through the lesson and you start to get to grips with it, I’ll start encouraging you to take more responsibility for them, if that’s OK with you?”

‘Pupil’: “Sounds good”

PDI: “Of course, if we come across any situations you’ve not dealt with before or would like a little more help on, just let me know”

‘Pupil’: “OK, I will”

PDI: “Finally, if you have any major issues that you need help with and I need to physically intervene then I will, and we’ll pull up at the first opportunity to discuss it fully”

On the Move

Once on the move during any Phase 1 topic, traditional instruction still forms an essential part of the assessment. The instructor’s level of instruction needs to match the needs of the learner, according to their stage of learning. As great as it can be for some learner drivers to simply learn from experience, i.e. have a go at something without help and then reflect on how it can be done better, this approach won’t cut it on a Part 3 test!

client-centred-learning-part-3The instructor needs to manage risk effectively. Bearing in mind one of the examiner’s roles as the ‘pupil’ is to make faults on the given lesson topic. If the PDI provides no input whatsoever on the pupil’s first attempt, they need to hold on to their seat tightly and be prepared for a rollercoaster ride and torrent of errors!

Risk is managed in other areas of driving (i.e. off PST topic) by the examiner. If the trainer routinely manages risk during every training session, the PDI can be led into a false sense of security, as ‘real’ learners will make mistakes all over the place.

However, to encourage PDI’s to treat the Part 3 test more like a real lesson, risk can be managed on the move with the off-topic areas, too. For example, if the PST Phase 1 topic is Crossroads, and the ‘pupil’ is approaching a T-junction, the instructor could say:

“Talk me through how you’re dealing with this junction… when do you think it will be safe to go?”

Or on approach to a meet situation:

“Have you dealt with meet situations before? A couple of times? Ok – would you like any help with this one?”

On approach to a mini-roundabout for the first time, the instructor could ask:

“Have you dealt with these mini roundabouts before? No? Ok, I’ll help you with this one now and we’ll cover them fully on a later lesson.”

The PDI should be encouraged to check with the pupil that they can handle off-topic situations, even though it’s likely the ‘pupil’ will behave and cope with such situations very well. In doing this, the PDI is demonstrating how they would manage risk on the move with any learner driver. The PDI is also getting used to the fact that a learner will need help with other areas of their driving rather than just the agreed lesson plan for that particular lesson.

The Core Competencies and Client-Centred Learning

For the most part, client-centred learning approaches work really well with the ADI Part 3 core competencies.

As instructors, we should be encouraging our learners to identify and analyse mistakes for themselves, with varying degrees of direction from us, and also encourage them to come up with preferred ways to correct those mistakes so that they don’t happen again.

Self-Identification   –>   Self-Analysis   –>   Self-Development


The main difference between examiners ‘role-playing’ pupils and ‘real’ pupils is that without sufficient direction, examiners will not identify their own mistakes. For example:

“How do you feel we dealt with that last junction?”

This question will usually be met with a non-committed response, such as, “it was great!” or “not bad”. The examiner wants to be sure the PDI has identified the pupil’s issues for himself, and isn’t just trying to get the examiner to own up to a mistake the PDI didn’t spot.

The same result comes from using a technique such as scaling:

PDI:  “On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is really poor and 10 is excellent, what score would you give your performance on that last junction?”

‘Pupil’: “Ummmm…. a 6?”

PDI: “OK great. So what would have made it a 10? What could we have done differently?”

‘Pupil’: “Don’t know”

These techniques might work fine with real pupils, who may well come up with the right answers. All is not lost on Part 3 though – self-identification can be encouraged by simply asking more focussed questions, e.g. “how did you feel about your speed on that last junction?”. That way, the examiner is aware that the PDI has identified an issue with speed, and therefore is more likely to respond with something like, “hmmmm… it felt a little bit fast”.  Similarly, the scaling technique is much more likely to be effective if the PDI asks the ‘pupil’, “On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is really poor and 10 is excellent, what score would you give your speed on that last junction?”


Self-Analysis (i.e. the cause and effect/s of the mistake) can be encouraged by asking questions rather than just by giving the ‘pupil’ the answers. Again, non-directive questions such as, “what caused that?” will usually result in “not sure” or “you’re the instructor – you tell me!” Here are a few examples that can work well:

“Where were you looking when…?”
“How do you think your speed could have affected your position?”
“Where do you need to…?”
“When should you….?”
“Why is it important to…?”
“What are the risks of…?”
“Why might it be better to…?”
“What could happen if…?”


