Mythbusting: What is Coaching? And How You Can Implement it in Driving Lessons

In this week’s article, Dave Foster MA, Dip.DI busts the myths about coaching from a professional point of view.

I was prompted to write this article and the accompanying video after seeing a poll on Facebook where most of the people admitted to having never been on a coaching course. There seems to be a lot of confusion and myths about coaching. 

Let me clear some of this up. 

Coaching is to transport someone from where they are now to where they want to be. That’s all 

Let’s clear up some myths: 

  • It’s perfectly acceptable to teach during coaching 
  • Coaching is NOT about doing exactly what the pupil wants 
  • There are MANY levels of coaching 
  • You are probably coaching already 
  • Coaching is NOT complicated 
  • Coaching CAN be intuitive 

 One definition gives coaching as; 

Coaching assists a client to bridge the gap between where they are now, to where they would like to be far more effectively than if they worked alone. 

By coaching we try to raise the awareness of a pupil by using thought provoking questioning techniques so they can find the reasons for themselves for decision making factors in driving. 

Why do we do this? 

In helping them to come to a decision, they use their own reasons and start to form their own judgements. If you simply tell a teenager to tidy their bedroom, they might rebel and refuse, but let them come to a reason why they need the bedroom tidy and they might just do it.

In driving, we have in the past simply told a pupil to turn off a mobile phone during a driving lesson. They do it because they’ve been told but as soon as the instructor can’t see them, they will use their phone. Leave them to decide for themselves and watch what happens if their phone rings during a lesson. You can see the panic in their faces, and they want to do something. Some powerful questioning about how they feel and what could they do normally result in them turning the phone off next lesson. 

By coaching we assist them to find practical, step-by-step solutions to their goals 

Why do we do this? 

This helps them choose their preferred learning method. It gives them some control over how they want to do things and usually they know best how they learn. It develops a sense of ownership over the learning that takes place and gives them responsibility. Responsibility is something we hear a lot about in the Standards Test.

By coaching, we give on-going support through any changes or obstacles a pupil may encounter 

Why do we do this? 

As the pupils tries something, it might not always work first time. We can help them arrive at a solution. The coach would pick out ‘what did go right’ and develop from there. 

By coaching, we offer pupils tools, techniques and strategies to manage change and success that are likely to be long term. 

Why do we do this? 

We have the experience, knowledge and skills. We transfer these attributes to our pupils offering them as possible solutions to try. 

So, what does this all mean in simple terms? 

A pupil has certain things they WANT to do. They Want to get a car and to have freedom on the road. To do this, they NEED to pass the driving test and NEED to take driving lessons. They probably don’t want to take driving lessons and certainly don’t want to take a driving test. 

We get them to this place by using a variety different teaching or coaching skills. 

Now let’s put this in perspective, there are many different levels of coaching.  

Level one, the pupil needs no help just a few questions to help them find the reasoning in what they are doing.

Level seven, or ‘mission critical’ – they are going to hit a wall and all coaching goes out the window, instruct or take over. 

All other levels are something in between. You and your pupil set this level by ‘sharing the responsibility.’ Ensuring it’s understood and clear how responsible you both are. It’s also OK to change this level at any point IF the needs of the pupil warrant it (i.e. the approaching wall.) After all, we’re not going to be asking them “How do you think it will feel after we have hit this wall?”

Coaching is simple as it’s a conversation. A conversation with your pupil where we ask them about certain factors and decisions.  

These conversations are often intuitive, and you have them by instinct.  

Some tips on how to initiate coaching:

  • Find out the pupils needs, motivations, and desires to help your pupils in achieving learning. Show an interest in them.
  • Use questioning techniques to help pupils own thought processes in order to identify solutions. 
  • Support the client in setting appropriate goals and methods of assessing progress in relation to these goals 
  • Watch your pupils and listen. Ask questions to understand the pupil’s reasons for doing something that way. 
  • Use tools such as demonstration, guided talk through, prompted practice and resources such as lesson planners and apps to help with the learning
  • Always keep a positive regard for the pupilbe non-judgemental of your pupils.
  • Evaluate the learning, using objective measures wherever possible to ensure the transfer of responsibility and learning is successful.
  • Encourage pupils to continually assess their learning and take responsibility.
  • Work within your pupil’s competence levels but challenge a small bit each time.
  • Ensure the number of lessons are appropriate are neither too short, nor too long. 

There is no mystery to coaching. You do not necessarily need a long-winded complicated course, often rather just a different outlook.  

Here are a couple of things that changed in my outlook when coming to coaching. 

  1. When I first started teaching, if a learner asked to have the radio on, I would refuse saying it would distract from the lesson.
    Now I realise that for some people the radio helps them to concentrate and, they will put it on when they pass their test anyway, as I do…
  2. If a pupil had asked me, “can we bring my baby on a driving lesson?” I would have said it would be too distracting.
    Now I think, “Who will teach them to drive with the baby screaming in the back?” I realise this is a life skill I can teach them.

As a driving instructor for many years, and having studied coaching through the DVSA and University of East London with Dr Jonathan Passmore, I realised that what I did in lessons was coaching. What I would then do for a Standards test (check test) is adapt, so I told more and tried to offer what I thought the examiner wanted. In reality I was doing things well before. 

Developing yourself

One of the best ways to develop coaching is to take out qualified drivers, those who can drive. You then ask them why they do things certain ways and ask if there could be a better way. You coach these drivers to think differently. Why do we have speed limits? No, why do we really have speed limits? And if they can’t answer, what would happen if we didn’t have speed limits? 

If you want more information on coaching, then look out for the masterclass coming soon, or the coaching calls where you can talk face to face and ask questions.

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