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VI. RESULTS FROM SITE VISITS

Instructor Education and Training

Administrators and instructors in the five promising-practices States identified three key components to developing a core of quality instructors: recruitment, training, and retention. Most States solicit potential instructors from the pool of students enrolled in rider training courses. In Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon, for instance, instructors approach students they feel may have potential as instructors and ask the students whether they would like to learn more about the opportunity. If a student agrees, the instructor marks a checkbox for “Instructor Candidate” next to the student’s name on the course evaluation form submitted to the State administrator’s office. In addition to recruiting through classes, announcements through riding clubs, program Web sites, and newspaper ads are other means of soliciting potential instructors.

Following initial recruitment, the five State programs adopt different approaches for screening instructor candidates. In Idaho, for instance, the State administrator invites interested individuals to visit a range during a training session to observe the class and to help out the instructors. Team Oregon has recently implemented a detailed screening process designed to filter out some instructor recruits before they commit to an instructor preparation course. Prior to interviewing for an instructor position, recruits must audit two classes and pass a skills test.

People who pass the screening process are trained in an instructor preparation (IP) course. Across the five States, administrators and instructors described the IP as grueling and intense for the instructor candidates; one administrator said it was similar to “trying to drink from a fire hose.” Instructors must master a variety of aspects of instruction, from presenting classroom material to riding flawless demonstrations on the range. The length of the IP varies across the five States, though the training the potential instructors receive is similar. In Maryland, for example, the IP is spread over six to eight weeks. One administrator offered the following rationale for the schedule:

“It’s very tough on the individual to work 40 hours a week at work and then
do [the IP] afterwards. We try to do a couple evenings a week and a day on
the weekend. That allows them time to still ride their motorcycles, allows
them to get stuff done at home that they need to do, and it doesn’t kill them
for the next day at work. It takes a little longer to get people through.”

In contrast, the Idaho STAR program prefers to immerse its instructor candidates in a 10-day program that concludes with student teaching. Although the length of Team Oregon’s IP is shorter compared with that of the other States (less than 4 days), instructor candidates also complete a thorough screening process and detailed post-IP training. Following an IP class, Team Oregon instructor candidates must complete separate apprenticeships for classroom and range components. Successful instructor candidates who complete Maryland’s IP receive a oneyear probationary certificate. During their probationary years, instructors work with more experienced colleagues and are monitored by program staff.

Training for instructors does not end at the conclusion of an IP course, however. All five of the promising-practices States also hold yearly updates for instructors. The updates are an opportunity to refresh instructors’ skills in the classroom and on the range and also to address any special issues. One Oregon instructor summarized some of the activities included in the updates:

“Every year, for normal instructor updates, we look at any issues we’ve had
throughout the year—exercises that have been a problem for instructors,
areas where delivery has been irregular or has not met our standard,
instructor drift, [or if someone] found a new [or] better way of doing
something.... Sometimes we’ll go out and ride exercises, practice demos,
practice coaching.”

When four of the five States transitioned from the MSF’s Motorcycle RiderCourse: Riding and Street Skills course to the Basic Rider Course, the programs used the updates to help instructors adapt and prepare for the more student-centered classroom style advocated by the BRC. Updates have also focused on techniques for dealing with frustrated or agitated students and approaches for delivering material to students intimidated by the class.

Because the promising-practices programs invest substantial resources in training instructors, retention of staff is vital to maintain consistency in instruction and to help meet student demand for courses. Several of the States make concerted efforts to foster a sense of camaraderie and ownership in the rider training program among their instructors. One program makes certain that instructors have plenty of clothes emblazoned with the program’s emblem and that they have quality gear when they teach. As the State administrator explained:

“I think it means a lot to somebody to know that we care enough to give
them clothing and such. We give them leather pouches to keep their range
cards in....We could give them the nylon ones, but it’s pride.”

The same administrator keeps an anonymous comment box for instructors and has implemented some of their suggestions.

Annual updates provide one opportunity for instructors to meet and reconnect with one another and share ideas for teaching. Team Oregon has taken another step toward improving instructor satisfaction and retention through its Leadership Council (LC). A Team Oregon administrator summarized the purpose and goals of the Leadership Council:

“The Leadership Council) serves as a liaison between the instructor corps
and the staff. [The] LC is not staff—we do hold a position of authority, but
not a position of discipline or enforcement. [The LC] serves as an advocate
for instructors if they have a request, concern, or issue with a policy
regarding what we’re doing, how we’re doing it…, or a problem with the
teaching materials. The instructor brings the problem to a member of the
LC, it comes to the council, [and] we will discuss it and see if it’s a big
enough issue…[and] maybe do a formal survey to find out what’s going on.
Then, if necessary, the LC sends a report to the staff.”

Through the Leadership Council, Team Oregon has organized a series of fun activities for instructors including an annual campout, Instructor Olympics, an events committee, and an annual banquet.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • States recruit instructor candidates primarily through the pool of students who enroll in courses.

  • Training does not conclude with the Instructor Preparation course but continues through student teaching and other forms of monitoring.

  • Programs use annual instructor updates to refresh instructor staff and address key issues that arise during the training season.

  • The goal of Team Oregon’s Leadership Council is to serve as an advocate for instructors and to enhance instructor satisfaction and retention.

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