Rather than the instructor taking responsibility for finding the solution, self-development can be encouraged by using questions such as:

“If we were to go round there again, what would you do differently?”
“How could we improve it next time?”
“So, tell me how you can deal with it better next time?”
“So if our speed was about 15mph/sprinting pace last time, what do you think it should be next time?”

When correcting earlier mistakes, the PDI should be agreeing responsibility for risk with the ‘pupil’ by saying something such as:

“So would it help you if I…?”
“Next time, I’ll help you with [X] and you can do [Y] on your own. Is that OK with you?”
“How much help would you like from me?”
“Would you like me to…?”
“I will help you / show you / encourage you to…”

Before leaving the ‘pupil’ independent, the PDI should always ask, or let them know this is going to happen. Simply leaving the ‘pupil’ to cope with the situation for themselves next time, without informing them of this intention, could lead to the earlier fault reoccurring.

“You’re doing great with these mirror checks now. Do you want to do them by yourself next time?”
“How do you feel about your speed now? Would you like me to help you again next time?”
“You’re observing much better now before you emerge, I’ll leave you to do that part by yourself next time. Is that ok?”

Challenge Blue MarkerThere’s something quite motivating about being encouraged to do something without help. We have found that success is more likely on the next occasion if the instructor overtly challenges the pupil to try it for themselves, rather than by backing off with the instruction quietly.

End of Lesson Debrief

Although there may not be time during the Part 3 test for the examiner to give the PDI the opportunity to end Phase 1 with a debrief, the PDI will usually get the opportunity to conduct a debrief at the end of Phase 2.

adi-reflective-logAlthough the PDI (or ‘pupil’) won’t have time to complete it during the Part 3 test, all our PDIs have a copy of a reflective log (as discussed in this article) which they use to structure a good discussion at the end of each lesson. We encourage the PDIs to elicit feedback from the pupil on what went well, where they feel improvements could be made, and outline the plan for next lesson. It shouldn’t be all one way traffic from the instructor.

Be Prepared to Revert to Instructor-Led Teaching

Finally, it’s important to remember that being ‘client-centred’ doesn’t necessarily mean the same as ‘client-led’. Being client-centred is about balancing the needs and desires of the pupil in order to best achieve the lesson goal. The instructor needs to adapt their teaching approach to suit. A client-centred approach may require the instructor to take the lead for some (or even most) of the time – identifying issues, providing feedback and solutions.

In the ‘real world’, some pupils may not like or want to answer questions, or may prefer the instructor to take the lead most of the time. For this reason, when working with PDIs, a trainer needs to role play different types of pupils – those who are open to learner-led approaches, and others who prefer, and work better with, an instructor-led approach. The trainer can then see how their PDI adapts the balance of responsibility according to each ‘pupil’s’ preference.

During a Part 3 test, the examiner may role play a compliant pupil, who will readily answer questions and participate in a solution-focussed discussion. On the other hand, they may role play the opposite – giving dismissive one word responses, openly questioning the instructor on why they’re asking so many questions, or even flatly refusing to partake in such an approach.

Traditional instructor-led instruction still has just as much a place as learner-led instruction – it’s knowing which approach to use and when to use it that is important.

Although Claire and I have been encouraging client-centred learning with PDIs for many years, we are increasingly doing so since the introduction of the Standards Check. Examiners have more awareness and acceptance of client-centred learning approaches now, which makes using them on the Part 3 test much easier. Our PDIs’ results have been very positive and the comments from examiners and their assessors have extremely complimentary.

Are coaching and client-centred approaches necessary and required elements in order to pass the current Part 3 test? No. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t explore it. Training should be focussed on life beyond Part 3, not just on how to ‘pass the Part 3 test’.

down arrowAre you an ADI Trainer who successfully uses client-centred learning with your PDIs? Have you come across any issues with using client-centred learning approaches on Part 3 tests? Are you a PDI who can see how such approaches can fit in nicely with your Part 3 training?

Please share your thoughts, experiences and comments below – we love hearing from you.

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  • Chris Deane

    Fantastic article as usual, fully agree with every word and have been encouraging this approach for quite some time now. Examiners are definitely more open to this kind of approach since the Standards check introduction. It is very noticeable that when dealing with faults, having agreed the remedial action the examiners when asked, are often happy to correct the faults with out any further help from the PDI.

    The only other comment I would add is the PDI must be prepared to change their approach if they are not getting the response they are perhaps expecting. So if they are taking a client centred approach and the examiner is not playing ball they must revert back to instructor-led.

    • Ged Wilmot

      Thanks Chris, and yes – you are exactly right! In fact, I need to make that clearer in the article, as it’s such an important point… I feel an ‘edit’ coming on. Thanks again for your feedback 😀