To improve our ability as safety, health, and environment trainers we must be exposed to a variety of training methods and styles. Through each exposure we learn a little more and can improve our own training ability. It is for that reason that the I graduated from the Basic Rider SM, Experienced Rider SM, and the Motorcycle RiderCoach Preparation SM Courses. I also taught the Basic Rider SM and Experienced Rider Courses SM. In this blog entry I will outline this program and how it is conducted. This is meant as a description of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s (MSF) program to make safety trainers aware of it.
Motorcycle riders must be trained to ride a motorcycle so they can correctly respond to emergency situations that otherwise would most likely result in an accident. Furthermore, motorcycle riders must learn about the basic clothing and equipment needed to ride a motorcycle safely and basic preventive maintenance checks to keep the motorcycle running properly. First it is important to note that the MSF curriculum recognizes that the students are adults and come to the training with some knowledge of the subject. Secondly the trainer serves as a coach. These two principles serve as the basis for everyone to move forward as a team with one goal, to provide the student with the knowledge and experiences to ride a motorcycle properly and safely. There are normally two RiderCoaches and a range aide for each class. The range aide sets up the range for the various exercises. This person is not a qualified RiderCoach.
Each session starts with a short video or discussion among the students with the RiderCoach acting as a facilitator. There are cards that guide the discussions and each student is encouraged to share his or her thoughts and experiences on the subject. Hands-on training is provided whenever possible, even in the classroom. For example when discussing the different types of motorcycles many RiderCoaches will provide an example of each model and allow the students to walk around and find the different controls on each model and see just what the differences are. Another example is when discussing the motorcycle protective equipment. Many RiderCoaches will have various kinds of protective equipment on hand for the students to see and feel. Many RiderCoaches will ask a group of students to pick out the proper items for a trip in cold weather. This is a great method in that the members of the group actually pick out items and explain why they chose those items to the class.
Dunsmore and Hausmann describe a guided discussion as one where the trainer presents initial questions or concepts but allows group learners to examine the topic. This method is useful when a trainer is trying to develop in her students the ability to assess a situation and “think on their feet,” (Dunsmore and Hausmann, 2006). This is a skill each motorcycle rider needs. To properly use this method the RiderCoach must know how to guide the discussion to achieve the learning objective.
RiderCoaches even add action to videos or after speaking. The RiderCoach will show a video or may speak on a topic for part of the class and then has students answer review questions on the material covered. The RiderCoach uses the review questions and answers provided with the curriculum. He or she may place numbers on little sticky notes under the chairs of the students before class starts. After the video or short discussion is completed the RiderCoach asks the students to get up and stretch and look under their chairs. Under each chair is a sticky note with a number on it. The RiderCoach tells the students they only have to answer one question each, the one that corresponds to the number on their sticky note. He or she also encourages students to write down the answer to each question as the other students say them. The RiderCoach calls on the student with the number one to stand up and read his or her answer. This continues until all questions have been answered. This method requires a little preplanning on the part of the RiderCoach as well as an investment in sticky notes. The RiderCoach must ensure that the notes are placed under seats that are used and make sure the numbers correspond to the review questions. The method allows students to get up and move around. It also helps students recall the information as they hear it explained in different ways by the other students.
A second method to liven up a video or after speaking might include the RiderCoach having students answer review questions on the material covered in the lecture using a list of questions from popular culture. This list can include questions from television shows, music, current events, or sports. After the video or discussion is completed the RiderCoach asks the students to get up and stretch and then get ready to test their knowledge on pop culture. The RiderCoach then tells the students they only have to answer one question each. They will be selected to answer a question by a class mate who answers a question about pop culture. The RiderCoach also encourages the students to write down the answer to each question as the other student says it. The RiderCoach reads the first pop culture question and asks the students if they know the answer. A student raises his or her hand and gives an answer. Having answered the question correctly the student gets to pick another student to answer review question number one. This continues until all questions have been answered. This method requires a little preplanning on the part of the RiderCoach to write the pop culture questions. The RiderCoach must ensure that the answers to the questions are known to the students. The method allows students to get up and move around. It also helps students recall the information as they hear it explained in different ways by the other students.
Also included in the classroom portion of the training are short discussions on the dangers of riding while intoxicated, drugged or tired. These are very important subjects and the discussion can get very lively. Furthermore, classroom training does not have to be done in a classroom. RiderCoaches use the outdoors, tents, and lawn chairs to get the point across. Sessions using videos are normally done in a classroom.
The curriculum provides a well-developed method for actually allowing the students to ride the motorcycles. At first the student learns the preventive maintenance checks and starts the motor and turns the motor off. Then the student moves to engaging the clutch and putting the motorcycle in gear and engaging and disengaging the clutch with the motor running.
The rider is now ready to go. He or she starts the motorcycle engine, engages the clutch and with both feet on the ground lets the clutch out just enough to move the motorcycle while walking. This progresses through a serious of actions that lead up to the rider pulling his or her feet up onto the foot pegs. What does this phase provide the rider? Obviously it seems very basic; however, it takes the rider to the very first thing he or she needs to know about riding a motorcycle, it is motorized. This information is crucial to further learning. Each future exercise will begin the same way so the student knows how to turn on fuel, start engine, use clutch, etc.
The student continues through a series of exercises intermixed with classroom activities to ensure the learning is continuous and smooth. It is through hands-on learning that the student’s muscles learn how to perform the act. This may be a new concept for many, but it is key to the success of the MSF method. The actual performance of an act is remembered at the cellular level of the human muscle and by repeating this action the learning is reinforced.
As the students ride the motorcycles the RiderCoach provides input, recommendations, and encouragement. The RiderCoaches use the sandwich method to provide input. This method involves giving a compliment or word of encouragement, then pointing out the needed improvement, followed by a compliment or word of encouragement. The whole process is very positive. The negative or improvement comment is sandwiched between the two compliments or words of encouragement allowing the student a better chance of hearing what was actually said rather than shutting down from criticism.
At various times through the classroom instruction or hands-on instruction there are evaluations. In the classroom they are called review questions during the hands-on portion they are continuing the exercise until everyone can do it right. There is also a final examination and hands-on evaluation that each student must pass; however, this comes as no surprise since the whole course has led up to these two evaluations.
The hands-on evaluation is done riding the motorcycle through events that demonstrate important fundamental riding skills. There is a little pressure from the RiderCoach to get this right, but the real pressure usually comes from the students themselves.
The riding hands-on evaluation is obviously the harder of the two and requires the student to demonstrate their skill level on the specific tasks. If the student can’t pass the riding portion then he or she cannot ride a motorcycle well enough to ride on the streets or obtain a license.
Riding a motorcycle takes knowledge and practice. The MSF training program can take an adult and make them a motorcycle rider in two days. This blog entry described the program to make safety trainers aware of this type of program and was based on my personal experiences as a student and RiderCoach. It is important for safety trainers to be aware of the many methods and approaches to training that exist.
-Dunsmore, Scott and Paul Hausmann, Effective Training Technology Choices: Improving your
– Motorcycle Safety Foundation, 2009. Retrieved on August 24, 2009 from http://www.msf-usa.org/.
– ROI, Proceedings of the 2006 ASSE Professional Development Conference, 2006, Des Plaines, IL, USA.