The following article has been submitted to adi News for publication in the July 2012 edition - pending confirmation.
The Matrix Unloaded – A considered response to the article entitled: ‘The Matrix’ in the May 2012 edition of
By Alan Hayward BSc (Hons) MSc PGCE MSc TESOL ADI Grade 6
Approved Driving Instructors can and arguably should undergo meaningful training and coaching in how to strategically incorporate fundamentally important applications of selected aspects of the major psychological perspectives into their professional practical. This would represent a laudable professional goal for suitably experienced ADI’s. Indeed, the Fast Track School of Driving for example offers such courses [www.fasttrackschoolofdriving.co.uk].
The three sequential phases of the driving instructional process [i.e. novice learners, developing learners and pre-test standard learners] readily and usefully lend themselves to the relatively more straightforward and general applications of behavioural and cognitive-behavioural psychology to the learning process. Indeed many proficient DSA Approved Driving Instructors and certainly those rated at Grade 6 will almost certainly be highly receptive to such applications of psychology whether they realize that is what they are doing or not. However, to be able to effectively apply the relatively more complex and in-depth perspectives of psychodynamic and humanistic psychology, other than at the level of broad stroke implications, would arguably be highly problematic for many ADI’s and certainly without further advanced study of psychology.
This article is based on an extensive background of both academic and applied psychology in conjunction with considerable relevant professional experience and it enthusiastically argues in favour of post qualification training of ADI’s in the application of psychology to the professional learner driver context but primarily at a more tangible and pragmatic level and urges caution in the attempted utilization of a client-centered approach as championed in the article entitled: ‘The Matrix - When Harry Met…’ in the May 2012 edition of ADI News. The Fast Track School of Driving Method is outlined as illustration of appropriate application of psychology to the learner driver context.
The aforementioned article cites the ‘Goals of driver education’ within the GDE Matrix (Hatakka et al., 2002) of which Levels 1 & 2 [Vehicle maneuvering and Mastery of traffic situations, respectively] do indeed provide a useful theoretical platform to reflect upon and improve professional practice as they are appropriately linked to behavioural and cognitive-behavioural psychology. However, although there are elements within Level 3 [Goal and context of driving] that can selectively be focused on throughout the learning process [such as the driving state of the pupil] by a highly skilled ADI, the emphasis on trip-related goals is simply not an appropriate focus for most driving students until arguably they have passed their practical driving test and are undertaking the Pass Plus Course. Finally, the potentially intrusive content of Level 4 [Goals for life and skills for living] is clearly outside the professional remit of an ADI.
Let us not forget that driving students primarily need to feel comfortable with their driving instructor and confident in the process of learning to drive safely. This involves a significant motivational and financial commitment on their part. They need to instructed how to control the vehicle and how to respond to other road users and hazards: Although a sound template approach is to an extent rote-learned, it allows driving students sufficient time to evaluate the road situation and be able to respond appropriately. Getting driving students to this level of safe driving and driving test standard within the DSA recommended 45 plus 22 hours of professional instruction and independent driving practice is no mean feat (as illustrated by the universally low pass rates across the United Kingdom). Within this context, the implication that ADI’s should be aiming to facilitate enlightened understanding within their driving students and indeed that this is arguably the most important Level of the GDE Matrix is at the very least unrealistic and unnecessary if not potentially highly problematic from a boundary issue standpoint.
There are of course times when it is completely appropriate for a driving instructor who becomes aware that his student is visibly upset or frustrated or nervous to pull over and professionally and sympathetically explain the need to regain an appropriate focus before continuing with the lesson. There may even be occasions when driving students needs to express what they are feeling whether it is about their driving or something completely unrelated. However, ADI’s must be aware that it is not advisable to get too draw into such discussions as their driving students have not signed up for pseudo-therapy and may well justifiably resent such intrusion: The main reason why it would be most unwise to for ADI’s to get involved with such is because they are simply not qualified or professionally trained to discuss how thoughts and feelings motivate behaviour – driving behaviour or non-driving behaviour. Appropriately experienced and trained ADI’s should maintain professional boundaries that do not stray from the goal of teaching driving students how to drive safely and at driving test standard as cost effectively as possible. One highly successful means of achieving this is the ‘Psychology of Rapid Success’ applied by the Fast Track School of Driving.
