Alan Dix - research topics - innovation and creativity

driving lesson - fearless play

Alan Dix
Lancaster University

It was not long after I'd learnt to drive myself. A friend of mine was also learning and one day I sat as passenger during a practice drive.

One of the maneuvers she found difficult was reversing around a corner and so at an appropriate junction she practiced this. She looked in her mirror, reversed until the corner of the kerb was in the bottom corner of the rear window, carefully turned her wheel a quarter turn ... following the rules she had learnt from her driving instructor. Eventually we were in the road not too far from the kerb.

I looked down the road behind us.

It was a cul-de-sac and was empty right to the end.

"OK", I said "why not try driving down the road backwards, play with the wheel to see where you go, and don't tell me which wiggles you mean to do and which are an accident".

Back down the road we went, wandering from side to side as she played with the wheel -I'm sure not always in the direction she intended, but of course I couldn't tell.

And at the end ... the change in her demeanor .. confidence glowed from her face, for the first time she hadn't just followed some rules, she had driven backwards.

Some lessons from this (none about driving) that we can seek for ourselves and others in any learning situation:

  1. gaining an understanding of materials and tools as opposed to learning rules to do a task and
  2. making it OK to play with the materials which makes (1) possible
  3. having a way to judge one's own ability to do what you want but ...
  4. learning from what you didn't intend and ..
  5. taking away fear of external judgment

Alan Dix 30/11/2001