NEMT drivers need to have the best training available from the best instructors. The instructors need to be able to bridge the gap between Teaching and Learning, which is the critical components of NEMT driver training. Drivers working in NEMT need to have instruction on many areas that include defensive driving, customer service, passenger safety, wheelchair securement, vehicle operations, equipment knowledge, passenger assistance, and the list goes on. How are they going to get this information is entirely dependent on the instructor’s ability to bridge the gap between teaching and learning. In this article, I am going to address the needs of our driver trainers. Whether the instructor works in the classroom or behind the wheel, their success depends on their ability to teach employees and help them reach the required performance levels that NEMT drivers need. Equally important is the influence the driver instructors will have on the attitudes of the students developed through the instructor’s demonstrated professionalism. Your goal as an NEMT instructor is to create the bridge between teaching and learning!
Teaching and Learning – What Does This Mean?
As we discussed in our last article, Teaching and Learning starts with the instructor. The instructors hold a large responsibility in the NEMT industry and are responsible for supporting the learning experience. It is the goal of an instructor is to help the student gain knowledge by facilitating the learning process. Instructors must work on the bridge between Teaching and Learning. The bridge between Teaching and Learning consists of:
- Effective Study Materials.
- Instructors Preparation Process.
- Instructors Knowledge of the topic being taught.
- Presentation of information in an organized way.
- Instructors ask and answer many questions.
- Provide continuous support and encouragement.
- Demonstrate how to do thing! (See and Do)
- Provide the students with an opportunity to practice.
- Instructors need to be patient.
- Instructors need to learn how to praise and also provide constructive criticism.
As instructors our goal is to create an NEMT training environment that encourages the student to take ownership of the learning experience. The foundation for developing a safe, professional NEMT driver begins with the instructor. In our industry, the NEMT driver typically comes into this industry with little or no experience. It is up to the instructor to help them understand NEMT and learn new skills.
Understanding the Students
In order to facilitate the NEMT learning process and help build the bridge, you must first understand the factors that influence the student’s willingness to learn. The Effective Student Learning Model lists three factors that are essential for a student to learn new information. These factors are Relevance, Attitude, and Self Image.
In this area, the difficulty is that the human brain resists new information that is not relevant. The challenge is to convince the student that new information is important and relevant. Students need to understand “what’s in it for me?” or “why do I need this information?”. Remember that new NEMT drivers will need to know why this information is relevant to the job there are training for. What are the risks involved if they do not perform the tasks correctly? The successful learner is able to discover ways in which new information will benefit them. It is up to the instructor to demonstrate new skills and have the students “see & do” the new skills so what they learned about the job will stay with them for recall during enroute situations.
The idea of a student receptivity is known as affective learning. This is the case that if a student does not see some benefits of learning a new subject, skill, task, or standard NORM, they will simply not pay attention or will not put in the necessary effort to learn it.
A student’s performance is based in large part on their attitude, or beliefs. In fact, a good attitude towards learning is the single most important factor in a new NEMT drivers’ success. When hiring a new driver for NEMT, we need to look at what motivates them. NEMT drivers need to show empathy and caring for their passengers. The new NEMT drivers’ attitudes are formed very early during the training process, and once formed, are resistant to change. Our instructors must be able to lead by example and show the new NEMT drivers why it is important to have a good attitude. While it can be difficult to overcome negative attitudes, you need to create a learning environment that will have positive influences on the students. One thing that I tell all of my instructors is that when you train, you leave your fingerprint on the new drivers. How they perform their job duties, take care of customers, drive safely, are all a product of the training that they receive.
A student’s self-image is vital to their success! If the student does not believe in themselves, they are destined to fail. The job of an NEMT driver is not easy and their confidence level needs to be at a very high level to deal with the demands of the job. The student’s self-image is started to form when they report on the first day of training. How are they greeted? How are they introduced to the company and their classmates? Do we take the time to explain what NEMT is and how your company helps the community? I like to tell new NEMT drivers that they are what the community that you serve see’s first! It is not the manager or the dispatcher, but the driver. It is important that they understand this part of NEMT. The NEMT instructor must be able to relate to this process and make these important points relevant to the new driver.
