GDE and Developing Self Evaluation Skills
A friend of mine, also an ADI, once explained how he taught his pupils to deal with roundabouts. Having spent a couple of lessons teaching them the basics he would ask them to pull up in a safe place just before a particular roundabout that was extremely likely to come up on the driving test. The instructor would explain exactly in which lane to approach, how to go around and how to leave, depending on the directions given by the Examiner on the pupil’s driving test. They would then practise the roundabout several times using the various different approaching and leaving options already outlined. In this way, the instructor felt confident he had ensured his pupils’ success in taking the driving test.
Used exclusively the downside to this approach is that we risk not looking often enough and for long enough beyond the test. We risk not spending enough time pre-test developing our pupils’ understanding and ability so that they are able to evaluate their strengths, limitations and development needs post-test. In order to ensure that our pupils have the best possible chance of remaining safe as qualified drivers they have to appreciate how their personality, opinions and values impact on the way they control the vehicle.
One of my pupils, Rob, had just been driving for several minutes. We pulled up at the side of the road to reflect on the practice session. I asked him what he particularly liked about driving. He said he enjoyed dealing with roundabouts, at least when they went according to plan.
Rob recognised that the reason he enjoyed roundabouts was because things worked best for him when he was able to follow a methodical and logical approach. I asked him whether this was something he recognised in his everyday life and he very quickly made a connection between roundabouts and bricklaying. As an apprentice bricklayer he gains a real sense of achievement from seeing the wall grow brick by brick and course by course. We discussed how having a logical mind and needing to deal with things in a methodical, step-by-step fashion is, in fact, a strength. For Rob, who left school with no idea of what he wanted to do with his life and perhaps low self esteem, it was a real eye-opening moment to see that the apprenticeship he had stumbled upon and considered as being ‘better than nothing’ was actually an excellent match with his skills and something of which he could be very proud.
We also discussed when the need to have everything go according to plan and fall neatly into place could be a weakness and again related this to driving, considering how he felt when elements of the driving sequence did not work as planned – I was revisiting in my head the times that he had approached the roundabout forgetting that he would need to change down a gear, veering startlingly off course as he remembered, looking down to see what gear he was actually in, keeping the clutch down, losing speed, spotting a gap, coming back on the gas, bringing up the clutch and stalling with the inevitable forward thrust that brings. We spoke about keeping calm when things went wrong and focusing on the immediate task in hand until there was a safe moment, at the side of the road, to reflect on what had happened.
I learned a lot about Rob and his learning style during that lesson. He learned a lot about his strengths and development needs as well as some of his personal coping mechanisms.
In my last article I explained generally about the Goals for Driver Education (GDE) and the importance of teaching across all four levels and all three competencies of the framework if we want to make a difference to the crash involvement of newly qualified drivers. What I was aiming to do with Rob was develop his self evaluation skills, which come under the third column heading of the GDE matrix. I was also addressing the highest level of the GDE, ‘Goals for Life and Skills for Living’, by coaching him to recognise how the skills he uses to achieve his goals in life are often the same skills he brings into the car; and that he can choose how he uses these skills, whether for good or for bad. He needs to know himself well, understanding what his strengths are and how these can be turned to his advantage when driving. Likewise, he needs to recognise his limitations and how these can be channelled to minimise his risks when driving. In learning how to self evaluate he is also learning to take responsibility for the driving task. This is the key to him remaining crash free once he is driving unsupervised.
So which is the most effective approach in terms of getting the pupil through the driving test: my friend’s skills-based, rote-learning style of dealing with roundabouts or my coaching, self-learning approach?
The answer, frustratingly perhaps, is a bit of both. Teaching to the higher levels of the GDE and developing the three competencies, 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.