GDE Raising Self-Awareness
I was about to leave the house for a driving lesson when Ross rang to say that he was going to have to cancel his lesson later on that same day as he was ‘down the nick again’. ‘That’s okay, Ross’, I said, ‘Are you alright though?’ ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m fine’, he said, ‘just in the wrong place at the wrong time, you know’. I did know because Ross was often in trouble with the police. He smokes weed and has the rather unfortunate - for him - aptitude of not being afraid to flaunt it in places where the police might find him.
A day later, Ross rang again and asked if it was possible to have a lesson that same evening. I went to pick him up and exchanged glances with his mother as she muttered, ‘More trouble.’
In the car, Ross explained he was mostly in the clear now and all was fine. He’d gone round to a friend’s house before college and been picked up by the police when the house was raided for suspected drugs and stolen goods. Ross himself was innocent, and looked at me as if to say, that’s all I want to tell you.
Anyway, his driving was all over the place, completely erratic: too fast and then too slow, too close to the verge and then right in the path of oncoming traffic, swerving out at the last minute to pass parked vehicles, missing mirrors all the time. I increased the level of instruction in the hope that he would start to settle down and then decided to pull him over for a chat.
I asked him what he felt were the strengths in his character and he laughed and said he didn’t know, confidence perhaps. We spoke about how confidence is a driving strength, which would help him forward plan and make safe and well-timed decisions and judgements. I told Ross how much I appreciated the fact that he had rung me on two occasions from the police station to say he had to cancel the lesson when he could have left me waiting for him outside his house. He said quickly that he doesn’t like letting people down like that. Consideration is clearly another of his strengths - even though some people might not recognise this in him – and we discussed how it is also a driving strength, in terms of how he deals with other road users.
We then spoke about how these strengths of confidence and consideration could be weaknesses in driving. He agreed that sometimes his confidence makes him feel better than others and, even though he might be joking, he often speaks competitively about other road users, ‘I’m gonna have ‘em.’ He recognised that his over confidence could lead to a lack of consideration for other road users and that this could make his behaviour risky. He also admitted that perhaps he ‘acts up’ his confidence to cover for the fact that he feels things aren’t going well for him in his life.
Finally we spoke about how the way he is feeling generally has a direct impact on the way he drives and he admitted he was really surprised to recognise how his inner feelings displayed themselves in his driving.
When Ross moved the car away this time he could have been a different pupil. Gaining an insight into the workings of his personality, acknowledging his strengths and development needs, and understanding how his feelings affected his behaviour enabled him to regain control and drive responsibly.
There is little doubt in my mind that teaching to all four levels of the Goals for Driver Education (GDE) matrix enables learning to take place far more effectively than just addressing the first two levels. Ross’s problems in his driving appeared, at first sight, to be about how he controlled the car (Level 1 of the GDE) and how he integrated with other road users (Level 2) but dealing with his driving on the behavioural level alone wouldn’t have made any long lasting difference. I could have increased my level of instruction so that he was able to put his MSPSL more routinely into practice, moving his eyes to look into his mirrors when told, positioning the car correctly and slowing down progressively, as instructed. I probably could have continued with this heavy level of instruction until he had it off to a tee – all rote learned and, yes, in time, I could even have clocked up another successful pass with Ross’s driving test ... but what about afterwards? What about those critical first 250 miles when statistically he would be so at risk? Ross with his lifestyle is, like so many young people his age, hugely at risk of being involved in a serious collision after passing his driving test. Coaching him so that he understands how to self evaluate and take responsibility for his strengths, development needs and limitations will enable him to identify near misses, reflect on alternative courses of action and implement these the next time a similar situation arises.
As I said in my last article, teaching to the higher levels of the GDE and developing the three competencies (knowledge and skills; knowledge of risk-increasing factors; self-evaluation skills), is not about dropping what you are good at as an instructor. It is about building on the skills you already have as an instructor and developing them further so that your pupils will pass their driving test and then continue to learn by using the self evaluation skills you have already helped them put in place.