Driving Instructor Interview
Headshot of Susan McCormack, Tri-Coaching Partnership

Susan McCormack Co-Managing Director, Tri-Coaching Partnership

Susan McCormack On Her Passion For Driver Safety and Client-Centred Learning

Susan McCormack, co-managing director of Tri-Coaching Partnership, sits down with GoRoadie to talk industry, her passion for driver safety and client-centred learning.

Hi, Susan. Thanks for joining us. To kick us off, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I've been a driving instructor for over 30 years and have a passion for road safety, which has inspired me to focus my skills on helping driving instructors to develop themselves so that they can deliver client-centred learning techniques to their learner drivers, resulting in them hopefully making safer choices and decisions when they are out driving post-test.

Can you tell us a little more about what Tri-Coaching Partnership do?

We provide courses, training and development for driving instructors, trainee driving instructors and trainers of driving instructors.

As the company grows, we are able to identify top trainers to deliver our courses on our behalf. This gives a career path for driving instructors, who complete our courses and means they will continue to grow and develop in their own right.

You can't take a paint-by-numbers approach to the Standards Check and expect to get Grade A.

Why did you feel the industry needed this level of qualification?

Many driving instructors have been trained just to pass the qualifying examination (Parts 1, 2 and 3). It is important that driving instructors are able to take this initial qualification a step further so that they can influence and persuade their young drivers to be more responsible on the roads when they have passed the L test.

The BTEC Level 4 Professional Award in Coaching for Driver Development helps driving instructors educate people in behavioural change so that they begin to take greater responsibility for the choices they make. Everything the ADI does on the BTEC Level 4 improves the delivery of driving lessons.

A photo from a Tri-Coaching training workshop

Is it fair to say, therefore, that part of your motivation for introducing the BTEC Level 4 was to encourage ADIs to take their professional development to the next level?

Yes - There are no prerequisites to become a driving instructor and it is really challenging to pass all 3 parts. Because of this, many people think, once they've passed, they’ve done as much as they need to. They don't realise that they need to keep up-skilling themselves and continuing to professionally develop, especially because they are teaching in an ever-changing safety-critical environment.

The DVSA National Standard for Driver and Rider Training, Unit 5 is all about a requirement for driving instructors to continually develop. This came out of the EU reports, which said that, if instructors are going to take full responsibility for their part in improving road safety, then they need to continually develop themselves.

Do you think there's enough awareness of the importance of CPD for instructors?

There's not enough awareness out there, but the new Standards Check, introduced in 2014, in itself raises the awareness of the need to develop. You can't take a paint-by-numbers approach to the Standards Check and expect to get Grade A - you really need to self-develop either by talking to other top driving instructors, reading up on changes in the industry or attending courses.

The DVSA understand that they can't make CPD mandatory, because everyone is self-employed; they have to pay for their own CPD and when they choose to come on a course, they're giving up the earnings that they would otherwise make. What we've learned from our years of running the BTEC Level 4, however, is that there is a fantastic return on investment for every ADI. It represents self-development; raises confidence; gives them a unique selling point and helps them raise their prices resulting in a better work life balance. All of this raises standards and will hopefully have a knock-on effect on road safety.

We were lucky enough to hear you speak at the Instructors Network Seminar and one of the topics you discussed was Goal-focused training vs Test-focused training. It is a regular topic of conversation in our industry. Can you summarise what you shared with us here today?

I was talking about the difference between goal-focused training and test-focused training and the importance of delivering the former to learner drivers, which, in turn, will better prepare them for the L-test, as well as equipping them for safe driving for life.

Fault-focused training means that the instructor is preparing the learner driver for the driving test because this is a fault-focused assessment - you pass or fail depending on the number of faults accrued and the weighting given to those faults.

From an educational point-of-view, however, we know that this is not how people learn best because they are not learning how to think for themselves and how to develop strategies that they can apply when they are out driving on their own that will help keep them safe. To make safe choices and decisions when driving, people need to understand their strengths and weaknesses and how their emotions affect their behaviour; and they need the skills to reflect and self-evaluate.

How can instructors be more client-centred in their tuition?

If driving instructors could aim for a goal-focus rather than a fault-focus that would be a huge leap in the right direction.

After a piece of driving, driving instructors would be more client-centred if they asked questions, such as:

  • What was your goal?
  • What went well?
  • What else went well?
  • How did you manage that so effectively?
  • What could you do to improve?
  • What specifically do you need to do in order to improve?
  • How are you going to do that?
  • What support do I need to give you in order for you to do that well?

Goal-focused training is encouraging the person to work out, for themselves, what they've done really well - people can be really harsh and damning on themselves, so you want to start with the positives - and to work out what their development needs are, so they can determine for themselves what they need to do in order to make those improvements.

Fault-focused training is more about highlighting what someone did wrong and telling them what they need to do in order to be better. In effect, they're saying "do it like this and you'll pass your test".

