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Home-Study Compared to Classroom Instruction

In this study numerous comparisons were made between classroom and home-study driver education courses. The findings provide no compelling evidence that the home study modes of instruction were inferior to classroom courses in teaching the driver education curriculum subject matter developed for the study. Rather, students taught under the home study options performed as well or significantly better on the study exit exam and the CPI safe driver attitude measure. However, classroom students did perform significantly better than home-study students on the DMV written test. These findings were generally consistent across the categories of analyses that were conducted. The fact that classroom students did better than home-study students on the DMV written test is considered less important in the determination of home-study driver education effectiveness than the finding that the classroom students performed the same as, or worse than, home-study students on the study exit exam, for the reasons specified below.

The main goal of driver education and training courses is to teach new drivers the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for operating a motor vehicle safely and passing the written and behind-the-wheel driving tests required to obtain a driver license (Anderson et al., 2000; Mayhew & Simpson, 1990, 1996, 2002). To achieve these objectives, the DMV specifies the content of material that is to be taught to young drivers, particularly with regard to driver education courses. The California DMV created a standardized driver education curriculum that was the basis for all of the courses evaluated in this study, including the classroom courses. The content of the curriculum covers much more than is necessary to pass the DMV written test to obtain an instruction permit. That is, the DMV written test is a sample of only a very small portion of the standardized curriculum, and therefore only a very small portion of what is deemed important to be taught in a driver education course.

The knowledge portion of the study exit exam also represents only a sample of the standardized curriculum; to test students’ knowledge levels of every detail of the entire curriculum would not have been practical. However, the exit exam represented a sample of the safety-related material from the entire standardized curriculum, and therefore measured the students’ knowledge of a much larger set of safe driving material than is covered by the DMV written test. Because it covered much more of the material that the department deemed important for teens to learn, the exit exam is a much more content-valid measure of the material that is supposed to be taught in a driver education course than is the DMV written test. The exit test is deemed a more valid and reliable measure for three other reasons. First, the exit exam was pilot-tested to insure that it could discriminate between those with and without the requisite knowledge. Second, it occurred closer in time to the students’ course completion and therefore was less subject to the students’ studying and forgetting following completion of the course. Third, the content of the exit exam was kept secure by having DMV employees proctor the tests at the school sites. This final precaution would have prevented, for example, a particular course provider from learning the content of the exit exam and then focusing primarily on that subject matter in the course.


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