Traditionally, the driver training industry had always adopted a prescriptive approach. Driving Instructors were in control of and responsible for almost all elements of the driving lesson. Learners were, for the most part, passive in the learning process. Instructors told their learners, what to do, how to do it and when to do it. It used to be a very much one-way transfer of knowledge and skill, until it was time for the learners to pass their driving test and become qualified drivers. This very much sums up my own experience of learning to drive, back in 1994.
So what has prompted the change in our approach to driver training as an industry?
Research showed that almost one in four (23%) newly qualified young drivers are involved in an accident within the first two years of passing their test.
Interestingly however, the research did not find lack of driving skill as the main reason behind these accidents. Rather, it showed that novice drivers involved in accidents tended to lack a sense of responsibility in their own decisions, not driving skills per se.
So what can we do as driving instructors in the way we train our learners to help reduce that statistic? How can we help novice drivers make correct choices behind the wheel and increase their sense of responsibility for the outcomes of those decisions?
Our answer as an industry is to move from a prescriptive type of training (instructing/telling) – to a more client-centred approach: coaching!
WHY IS COACHING DIFFERENT?
Coaching is different because it is a far more client-active learning style.
The coach supports the learner in his/her learning by asking, not telling, with the emphasis being on learning, not teaching. Coaching as an approach brings the knowledge out rather than putting it in. It’s about helping you as the learner make your own discoveries, about stimulating and nurturing knowledge and developing skill through asking, not telling you what to do and how to do it.
Coaching raises learners’ awareness of their external environment, but also helps them become more aware of their internal state, their thoughts, feelings, frustrations, concerns and anxieties and how these can influence driving. This is achieved by asking questions like “what hazard could be round this corner?” or “what was going through your mind just before we stalled at the traffic lights?” For example, the stall may have been precipitated by concern or stress about the proximity of the vehicle behind, not lack of skill at hill starts per se.
Coaching is about encouraging learners to take responsibility for making decisions and developing the skill of self-reflection, about being able to look back and analyse situations and find lessons for the future e.g. by asking “If you were faced with the same situation again, what would you do differently?” and more importantly “why would that be better?”
With coaching, you will gain a much deeper understanding of what is required from you as the driver, in order to deal with the traffic situations that present themselves on the road, correctly and safely. You will learn to think, make your own decisions behind the wheel and take responsibility for those decisions.
This is so that when you have passed your test and are faced with an unfamiliar situation on the road you will be far more likely to think: “What options do I have for handling this situation?” or “What would be my best course of action here?” rather than trying to remember: “What did my instructor say I needed to do here?”
In other words, you will be able to analyse the situation and make a responsible decision based on the information available to you. You will be a much safer driver.
Don’t worry, during your learning journey I’ll always make sure that there aren’t any gaps in your knowledge or skill and I will always keep both you and me safe when we’re out on the road.
I am absolutely confident that with coaching, you will become a much better driver. Crucially, you will become a thinking driver!
I shall look forward to hearing from you and starting that journey together.
EU – HERMES Project (2007-2010): Developing the coaching and communication skills of driving instructors. Alles-Fuehrerschein (Austria), https://www.cieca.eu/project/32
Wilmot, G. & Wilmot, C. (2018). Who’s in the driving seat? The Driving Instructor’s Guide to Client Centred Learning. 1st ed. Active Driving Solutions.