HERMES and Coaching

By September 28, 2016 January 1st, 2017 ADI's

I digress from my usual technical articles to an opinion based one on coaching.

First of all, I’m not against coaching, It can be a useful tool in the trainers bag and I’ll be writing some more articles about it later, but first I’d like to look a little closer at where it comes from and why its suddenly ‘en vogue’ in driver training.

So where does all this come from?

The GDE (Goals for Driver Education Matrix)

This was started from an EU Project called GADGET in 2002 and splits driving down into 4 levels

  1. Goals for life and skills for living
    3. Goals and context of driving
    2. Driving in traffic situations
    1. Vehicle control

Driver training supposedly only focuses on levels 1 and 2.

Most countries are still focusing on traffic rules and managing the vehicle in different traffic situations” –presumably we should be spending more time on discussing with the client if they should have taken the bus or walked instead of how to drive the vehicle safely down the road? similar to if you went to a skiing coach and they started off with, well this whole skiing things a bit overrated – have you considered a leisurely walk into the town instead?

Anyway this languished away, generally unknown except to people who make a living writing reports in journals no-one reads until the HERMES Report.

High impact approach for Enhancing Road safety through More Effective communication Skills

See what they did there? If that’s not a convoluted backronym I don’t know what is, surely it should have been called the HIAFSRSTMECS report instead?

Anyway the HERMES report set out to investigate the best way to reach these “higher levels” of the GDE matrix that no-one had ever heard of before.

The associates from the UK included none other Sir John Whitmore, who having built a Coaching Business empire and written a book on Coaching, despite the fact he can’t seem to master pull push steering along with a couple of people from a company called a2om, (It’s not entirely clear what they do accept for publish e-learning packages and phone apps to teach people to drive along with publishing inaccurate tweets such as “New law means you can be prosecuted for not giving a cyclist enough room when you overtake” – Really? What new law is that then? But I digress.)

How they were selected I’ve no idea – the rest of the project team is from a variety of organisations across the EU.

So having setup a team of experts in coaching to look at what could be done to reach these higher levels on the GDE matrix, you’ll never guess what they found the solution was….

So what do they define Coaching as ?

“Coaching is a learner-centred method that engages body, mind and emotions to develop inner and outer awareness and responsibility with an equal relationship between the learner and coach”

Well that clears it all up.

The report is full unsubstantiated  of weasel words

i.e. “in school they are often talked at rather than to” – Are they? Says who? which schools? In which counties – considering this report spans the whole EU –

It should be understood that simply manoeuvring the car in driver training is not ‘active enough’” – Should it? Says who? On what evidence? What does ‘active enough’ mean? How active is enough, how much is not enough? How is this measured?

In practice, many youngsters are used to obeying and following instructions

Are they? What sort of youngsters have they met then?!  It’s usually hard enough to get them to turn up to a driving lesson on time.

“Low self-acceptance is a typical trait of young males.”- Is it? Across which socio-economic background? which racial background? and what are you using as the age range?

And this is only across two pages of the entire report.

The entire thing is packed out with sweeping generalised statements with no evidential basis to support the conclusion.

It then becomes even more bizarre in that the people on the project start quoting themselves in the report to evidence their own conclusions

Building awareness and responsibility is the essence of good coaching (Whitmore, 2002).”

Coaching is about making people realise if they feel right or not. Any change will not be stable unless it comes from an emotional standpoint. This awareness will then become self-correcting in the future. Ian Edwards

“I believe this blog page is the greatest contribution to driver training of 2016 – Leigh Brookes”

Anyway we’ll skip to the end of the report – some actual data

Three of them answered the questionnaire without any inner variation and thus they were eliminated from the data

Translation – we dumped the answers that showed no change. I’m always immediately suspicious when people start dumping results in research. There’s no reason to dump results unless they are incomplete or tainted in someway.

Moving on to the actual results from the end of the report

The aim was to measure how coaching style teaching was realised in driving teachers’ teaching and not how effective (concerning knowledge and skills) it was as a method for increasing learning.

So that parts useless, I want to increase learning not measure how effective a coach I am against an arbitrary standard, especially if it doesn’t have any effect on learning. – I’d teach Yogic Flying if it gave better results.

The next question concerns learning of knowledge and skill contents.

Here we go – the meat and potatoes – we can really see how effective the whole thing is now

“How much did you feel jointly responsible for shaping the course content?
How much were emotionals themes discussed?
Were you able to define your own learning goals?
 Who made the most decisions regarding the next learning steps during the theory session?
How much did this course leader emphasise that you yourself are responsible for the learning process?”

Oh – And it goes on in that vein for several more questions.

The fact that you feel you have learned more is irrelevant. It’s like saying I feel I could run a mile in 4 minutes.  The actual question is could you?

Anyway it rambles on for a few more pages of results about how great everyone feels, but they present no evidence at all its any better at achieving the final result.

There’s no comparative study between equivalent sample sizes split into control groups, those based solely on instruction, those based solely on coaching and those based on a mixture. No comparison of test pass rates, no follow up study 6 months, 12 months, 2 years later to determine accident rate and driving offences committed etc.

Now you might say I’m being harsh – it’s not intended as scientific paper – Well my answer to that is, it bloody well should be – if we’re to start changing driver training, something we’ve been pretty good at in the UK considering we’ve had one of, if not the safest roads in Europe for decades then there sodding well should be some evidence behind it.

So am I saying that Coaching is not the panacea to improve driving standards then?

No , I’m saying I don’t know, and more importantly neither do the authors of HERMES as there’s no scientific evidence behind any of it.

All they can tell you is that people who undergo coaching feel better about it.

It’s not all bad, there are some good coaching techniques mentioned in the report which I’ll be covering later in some articles on coaching techniques.