What's in a Name?

Coaching or Development

A number of recent articles would suggest that it is quite surprising any of us learnt to drive safely and it would now seem that we have to make radical changes to the tried and tested methods that have been advocated for years. I take a broader view and although I believe that change is necessary and we must address the balance because those in control of our industry have failed to seriously listen to the people actually doing the job, we are now into a new danger of being hijacked by Academics telling us what we should do and they are set to replace the Civil Servants under the guise of ‘Education’. If we do not take back our destiny, the result will be that those who feel threatened will baton down and become entrenched and even more inflexible, whilst those with a minimal understanding of the coaching process will see it as an excuse to resort to a lazy way of teaching and others will see it as an opportunity to laud it over those who maybe are not intellectual, but are actually good teachers of driving.

With any imposed method, some will conform happily to the ‘system’ without much thought, whilst others will rebel against the new ideas foisted upon them, but we must not remain static because we are scared to experiment, since we need to be constantly asking questions and seeking to develop our skills and rather than listening exclusively to either camp and becoming polarised, we should instead be listening and adapting to the needs of our customers. The recent ‘U’ turns of the DSA would indicate they are starting to listen, but instead of listening to those who really matter, they are now consulting the academics who are not doing the job and I sense an increasing backlash against the views of non-practising experts who for the most part have never been ADIs and yet are telling us what we should be doing. The risk is that the doubting-Thomas will dig his heels in and refuse to develop which would be a further tragedy for our learners.  We must not be complacent and remain the same because ‘Systems’ foster stagnation, but if the move towards ‘Coaching’ becomes yet another system, it could also lead to increasing inflexibility. We must view it as a learning tool to be incorporated with the rest of the methods we use. 

We should talk with our clients and seek to get to know them as individual people. Discover all the influences which have affected the way they learn and then we will be in a position to guide them and develop their skills. I entitled my first book, “Driving is more about Psychology than Systems,” because the recognition of client behaviour is the primary part of teaching. Some will require one way, whilst others will require another way.  A Core Competence of Teaching is to ‘Understand’ them as people, so they can be motivated to ‘Enjoy’ the lessons, which is a Core Competence of Learning.

Systematic teaching will sometimes be required, but not with everyone on a regular basis. I remember the incredulity when I first explained why I don’t always give briefings or have ‘planned’ lessons (except for CT!) because I wanted the learner to be able to take Ownership of their driving, so that they could jump in the car and drive away safely without any input from me. It must be recognised that Driver Development does not mean sitting back and letting them be, but it means guiding and developing their progress as an active rather than a passive exercise. At times it will involve instruction and sometimes, as illustrated by the examples in my recent book “Driving is turning Disability into Ability,” the instructor will have to take firm disciplinary control, especially when dealing with those with Aspergers or Learning Difficulties. We must not be on one side or the other as the degree of direct involvement and the composition of every lesson will depend on the client’s needs coupled with the experience and ability of the ADI.

Look at how you are teaching, be flexible, consider coaching but see each client as an individual with different needs and do not go overboard with one system. One reason we have so many adult reading failures is because of the teaching fads of the 50s when ‘Phonics’ was the imposed system; the 60s when ‘Look and Say’ became the panacea; the 70s when ‘ITA’ became the experiment and then in the 80s when ‘Real Books’ and the love of free-reading became paramount and now full circle back to the system of ‘New Phonics’ and word-analysis as the buzz words. There were always those true teachers who did their own thing, evaluated new thinking, developed their ideas and adapted the various methods to suit their pupils’ needs. They were the successful ones and the ones who were appreciated by their students. They were not teaching from a text book, but using their Common Sense linked to years of experience. The skill of any teacher is to be able to select the most suitable, relevant learning tool at any specific time during each lesson; pick and mix.

I would encourage instructors to seek for good CPD in order to be able to take back their expertise from the experts and use their own experiences to meet the needs of their clients by regularly seeking how they can help them to learn in a more effective way. Don’t disregard new ideas but develop your own skills, rather than swallow theories hook line and sinker and don’t throw out the best of what you have always done with the bathwater. Some readers who are conversant with my writings may think I have done a ‘U’ turn, but I have advocated this approach for forty years as for me Development incorporates Coaching, but the development must come from the client and not from an isolated ‘new’ theory as we instructors still need to be there to water and feed the young plant in order for it to develop into a competent and safe driver. It will not thrive without our appropriate input when required.  

As Brucie might say; “Keep Developing!”