The instructor plays an important role in building self-esteem by using positive reinforcement and constructive criticism when necessary. When students fail during a training process, make sure that they are told why they failed, and what is the correct process for changing their skill or knowledge for success. Instructors must build on the student’s self-image.
Crossing the Bridge of Teaching to Learning
NEMT Instructors who cross the bridge between Teaching and Learning have three traits that they use during the process:
The NEMT instructors need to teach the standards. These standards set the foundation for the training program. In this respect, instructors must teach the NORMS of the operation. Setting the tone for learning and making sure that the students understand what is expected of them for each situation that they will encounter. Effective NEMT instructors use real-life examples of what the new students will see and have to handle, they provide hands on demonstrations and modeling to teach students the skills needed to perform their job.
To determine if the students have learned the skills that are required, NEMT instructors must assess the student’s performance. This assessment must be done accurately and fairly through proper grading of testing on the materials/standards/NORMS that were taught. Instructors must make sure that the students have met and understand the required standards before advancing them into the next level of learning.
Patience and Empathy
All students learn at different levels and time. This is based on their ability to understand the material presented. Learning about NEMT can be difficult and sometimes frustrating process for both the student and instructor. When teaching, you can sometimes see that a student is struggling, or another student understands, and the lightbulb comes on. In this day and age, a new driver can be difficult to find, so the NEMT instructor must be able to overcome frustration and make the learning clear. Students may have difficulty learning a standard (NORM) and may become discouraged or fail a learning assignment. The instructor needs to provide emotional support and help the student overcome barriers to learning. Effective NEMT instructors display empathy by remembering what it’s like to learn a new skill. They also remain patient by giving the students the amount of time they need to practice and develop a skill. A good example of this happens when a new student gets behind the wheel of the vehicle for the first time on a closed course. The purpose of the closed course in training is to help the new student develop confidence in their handling of the vehicle and learn the characteristics of the vehicle. Mistakes can be made, and the instructor needs to give constructive criticism on what they did wrong and show the new student how to execute the maneuvers correctly. I always remember (I am old enough) the first time I had to type a report for an accident on an electric typewriter, using a carbon accident form. I was new to the safety position and could not type. So, it took me a while to complete the report hunting and pecking on the typewriter. Trying to learn a new skill seemed like a mountain to climb, but over time and practice, the mountain turned into a small hill.
Back and Forth
Questions are a powerful learning tool. NEMT instructors should be, as often as you can, asking your students how they think something should be done, or why a standard is written as it is, or what is in it for me? Instructors need to give real-life examples and experiences. Make the student think before you give them all the answers and make them explain the standard to you and the rest of the class. Ask them why they think a certain standard exists, or why a certain standard requires certain actions. Have them give examples of the answer they give in context to the job that they will be doing. How does it affect passengers? This is important, as adult learners want to know why! Give them the correct answer so learning can take place. Let them know “what is in it for them”.
The classroom environment is very important to the overall learning experience. How do you set up a classroom? Will it be standard type like a school room, modular so you have groups of 4, or in a U shape? NEMT instructors must think about the training program and how will they deliver the information. What are you trying to accomplish with room set up? Do you want to foster conversation, you might go with a U shape? If you want a workshop type program, you might go with groups of 4, or doing some lecture, video, or white board demonstration, you might go with a school room set up. What ever style you choose, make sure that it is comfortable, that you have comfortable chairs, and tables. Also think about the temperature, noise, and external distractions. You want to have the students undivided attention and their focus on you as the instructor and the material that you are presenting. In my training days, I liked the U Shape classroom the best. It afforded me the opportunity to engage the students up close.
It is important that instructors bridge the gap between teaching and learning using effective teaching methods and understanding their students. It is critical for drivers in our NEMT world to learn and understand their job, how to operate equipment, how to drive defensively, and how to safely transport and care for our passengers. Having a qualified instructor will help you bridge the gap between teaching and learning.
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