Instructor Development Process
In order to become an NER/PCA instructor, candidates must complete the following:
Advanced drivers may apply to become NER/PCA instructors by contacting either the Chief of Instructor Development or the Track Chair. A simple application form provides your background for this process. All candidates must complete this form to become NER/PCA instructors. You may email the application to the Chief of Instructor Development. If you prefer to send a hard copy, contact the Chief of Instructor Development for mailing instructions.
To become accepted into the NER Instructor Development program, the candidate must meet the Minimum Skills and Qualifications as presented above.
Advanced Driving Test
To enter the program, all candidates must demonstrate their proficiency in advanced driving. NER/PCA instructors must be able to demonstrate smooth and safe driving habits consistent with NER/PCA rules. Each candidate will drive his/her car in an advanced run group with a member of the instructor development team as his/her passenger.
The goal of this checkout is to verify that the candidate can drive comfortably at the brisk pace of an advanced group such as black or red while being smooth, safe, aware, consistent, on-line, up to speed with the group, and in communications with the instructor doing the check-out. The goal is not to go out and get a car loose and show that you can catch it; rather, it is to drive your normal session — presumably an advanced session — and hit every apex every lap. While driving at this level, the candidate will inevitably demonstrate various advanced car-control techniques such as heel-and-toe, threshold braking, etc.
In addition to advance driving skills, instructor candidates must also have good working knowledge of technical aspects of driving and the physics of car-control dynamics. Each candidate will be given a verbal test by a member of the instructor development team. The questions are divided into three categories:
- Line/track geometry
- Vehicle dynamics and
- Operation of vehicle controls.
The candidate must obtain a passing score in each category. The tester will be looking for both a solid understanding of the topics and ability to provide clear responses. The questions are not unlike those questions a novice or intermediate driver will ask an instructor. Background material for the verbal test can be found in a variety of publications such as:
- Porsche High Performance Handbook by Vic Elford
- Going Faster by Skip Barber Racing School
- The Physics of Racing Series by Brian Beckman (contains many of the principles used in Driver Education)
- How to Make your Car Handle by Fred Puh
- Bob Bondurant on High Performance Driving by Bob Bondurant
- Auto Math Handbook by John Lawlor
- NER publications found at on this website: Driver Education Instructor Handbook, Driver Education Student Manual, Flags at the Track and Driving Terminology.
Instructor Mentoring Program
After completing the advanced driving and verbal tests, the candidate will begin practice teaching in the NER/PCA instructor mentoring program under the direction of one or more mentors assigned by the Chief of Instructor Development. Instructors from other regions/programs may chose to take the Instructor Certification Test immediately without going through the mentoring program. It is recommended, though, that candidates take advantage of the opportunity to practice teaching beforehand. The Instructor Mentoring Program is required for all NER-member instructor candidates with no prior experience instructing high-performance driving.
NER/PCA has developed the Instructor Mentoring Program with the objective of providing a positive learning environment for prospective instructors to development their awareness, communication and teaching skills. The mentoring program consists primarily of practice teaching with an experienced instructor acting the student's role. The mentor will role-play one or more student scenarios, ranging from a first-time novice who is just learning the ropes, to a more experience driver with more complex habits requiring attention. The objective of the role-playing is not just to test the candidate's ability to identify poor driving but to share the knowledge of common student mistakes and ways to communicate corrections.
The duration of the mentoring program will vary depending upon the needs and progress of the candidate. However, mentoring generally includes several sessions at more than one event/track. Mentoring sessions are generally not run as a continuous, mock-teaching exercises; rather, as on-track, interactive classrooms. Sessions may focus on explaining how to be simple, consistent, and "repetitious" with driving queues ("on the brake", "off the brake", "turn in", "apex", "on the gas", "unwind the wheel", etc.). Or, they may focus on how just a single corner is taught at a given track. Often the mentor (who is driving) will "teach him/herself" to show the candidate how he/she might handle a given scenario. Often the mentor will demonstrate things novice drivers often do such as lifting in corners, coasting, riding the clutch, failing to watch mirrors, exhibiting a death grip on the steering wheel, etc.
Another important element of the mentoring program will be to work on the often-overlooked time spent in the pit or paddock. Prior to going on the track, the candidate will be encouraged to extract as much information from the "student" as possible to ascertain their experience level, expectations, car modifications, if any, tire types and pressures, and general frame of mind. This non-driving time is also useful for reviewing safety rules such as flags, passing procedures, etc.
The mentor is the candidate's ally, whose mission is to share knowledge and work with the candidate to become an effective instructor. Final testing will be done by another member of the instructor development team who has not served as the candidate's mentor.
Instructor Certification Test
At some point the candidate is ready for the Instructor Certification Test. Ideally, it will "become apparent" to all parties that the candidate is ready for this test. The Instructor Certification Test is a "teaching test." The candidate will be matched with a member of the instructor development team who has not served as his/her mentor. The instructor (tester) will drive and play the role of a student while the candidate plays the role of the instructor. As time permits, the candidate should strive to demonstrate all of the elements of successful instructing development acquired during the mentoring program including introduction/background gathering, DE rules, flags, and of course driving technique.
Following the test, the instructor will provide the candidate with direct feedback on his/her assessment of the candidate's abilities as an instructor. However, final confirmation of "passing" or recommendation for further mentoring will come from the Chief of Instructor Development or the Chief Driving Instructor.
Other Regions' Programs
Instructor mentoring or instructor training programs across the PCA Regions are highly variable. Some regions have well-established programs, while others have none. The goals of most existing programs are similar to ours. To become an instructor in another region, you may be asked to complete their training program if you are not already an NER instructor. In some cases, you may be asked to go through that program if you are a brand-new instructor.
Zones such as Zone-1 and Zone-2 also run programs for zone instructor certification. They prefer that you already are an instructor in your home region before applying for zone instructor certification. In cases where someone is not already an instructor in his/her home region, the zone organizers will ask the Chief Instructor of the home region whether the candidate should be tested or not. This scenario handles the case where a candidate may be in the NER instructor mentoring program and is about to take the NER Instructor Certification Test (say at the next event) and will attend a zone event in the interim. The NER Chief Driving Instructor would then tell the zone to go ahead and test the candidate since he/she is going to be tested in NER imminently.