GDE Patience & Perseverance
Last time I spoke about Scott and how combining coaching with instruction and addressing the higher levels of the Goals for Driver Education (GDE) empowered Scott to learn on a deeper level by raising his self awareness and enabling him to take responsibility for his own driving. In this article I would like to tell you about Tess. I have been coaching Tess for just one hour a week for the past two months. She can’t afford to have more than one hour a week, which is a shame because she is taking a long time to get to grips with the controls of the car – Level 1 of the GDE. Tess has already had lessons with a couple of other instructors and is the sort of pupil that will take a long time to learn to drive because she lacks self confidence. Nevertheless, she is motivated and eager to learn.
You’ll remember that Level 2 of the GDE is all about forward planning and anticipation in order to integrate safely with other road users and get to grips with different traffic situations. This is when we can move our pupils out of the nursery patch and onto busier roads. With Tess I have to introduce her to new situations really slowly because she panics easily and then her gear changes go completely to pieces. Balancing introducing her to new situations against the sheer monotony of endlessly going around the same block of left and right turns is important if Tess is going to remain motivated and feel like she is making progress. Although Tess speaks English well, it is not her first language and there have clearly been misunderstandings and misconceptions in the past with her other instructors. For example, she claims never to have understood about clutch control when turning the car around in the road and was amazed to see how slowly she could move the car when she didn’t forever have to switch from gas to brake in an effort to keep the speed down – a technique doomed to result in her hitting or bouncing up the kerb.
I believe that coaching as a technique is far more effective than a more traditional approach and I constantly look for ways to encourage Tess to take responsibility for the learning to drive process. With coaching I know that learning comes from within and Tess has to experience for herself how to do things. Coaching enables me to engage with Tess in a way that I couldn’t if I was just going to instruct her. I have to think a lot about how to facilitate her learning on a deeper level, thus addressing the higher levels of the GDE and developing her self evaluation skills. We swap seats fairly regularly and she thoroughly enjoys being the instructor and telling me what to do. This really helps her learn the MSPSL routine as she is able to concentrate on what needs to be done next without having to simultaneously do it. Back behind the wheel of the car she shows great improvement and increased confidence. Playing the instructor makes her laugh and we can both see the panic lift as she sees that learning can be fun.
At the end of the lesson I set her the task of going home and ‘visualising’ the lesson. I am quite specific about this explaining that she should sit down quietly on her own and visualise herself going around the blocks of left and right turns we have done today. She should actually be able to see herself changing gear with the ‘clutch down, off gas’ foot movements and hear the engine revving as she inadvertently stays on the gas; or, when moving the gear lever from second to third she should visualise the times when she mistakenly attempts to move it straight up into first and, more importantly, the times when she successfully moves the gear lever smoothly into third.
I don’t know whether a more traditional approach would produce the results that I get from Tess. I am certain that with a lot of perseverance from another instructor, who was just instructing, she would eventually learn how to manoeuvre the vehicle safely (Level 1) and how to integrate with other road users (Level 2) and after a few test fails, probably pass. However, this would take a long time and, only through coaching, will she learn how to take responsibility for her own actions, which is key to safe driving. Unless she understands how to take control of the situation, the panic that inhibits her ability to control the vehicle now will remain with her always. This is all part of addressing the higher levels of the GDE and, in particular, Level 4 (Goals for Life and Skills for Living). Tess panics when she feels out of control and this panic comes from a lack of self confidence in her ability to control the vehicle.
What I see with Tess is how the Levels of the GDE all overlap. It is necessary to consider all four levels and three competencies in order to be sure that Tess gains a well-rounded driving education and can continue to be a safe driver once she passes the driving test. Addressing the GDE effectively can only be done through coaching, which, although at times can be very challenging, is above all the most rewarding and satisfying way to do this job.