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Towards and away motivation - Total Drive blog

Towards and away motivation

What two simple questions can reveal huge amounts of information about a prospective pupil?

Imagine you’re buying a new tuition vehicle. If the car salesman doesn’t establish that you’re an ADI, he is not likely to sell you the car based on your specific needs, but on assumptions. How many prospective buyers would be interested in how good the visibility is out of the side and back windows, or how adjustable the steering wheel/seat height is, and if you can see the speedometer from passenger side! Had he taken the time to establish your needs, how much more likely would you be to buy the car from him?

When do you want to pass your test? Why do you want to pass your test?

Although seemingly simple, these two questions can reveal so much about a pupil. Let’s look at two totally different pupil attitudes:

Pupil One: ‘I don’t care how long it takes, I just want to make sure I feel safe, confident and competent because I’ll have my daughter in the car’.

Pupil Two: ‘How much do you charge and how quickly can I take my test because I want to pass before all my mates?’

Although with both pupils you are likely to have a conversation along the lines of: ‘It’s not just about passing the driving test, it’s about safe driving for life etc.’: this is what the first pupil wants but doesn’t need to hear because she is already focusing on being safe, and what the second pupil needs but doesn’t want to hear! (A bit like Nanny McPhee!)

Their individual ‘when’ and ‘why’ are very different, and you would tailor your conversation differently with each of them, whilst still conveying the same information.

These two questions will help you to establish the pupil’s expectations, their motivation, if they have a negative or positive attitude, how confident they feel about the learning process, and much more. If they want to pass by a week on Wednesday, and they’ve never sat behind the wheel before, you’re going to have to tactfully manage their expectations!

However, if they believe that they won’t pass for ages, and that all their friends will take the mickey out of them if they don’t pass, you’ve got some work to do to build their confidence, and to eliminate the negative peer pressure that they feel.

Towards and Away motivation

You can break motivation down into the ‘Motive’ for ‘Action’ and a pupil can be ‘towards’ or ‘away’ motivated towards lessons and their test. Knowing this about your pupil can prove very significant during their lessons. If a pupil has a towards motivated goal, saying; ‘I’d like to pass so when I start college, I’ll be able to drive rather than take the bus’, this type of motivation is good, because it is positive, and keeps the pupil focused on their goal in a pleasurable way. They can picture themselves passing, and feel excited about it. No effort is too much trouble, and they enjoy working towards their goal. Ultimately, for you as an instructor, this is a much more positive teaching environment, and more enjoyable for both yourself and your pupil.

If, on the other hand, the pupil has an away motivated goal to pass, saying; ‘I need to pass my driving test, otherwise I will lose my job because my employer wants me to do deliveries’, the pupil will think about losing their job every time they have a lesson. This type of motivation is detrimental because it’s so negative. Rather than being motivated towards an exciting goal, your pupil is focusing on losing their job if they don’t pass their test. This puts the pupil under immense pressure to perform, and of course, this leads to added stress.

Focusing on the negative is very demorsalizing for pupils. By continually thinking of the consequences if they fail, this ‘Anticipatory Anxiety’ can actually cause them to fail. How often has a pupil said something along the lines of; ‘I knew I was going to fail at that roundabout’, as if it was a foregone conclusion?! It’s imperative that the pupil eliminates the negative emotion attached to learning to drive and replaces with positive. We know that the brain builds memory and once a thought is created, the more times the brain has this thought, the greater and more realistic the memory. For every negative thought, a strong neural pathway is built, and the same for positive. If you can encourage a positive goal for your pupil, the learning process will become a much more enjoyable experience for all concerned.

Diane Hall 2021 – L of a way 2 Pass


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