Driving Lessons Must Be Client-Centred

Rapport has broken down between instructor and learner

Is this really going on in driving lessons?

I have just booked in a new pupil for their first 'assessment' lesson. This lesson does not commit the pupil to any further lessons but allows the opportunity to assess whether they feel comfortable with me as their instructor, whether they think they will enjoy their lessons and how well they feel they cope with driving my car. It also allows me the opportunity to get to know the pupil and their aptitude for learning to drive. Prior to this lesson I will have spent some time on the phone with the pupil finding out as much as possible about them: why they want to learn to drive; any previous experience and during the conversation find out if there are any nerves or other issues that may affect their learning.

Today I spoke with a 'more mature' lady wanting the freedom driving could offer her. She has had a couple of 'lessons' from her son-in-law, who was surprised by her standard - in a good way - and she has also had lessons with 3 instructors, 2 with local franchises and one independent. The things she told me completely horrified me:

  • Top of her list was the fact that all these instructors seemed to want her to get on with driving with little or no help from them. Not one of them instructed her, apparently, and she wanted them to do so.
  • She was asked what she wanted to do, then told to drive.
  • During the session she was told to relax, with the instructor pressing down on her tense arms
  • On several occasions she was told to speed up because she 'wouldn't pass her test' if she drove so slowly!
  • One instructor, presumably the indie, had a filthy car and kept her waiting outside his car while he carried on a conversation on the phone 'with a customer'.
  • Instructors were late and failed to inform her they were running late. Finding somewhere to pull over and send a text to a pupil is not hard to do round here!
  • Being told she is too old to learn to drive! She is 62 and, unless a medical issue shows she is unfit physically or mentally to drive, then this is age discrimination! I have another mature lady, aged 54, who was also told this by an instructor!

But the thing that was worrying this 62yr old the most was the fact that these instructors seemed to just want her to get on with it with no help from them! And this seemed to tie in with things I have been reading of late in Facebook groups, instructors believing that CCL means you mustn't instruct, help or guide! In fact I found the sheer ignorance of what the term 'client-centred learning' actually means quite staggering! 

It does not mean:

  • letting the learner get on with it on their own
  • never using instruction
  • letting learners tackle driving topics beyond their capabilities
  • putting the learner in road environments beyond their level of ability
  • failing to address driving faults

It does mean:

  • guiding the learner to find the solution to the problem for themselves, by use of carefully targeted questions
  • listening carefully to the learner
  • allowing the learner to give their feedback
  • listening carefully to the learner
  • encouraging the learner to suggest alternatives
  • listening carefully to the learner
  • helping the learner to self-reflect on their performance
  • listening carefully to the learner
  • guiding the learner towards realistic goals
  • listening carefully to the learner
  • helping the learner to work out what they would do differently next time.
  • listening carefully to the learner
  • finding out how the learner likes to learn best - if they learn best by instruction, then do it! (I have a learner at the moment who needs me to instruct her whilst she is learning to control the car. She told me she learns best by following instructions first, until it is 'fixed' in her brain. Without the 'crutch' of instruction she is very tense.)
  • And finally, listening carefully to the learner!

Yes, there's more to it than this, but believe me, if you start listening, really listening, to your learners, then the rest will begin to fall naturally into place.



  1. Sams

    Hi Jackie, First, there are always 2 sides to every story !! Secondly, I think yes, unfortunately there is a lot of this going on. I'm constantly getting clients from other instructos/schools who have never heard of the 'Safety Line', who rev the engine loudly to change gear from 1st to second for example, who don't know how/ why to check the mirrors when carrying out any manoeuvre, who can't follow a straight line from the kerb, don't know how much room to give an overtaking parked vehicle – the list goes on and on. I'm actually gob-smacked and find it hard to understand that all this info has not been passed on. I don't claim to be perfect; I'm always in a learning mood, and try to  incorporate my training with CCL, even to the point of keeping quiet for what seems ages while the client takes their time to answer any question because that's the time they need. Even on their first lesson 99% tell me that I am more thorough than their previous instructor/driving school. I can't take it as a compliment because I feel that that is what I'm being paid to do, by challenging them with as many scenarios as possible that are available. Regretably, not all ADIs are of the same opinion.





  2. Jackie Willis

    I am posting the following comment on behalf of Teresa Allen ADI:

    Read the blog. Thought it very bad the lady had such bad luck to have 3 less able or professional instructors.
    However,  "a filthy car, presumably the indie" is an unwise comment which will surely produce reaction. I myself am independent and am very fussy that my car is clean inside and out to the extent that I can be seen washing it in the rain much to the merriment of my neighbours. 

  3. Jackie Willis

    Many thanks for your comment, Teresa, and for taking the time to read the blog in the first place. I will be posting an apology to the point you raise, which I think you will find interesting!


  4. Kathy Higgins

    Hi Jackie, my father-in-law learned to drive at 65!  You should also see my you tube video The Bad Driving Lesson, this was done in one take and the stuff I get up to is based on feedback given to me from pupils who have come from other instructors.   Kathy 🙂   

    Here is the link.     

  5. Jackie Willis

    Wow, thanks Kathy. Your video is hilarious – did you go to RADA then, lol?? If this is based on what you've been told by pupils about their previous instructors then no wonder there are so many nervous drivers and learner drivers out there!

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