What we want is for people to be continually thinking about how they are going to drive and make safe choices and decisions, according to their personality, once they pass their driving test. They could consider what kind of driving they’re going to be doing once they pass their driving test. Using what-if scenarios, the driving instructor could discuss how they would make a journey (to work, or on holiday, or to a festival with their friends in the car), thinking through what problems they could face and what strategies they could put in place to deal with these problems. This is helping to develop life skills and is far more effective than the traditional fault-focused approach.

The test does not make someone a great driver; it only ensures the learner is safe and responsible enough to go out on the road and continue to self-develop.

In effect, you're giving learners the skills they need in order to analyse what went wrong if they make a mistake?

Yes, that is very true.

When someone passes their driving test, their confidence is naturally sky high, but their competence is at exactly the same level as before they passed the test. They need to recalibrate to bring confidence and competence in-line with each other by gathering experience in local areas and getting miles under their belt on short trips; and then applying the self-evaluation skills they learned during their driving lessons to help keep them safe.

A really important part of the whole process is reflection, so that when they've been out driving post-test, they come home, sit down and think, "Okay, what went well? I was really pleased with my speed most of the time, however, there was one time I was doing 35 in a 30". It's this kind of acknowledgement, that turns them into thinking drivers, rather than ones that just ‘do’.

Do you think anything needs to change in regards to the driving test?

No, I think the driving test is absolutely fine as it is. What needs to change is driving instructors' understanding of what the test is for.

The test does not make someone a great driver; it only ensures the learner is safe and responsible enough to go out on the road and continue to self-develop.

Can you elaborate on the importance of a learner knowing their strengths and weaknesses?

This can be generally, or it can be how they think they'll feel about driving. Knowing "I'm a very confident person" or "I'm a nervous person" or "I get angry quickly" or "I love life!" gives learners an insight into what motivates their behaviour and how they might, therefore, respond when under stress or pressure whilst driving.

It is about taking a character/personality trait and considering how it can be turned into a strength. If they're nervous, for example, this can be a strength because it could mean they will be more circumspect when driving and will like to think things through before making a decision. If you're cautious you're careful.

It is important that the driving instructor helps the learner turn what they might think is a negative into a positive.

The Tri-Coaching Partnership and Instructor Training logos

What three things do you want learner drivers to understand about themselves whilst taking driving lessons?

  1. What their motivation is for learning to drive
  2. What having a driving licence will mean to them
  3. What their strengths and weaknesses are

What do you think the biggest change to the industry has been in the last five years?

The introduction of the Standards Check. It's given a common entrance point onto the DVSA Register of Approved Driving Instructors.

It is drawn from the DVSA National Driver and Rider Training Standard and is goal-focused and client-centred. It has flipped on its head all that has traditionally been done, which is old-fashioned and out-of-date.

The Standards Check led on to the introduction of the new Part 3, which came out in December 2017 and they line up exactly, meaning the same 17 competences are being assessed in both and these competences are goal-focused and client-centred. The Standards Check (and the Part 3) encourages the recognition of individual-differences and the importance of adapting the training to meet those differences.

More recently, the ORDIT assessment—the Official Register of Driving Instructor Trainers—has also been updated to be in line with the Standards Check.

What do you see being the biggest change in the next five years?

ORDIT may become compulsory. It's always about the cascade, so if the people who train people to become driving instructors are top quality, then the knock-on effect is that learner drivers will qualify and become safer drivers when they go out on the road.

What are the top 5 traits of an ADI (best qualities they could have)?

  1. Self-awareness – An appreciation of who they are and how their thoughts and feelings motivate their behaviour.
  2. Client-centred learning approach – They understand individual differences and can train in an equal, non-judgmental, neutral relationship with the driver, meaning the learning comes from within. It's their job to facilitate the learning, not transfer it.
  3. Kindness and compassion
  4. Good business head – With this, ADIs can learn to say no without worrying and stressing that they need to make hay while the sun shines and put stuff aside for the famine periods. This gives instructors the confidence that they're working to the best of their ability and helps them decide, perhaps, to build up their driving school or train at least one PDI, who can help with the workload. It's not about lesson prices really - instructors should be charging what they want and/or need to charge rather than charging in competition. Many do this as a second job or part of their retirement, so they may not need to charge high lesson prices as they're 'giving back'.
  5. Keep in mind the importance of improving road safety – 1 in 5 newly qualified drivers is involved in a serious crash within their first 6 months. That number is so out of kilter with the crash rate of the rest of the driving population.

What's your advice for new PDIs?

Look for a course that is fully integrated. It shouldn't focus on "do Part 1", "do Part 2" then "do Part 3", but instead focus on the whole goal of being a driving instructor. From day one with us, as a new PDI, you will be exploring the theoretical, practical and instructional aspects of being a driving instructor when you're out in the car and when you're studying.

Understand the standard that you need to display and demonstrate in your own driving, by relating it to your pupils’ needs. With a fully-integrated approach, your learning will actually be accelerated because you have the big picture.

That's the approach we offer at Tri-Coaching in our instructor training programme.

Thank you so much for giving your time to speak with us today. Where can people learn more about Tri-Coaching?

They can come to the website www.tri-coachingpartnership.com. There's a sign-up box on each page so that they can receive further information from us about our programmes, what opportunities are available and how they can further develop themselves.

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