The term coaching is the latest phenomenon to enter the driver training industry. This has largely come about through the Hermes project which was EU funded. The whole essence of coaching is to transfer ownership of learning from the instructor to the pupil. The empowering of pupil to think for themselves for their actions on the road. In this article, I shall be comparing, contrasting and recommending the most effective method to reducing road traffic collisions on our roads amongst the under twenty five year olds.
Coaching versus Traditional Instructing.
Coaching came about in the sports sphere where typically an athlete or a sport professional would follow the guidance and advice of his/her coach to pursue excellence and take on responsibility for their own development. Indeed, executive coaching is becoming very popular in the business world to achieve success amongst staff and managers. Coaching has now entered our industry and as such, the DSA has now embraced the findings of the Hermes project as the way forward in driver training.
As DSA instructors we relied on our training to identify faults, analyse what went wrong and to offer the remedy. This is known as the Core competencies. The control came from the instructor which in my view has been modelled on the Socrates school of teaching. The instructor is seen as the one with the “expert power”. The current training encompasses “one hat” fits approach for all learners. It does not take into consideration that as learners we all learn at a very different pace. We are also subject to different styles of learning. However, the GDE Matrix should not be forgotten.
The coaching method empowers the individual to set the agenda ( albeit in a controlled environment) and the objectives ought to be smart. This mnemonic means specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and time bound or target driven. The preferred learning style or inventory, if done skilfully ought to be a very useful tool in how best to deliver driver training. Coaching is one method which has helped me to identify the learning difficulties some learners have in learning to drive. Individuals with ASD or Autistic spectrum disorder may have varying degrees of autism which may have gone undiagnosed. The varying levels of ASD may have a profound effect on skills acquisition. I have had pupils from other driving schools who have said to me how much they enjoyed their driving lesson. Some pupils expressed being in “tears” on their driving lesson and it had a negative effect on their self-motivation and morale.
The Way forward.
Coaching in my view is the way forward as it encompasses a vast array of skills such as:
- – Effective listening. A good coach will listen for cues and not interrupt the pupil or be abrupt. Or for that matter, ridicule the pupil.
- – Rapport. The semantic level will be on an equal par and the pupil will be encouraged to discuss their emotions which can inhibit or promote their learning experience.
- – Questioning. By asking loads of questions does not mean one is coaching. Indeed, asking open or closed questions is still prevalent with our traditional form of instructing. As effective road safety practitioners, we need to empower our pupils to generate or reflect on their past experiences and come out with a valid and workable solution.
- – Feedback. Elicit feedback is what I personally advocate, rather than the traditional “sandwich” method which has the potential to demoralise the pupil.
- – Intuition. According to Oxford dictionary defines intuition as “power of knowing without reasoning” As responsible trainers we need to pass on the power of our knowledge and skills. An opportunity must be given to our pupils to work out solutions for themselves and how their actions could affect other road users.
As an proactive ADI, my role is to challenge widely held beliefs and attitudes amongst young drivers. Perhaps the only role models they have had are their parents or close relatives who have demonstrated a certain style of driving. As driving is a skill for life, we need to ensure that the new generation of drivers are able to drive safely and defensively. This is now more important than ever as we have more EU member states and freedom of people brings with it extra risk on our roads.
The whole ethos of driver training is undergoing a radical change. This is not to say that there is no room for instructing. This needs to be balanced with coaching methods. There may be times when instructing is beneficial but one must be aware that we strike a balance between instructing and coaching. The main emphasis must be on coaching and risk assessment if we are to have more safe and defensive drivers on our roads.