GDE Coaching versus Instruction
I find myself in a quandary.... I struggle to determine what kind of balance to have in my driving lessons between coaching and instruction. I know - from all the research literature - that skills-based training is not effective but I also feel that coaching techniques are not sufficient on their own when teaching people to drive. So my dilemma is about the ratio of coaching to instruction in a driving lesson to ensure learning takes place and that I deliver value for money.
Ensuring learning takes place and delivering value for money have to be the key objectives of every lesson; and addressing the Goals for Driver Education as the syllabus gives the necessary structure to the lesson.
You’ll remember from my earlier articles that the GDE Matrix has four levels. The first two levels: Vehicle Manoeuvring (Level 1) and Integrating in Traffic Situations (Level 2) are currently addressed by the driving test. When a pupil passes their driving test they have successfully demonstrated that they can handle the car by co-ordinating the controls – clutch, brake, gas, steering, handbrake, gear lever – to move the car away, change gear, turn left and right, emerge from junctions and pull up and park at the side of the road (Level 1). They have also demonstrated that they can read the road ahead and forward plan, taking into consideration other road users and the road and weather conditions, in order to manage the risks around them and negotiate hazards safely (Level 2). The higher levels: Goals and Context of the Journey (Level 3) and Goals for Life and Skills for Living (Level 4) are not addressed by the driving test and, by this fact, leave a huge, gaping hole in the education of drivers. It is into this chasm that our newly qualified drivers plummet when they are involved in a collision because they didn’t understand how their personality, values and opinions (Level 4) impacted on the way they handled the vehicle or integrated in other driving situations, or the risks they were prepared to take; nor, that they should consider the why, where, when and how of the driving task every time before they drive (Level 3).
Of course, the GDE Framework is a Matrix and therefore there are three columns running through all four levels. For each level the knowledge and skills (Column 1) and risk increasing factors (Column 2) of each subject have to be addressed; also, the ability of the pupil to self evaluate (Column 3) at each level has to be developed.
Back to my dilemma: how much to coach and how much to instruct. Broadly speaking, instruction addresses behaviour; coaching addresses beliefs and feelings. Traditional driving instruction focuses on driver behaviour and therefore addresses levels 1 and 2 of the GDE but only insofar as the first column / competency (knowledge and skills) is concerned. If this is what gets the learner through the driving test then is this not good enough? Research has shown that increased confidence in driving skills can increase the risk of being involved in a collision.* The learner presents for driving test and passes. They have received the best confirmation they could have hoped for that their driving skills are up to scratch. This will undoubtedly boost their confidence and may put them at risk if they do not know how to self-evaluate or take responsibility for their own driving because they have not been exposed to the higher levels of the GDE matrix or the last two columns.
On the other hand, there are times when a coaching approach is not the best teaching method to employ. For example, when teaching a pupil a new subject for the first time, it is necessary to use, on the move, the appropriate level of instruction. This means that initially the pupil should be guided through the skill, then prompted and finally, encouraged to practise the skill independently. It could be dangerous to let the pupil discover for themselves, on the move, how to approach and emerge at roundabouts; and also, this would not achieve the key objectives of every lesson: to give value for money and ensure that learning has taken place.
What is clear is that developing one’s coaching techniques and getting the balance right in a lesson between coaching and instruction is an evolutionary process. Only when I reflect on a lesson I have delivered and consider whether my techniques were the most appropriate; whether the questions I asked encouraged the learner to consider their thoughts and feelings; whether the goals I set were mutually agreed and achieved; and whether the discussions we had by way of feedback were effective and challenging can I then determine my best way forward with that particular pupil. I must also bear in mind that what appears to be an appropriate balance between coaching and instruction with one pupil will only turn out to be a recipe for disaster if I apply it to all.
I am still in a quandary but I recognise that this is a necessary part of my self evaluation. Identifying my strengths and limitations and looking for ways to address my development needs is all part of the process of becoming a good driving coach – something in which I passionately believe.
*Katila et al, 1996. Conflicting Goals of Skid Training, Accid. Anal. and Prev., Vol.28, No. 6, pp785-789.