The Psychology of Rapid Success [www.fasttrackschoolofdriving.co.uk]
'The Psychology of Rapid Success' refers to the application of applicable psychological concepts, theories and approaches to teaching a student to safely and appropriately drive a car on today's busy roads and pass the practical driving test. The Fast Track School of Driving Method is in fact a highly subtle and complex mix of these applications that has taken several years to develop and perfect.
A central concept within the humanistic perspective of psychology concerns the importance of intrinsic motivation, i.e. motivation that comes from within the self. This is important when considering learning to drive because it involves a significant emotional investment as well as in time and money and thus requires a determined resolve to make the required commitment to the process. It is this commitment that is assessed in the Fast Track School of Driving Initial Assessment Driving Lesson.
The humanistic perspective also advocates an acknowledgement of the whole self and this is embodied in the Fast Track School of Driving's flexible approach to driving lesson and driving course scheduling that fits in with the driving student's life situation, where ever possible of course.
The humanistic perspective further advocates the crucially important concept of 'unconditional positive regard' and this manifests in the non-judgemental, supremely patient and overtly positive approach of the Fast Track School of Driving Method.
Perhaps the most fundamental application of the humanistic perspective to the Fast Track School of Driving Method is the use of intuition by the instructor. For example, it is imperative that the driving instructor is not distracted from the centrally important emergent learning needs of the student by a blinkered adherence to the driving lesson plan and driving course schedule: The intuitive driving instructor will modify the content and focus of both on an ongoing basis in order to meet the individual needs of the student as they develop. It is clearly the importance of being intuitive that makes good driving instruction an art rather than a science – it will also go along way to getting that elusive Grade 6.
However, the more scientific perspectives of behavioural and cognitive psychology are arguably more pragmatically applied to the Fast Track School of Driving Method. Learning to drive involves numerous behavioural routines that need to be clearly demonstrated, over learned and positively reinforced with genuine praise.
The most fundamental application of cognitive psychology to learning to drive is the simple acknowledgement that it is a collaborative developmental process between the instructor and student that both need to be aware of. Further, we all have a 'limited attentional capacity' and when first learning to drive we use the majority of this capacity to focus on and learn the psychomotor movements and skills to control the car. With the appropriate amount of Driving Standards Agency Grade 6 driving tuition and practice the driving student is able to move from being able to control the car to being able to both control the car and observe / anticipate the behaviour of other road users thus leading to safe and appropriate driving responses.
An extremely powerful applied 'cognitive tool' that is distinctly utilised by the Fast Track School of Driving Method is visualisation and associated psychomotor co-ordination. In between driving lessons, especially during the early stages, Fast Track School of Driving students are encouraged not only to think through the driving routines and manoeuvres taught but also to combine this with the required associated movements of the hands, feet and head. This is an application of several strands of psychology, the most important being the increase of 'semantic and psychomotor coding' that link the thoughts, skills and understanding of the visualised task in a way that serves as a valuable additional form of practice. This is one of the several ways that the Fast Track School of Driving Method facilitates more rapid and first time success and thus keeps the cost of learning to drive down.
Although the psychodynamic perspective does apply to every human interaction it would be beyond the scope of the professional driving instructor to attempt to directly apply it to the learner instructor dynamic. However, the specific advice given to practical driving test candidates by the Fast Track School of Driving is based on the unconscious dynamics of the test situation: In the Fast Track School of Driving's experience every driving student reports having thought that they had failed at some point during the driving test when in fact they passed. This may well be to do with the unconscious fear of failing that we all have and that is brought out by the driving test situation. So by simply making test candidates aware of this dynamic increases their chances of passing - assuming of course that they have had the appropriate number of driving lessons and do drive according to the Fast Track School of Driving Method.
Alan Hayward has been a teacher for all of his professional life. He has Masters Degrees in Applied Psychology and Occupational Psychology. Among other things he has studied and taught both academic and applied psychology over many years. He is a DSA Grade 6, Principal Driving Instructor with the Fast Track School of Driving [www.fasttrackschoolofdriving.co.uk].