04 Nov Feedback and Reflection
Feedback and reflection on practice is not a new phenomena in driving instructor training. However what is new is the type of learners we are now meeting, and by learners I mean in the broader sense, all individuals as adult learners, not just new learner drivers.
I have had many years of learning and continue to do so with every encounter I am privileged to have. I set learning as a daily goal, aiming to learn at least 1 new ‘thing’ per day. I feel that by being in this mindset I am open and receptive to learning but more importantly totally at ease with knowing that I do not know everything.
There is a visible shift in the mindsets of the (adult) learners I meet now compared to even just 5 years ago. The style of learning is much more influenced by environmental factors than previously, this includes prior experiences of learning, fears, hopes, family, finances and even social media. This is in addition to the individuals learning style whether it be aural, auditory, kinaesthetic, social or solitary.
All of these factors are a maze through which we have to navigate in order to be able to connect with the learner. It poses the question how do we as mentors/ teachers or coaches individualise our teaching style and what do we base it on, in particular how do we measure learning and feed that back to our clients.
In the early days I tried the friendly approach taking it gently with clients and trying to fix the unfixable, I soon learnt that this style would leave me broke and most likely burnt out very quickly. Something needed to change, namely me and my teaching style. I had to understand that the learning wasn’t just mine, and that the client needed to take ownership and we needed to enter a partnership approach if real progress was going to be made (for both parties).
I worked on my listening style as I realised it wasn’t active, in that I was listening but not hearing. I also realised that I remedied too early and went sparingly on the feedback. This was influenced by one of my very first clients who I will refer to as John (to maintain confidentiality), he was a young, quiet and physically strong man who always smiled but did not speak too much.
Theory work and reading was not his thing, he was more of a ‘getting stuck in’ learner. I had tried everything (as I thought) with John and one day decided to just tell him that he wasn’t progressing well and that I didn’t think driving was for him. I hadn’t really done the prep work for this and certainly wasn’t ready for his response. He broke down crying and wailing hitting the steering wheel whilst shouting out “I’m just rubbish, I can’t do anything”.
Well it took a good 30 minutes of this before John calmed.
That incident left me quite disturbed and made me think about feedback and it’s effects on others sense of ‘being’.
I met with John a week later and decided to try another approach. So I asked John to meet me in a cafe and he did, we then had a very open discussion about what happened the last time we met and how he felt about his training.
He said that he’s always been rubbish with reading and learning and assessment situations sent him into an internal panic mode. He found it hard to hear feedback as he’d always been told that he wouldn’t achieve anything. We talked for quite some time, about his likes and what he enjoyed doing in his spare time. From our discussion we connected on some mutual ground and the next time we met for a training session he was much more engaged and when we came to me delivering feedback I tried to relate it to his love of football. He appeared to be more receptive and actively engaged in the discussion.
Whilst trying just to be ‘friends’ is not the answer there is something about forging a connection with the learner that is the key to unlocking potential.