Wednesday, 9 July 2014
The Coach Has Arrived
I've been looking forward to this particular unit of the National standard for driver and rider training. 6.3.1 deals with the subject of coaching which is the most important single element of the new approach for my mind. Funnily enough this unit is a lot shorter than some of the others which didn't seem to be dealing with much. Let's take a look.
Driving instructors must be able to listen when the learner tells us about the obstacles they experience that prevent them from applying practical driving skills and understanding the theory. I find that this takes a bit more than listening. Sometimes a little bit of questioning is required to find the obstacles. Often the learners themselves do not know where the obstacles are coming from. I recently had a pupil trying to drive through red lights and never knew what the speed limit was. After a question and answer session it turns out he used to ride a motorbike and that's the reason that he stares at the road surface. He is so used to looking for potholes and things as you do on a bike. Once the problem is brought into awareness then we are in a position to put things right.
Sometimes learners are embarrassed to say what the problem is. Pupils who have been involved in a crash which has left them feeling nervous seem loath to admit it. This happened recently with a pupil of mine who burst into tears recounting the crash. When she saw there was no ridicule or judgement coming from me then she calmed down and the driving improved. Pupils who have difficulty reading may not wish to admit it which can lead to problems passing the theory test. Simply listening without judgement can be the most powerful way to help learners overcome obstacles.
Working with the learner is the main thrust of coaching rather than just telling them things. We need to help them reflect on their experience of the lessons. How our feedback is helping them or not and also the feedback of other training providers. If the pupil feels that a previous instructor has been unduly harsh or critical it can be a problem. The instructor may not have been harsh but if the learner thinks they were then that is what makes the obstacle. I find feedback must contain at least a couple of positives even if the actual driving performance on the lesson was poor. Parents can also give unguarded criticism which can destroy confidence. Again, talking it through seems to work wonders.
Some pupils are reluctant to take ownership of their learning and actively want the instructor to be in charge right up to the test. I tell my pupils I am teaching them to be independent and the worst thing an instructor can do is make a learner reliant on them. As soon as they are ready we've got to transfer the responsibility. Not forgetting that at all times we are responsible for the safety of ourselves, learners and other road users.
When it comes to formal assessment I take it this means the driving test. I always agree with the pupil when it's time to book it. I never recommend me going out on the test with them. It's not something I enjoy but I let the pupil know I will go out if they want me to. It's mostly people from overseas who want me out on the test it seems. After the test we need to help the learner reflect on the outcome. This is more important if they failed so we know what needs to be done in order to pass next time. A high degree of positivity is needed so they don't give up altogether. Most instructors will already be practising the recommendations in this module I would say. Next up is the unit all about group based learning. Not something I've ever done but worth a look nonetheless.