WHY THE SANDWICH METHOD OF GIVING FEEDBACK IS NOW DEAD
By Tariq Musaji DSA ADI
Feedback is similar to an analogy to the little turns of the steering wheel a driver makes when driving on a straight road. A major change of intervention is only needed when we, as road safety practitioners need to grab the wheel to prevent a major catastrophe. For many years we were accustomed to delivering the sandwich method of giving feedback. However, our industry is now undergoing a major change. With the Check test now being replaced by the standards check, we need to look out how we give feedback to our pupils. This article serves to offer a normative prescription as to how I see feedback needs to be delivered. I personally believe that the days of the sandwich method are now over with the introduction of coaching or client centred learning as the DSA likes to call it.
Feedback. Is a process of generating awareness in another person about the effectiveness of their behaviour? Feedback can either be affirming (encouraging the other person to continue with a certain behaviour) or adjusting (encouraging them to consider additional or alternative behaviours)
As driving instructors, we have become accustomed to giving feedback using the “sandwich” method. This is exactly what it says on the tin. We start off with the good points about the students driving and then talk about the negative aspects and then back on the positivity’s of their driving. Hopefully, this should leave them in high spirits and go away thinking that they have done really well.
The advantages of this form of feedback are:
- (i) As instructors we are trying to change the behaviour of our pupils. This form of feedback quickly addresses the issues to be tackled. If done properly, the pupil should take on the constructive comments and be able to motivate themselves to do better.
- (ii) The feedback should reflect on the performance of the pupils driving ability. It should not be a direct attack which could lower their self-esteem and morale. It needs to be done in a skilful manner (iii) The feedback should be equally balanced in each of the three “layers”. It should be honest and constructive and not simply to boost the pupils ego. Most Instructors fall by the wayside in this respect. Thinking that the pupil would go away on their “high horses” and blag on social media what a terrific lesson they had with Joe Bloggs ADI.
The disadvantages are:
- (i) The process of Emotional Intelligence is totally ignored and there is no elicit feedback from the pupil. Elicit feedback is when we, as Instructors ask our pupils how we can help them to improve? Other questions could be, how to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is very poor and 10 is excellent.
- (ii) E.I (or emotional intelligence) involves recognising one’s own emotions and acting on them in a reflective and critical manner. However, as we know as professional instructors that most people that we teach, have never analysed their strengths and weaknesses and how to deal with anger, frustration, pride and anxiety.
According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist we can adapt his model to our industry for driver development:
- (i) Self-awareness. A self audit of the pupil’s strengths and weaknesses? How do they learn best? With visuals or a practical demonstration. E.D.P or Explain, demonstrate and Practice is a model which I have extensively used with some of my pupils. How many instructors ask their pupils one simple question;
“Would you like me to give you a demonstration of this manoeuvre?”
The latest fad in the diver training industry is using an I Pad, Notebook or a laptop and hopefully the pupil should pick up the skills by watching the screen? There is so much euphoria on ADI groups on Facebook with instructors posing questions such as “Which applications are available?” “Which apps shall I download?” This is a remit of “one hat fits all” approach and is very similar to the regimental Part 3 approach which does not differentiate that as pupils we are all different in how we learn and absorb driving skills.
- (ii) Self Regulation In driver training most instructors seem to do too much talking, thinking that they need to be in control. As human beings we get accustomed to the usual banter and after 10 minutes our concentration seems to dwindle down. We need to encourage confidence in our pupils by asking relevant, timely, targeted questions which will enable the pupil to start using their cognitive skills which will then further develop their psychomotor skills. As human beings, we best learn by doing things.
- (iii) Motivation Is the inner drive to succeed in what we want to accomplish a certain goal within a set target. As our pupils makes mistakes during the learning process, this is actually a good thing. (provided that it is done in a safe and controlled environment) The pupil then needs to reflect back on their actions and through effective coaching, encourage them to come out with effective workable solutions.
- (iv) Empathy Is the ability to understand other people’s feelings and viewpoints. As road safety practitioners we are constantly reminding our pupils the need to give signals in the correct, timely fashion to other road users.
Eliciting feedback from our pupils.
Effective coaching is based on on-going input and feedback from the coachee. The term feedback has its origins in science (operations management). The diagram below shows a simple systems diagram. The input from a coach to a coachee must be an effective communication mechanism and the end result to enhance productivity and self morale. The “transformation process” is where learning takes place between the coach and coachee. By eliciting feedback from our pupils we can persuade the coachee to select the correct course of action by going through the various options. However in order for the feedback loop to work in harmony, one must establish a good sense of rapport. A coach needs to create a dialogue in order to elicit appropriate feedback from the coachee. This is essential as the coachee is still imperfect in their decision-making . As a coach we need to establish a ground where their ideas or concepts are tested against actual conditions and underlying expectations.
The disadvantage of soliciting feedback can result in the coachee being over-confident and in total denial of their weak areas. If not handled correctly by the coach, it can lead to negative reaction which could close down the feedback loop. This could lead to an atmosphere of mistrust and a breakdown in communication.
I personally think that the days of “praise sandwich” are over and I for one am not using this tool to give feedback. As professionals we need to give some empowerment to our pupils to start to take responsibility within a proper structured training environment. The sandwich method involves negativity and as individuals this affects our E.I or Emotional Intelligence. The degree that it affects varies, but to young people it is like a “roller coaster ride” where it can be extremely difficult to gain momentum after an destructive feedback. Eliciting feedback is what I am using with my pupils as it creates a climate of trust and respect. This is essential if we are to deliver safe drivers for the 21st century.
About the author.
Tariq Musaji ADI is a fleet registered grade 6. He has his own driver training company and has contributed to Which? On-line articles. He has successfully challenged Essex County Council to change road signs. This campaign is still active and on-going. More details on www.essexroadsigns.org