Introducing HERMES & GDE Matrix

Coaching – An Introduction


The EU HERMES Project (High impact approach for Enhanced Road safety through More Effective communication Skills) began in March 2007 and was completed in February 2010.

It’s main aim was to create a training course for driving instructors to allow them to develop their ‘coaching’ skills. In addition, a number of coaching scenarios have been developed to enable instructors to coach in on-road training, track training and the classroom, and to meet a wide range of goals in the driver education process.

HERMES builds on the recognised need for

  • less reliance on short term instructional methods which tend to help learners to pass the driving test, and more focus on active-learning methods to prepare learners for solo driving and foster ongoing learning after the test.
  • more focus on the higher levels of the GDE matrix in driver training (personality factors, self-awareness, emotions, different trip-related contexts for novice drivers and their motives for driving).

HERMES- Definition of Coaching in Driver Training:

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.

This definition reflects a number of coaching principles. It emphasises the focus on maximising the learner’s own awareness and responsibility fostered by an equal and trusting coach/learner relationship encouraging the learners ability to think and reflect on thoughts, feelings and emotions and to
recognise their equal importance.

Once defined HERMES was able to focus on developing:

  • Methods which activate the learner driver and make him more aware of himself, the car, and the interaction between himself and others in a (social) traffic environment.
  • Methods which accept the learner driver as being responsible for himself, his own learning and his behaviour in traffic (and which help him maintain this sense of responsibility in complex situations).
  • Methods where the teacher/coach and the learner form a partnership in which the coach, through observation, questioning and feedback, encourages the learner to be himself, identify goals, reflect on his experience and develop strategies to meet his driver goals in the future.

The full HERMES Final Report can be downloaded from the official HERMES Website following this link:

Official HERMES website – Final Report

The report goes into details on:

  • Rationale of coaching
  • Principles of coaching
  • Process of coaching
  • Pre-conditions for coaching
  • Learner centred methods in driver training
  • Coaching further developments for driver training

The final report includes a very interesting document comprising of different traffic safety contents in the form of scenarios which can be used with coaching in driver training. The scenarios are adapted to match the requirements of accident causation research which are reflected in the GDE-Matrix (Goals for Driver Education – see page 31 of the above link) GDE-MATRIX and how it fits with driver training

The GDE Matrix is a table comprising of four rows and four columns denoting the four Hierarchical Levels of Behaviour.

  • Level 1 - Vehicle Maneuvering and car skills.
  • Level 2 – Mastering of the Traffic Situations and reading the Road.
  • Level 3 – Goals and Content of Driving (reason for the journey) and Level 4 – Goals for Life and Skills for Living (personnel characteristics)

Coaching focuses on the develop of self-awareness and self-evaluation skills within driver training to encourage the driver to identify personal traits he brings with him and how these influence his driving ability, decision making and judgement skills and the impact on his own journey.


Today’s society contains so many influences which encourage youngsters to take a passive role. For instance, in school they are often talked at rather than to, and cinema, computer games, Internet and TV are always available to entertain them. This is one reason why they may approach driver training in the same way. Instead of being actively interested in developing safe driving competencies, some are happy to remain passive
and to be ‘told and shown how to pass the driving test’.

The big challenge of coaching is to “lead the student out of the role of passive consumer and into the role of active producer” (Bartl). The more active a person is involved in the learning process, the more responsibility and awareness we create and the better we recognise learning opportunities and the will to act upon them. In short, the more active the student is in the learning process, the more likely they are to develop and maintain skills not just during training but also when driving solo after the test.

Coaching experts stress the fact that coaching and instruction do not mix. Coaching aims to increase the responsibility and awareness of the learner, to help him learn how to learn even after the driving test. Instruction may be quicker in the short-term but essentially this type of teaching only prepares the learner to pass the test, rather than preparing the novice driver for ongoing awareness and learning when driving solo. Given a basic
instruction has the effect of lowering the responsibility and awareness of the learner. An instruction says to the learner: “I, the trainer, am in control. I will tell you what to do and when to do it”. The learning effect is minimal because the action did not come from within: it is obeying rather than learning. Although the HERMES Report goes on to give example illustrations teaching-coaching models it concludes that coaching should be used throughout the learning process due to these many advantages:

  • Starting with coaching immediately increases the sense of ability within the learner when in the car. By giving him responsibility from the beginning of the training process, this goes some way towards reaching this goal.
  • Starting with coach……makes it easier to coach in the latter stages of training – when, the higher levels of the GDE Matrix are more explicitly addressed.
  • Starting….with coaching is also important with developing the self-acceptance of the learner…..if the learner feels empowered and responsible for the learning process, he recognises the trainer as a partner rather than an instructor and he feels he is being listened to, this developed a sense of inner self-esteem which is often lacking in teenage males. Greater self-acceptance means the learner will be more relaxed, more
    natural and any internal obstacles (such as fear) are removed.
  • …..coaching on the lower levels of the GDE Matrix…..brings the learner into contact with their senses and their emotions…..raising awareness of emotions that are also important to recognise on the higher levels of the GDE Matrix. Coaching should make them aware of their ‘internal state’. So by the time the Levels 3 and 4….are addressed….the learner will already have some experience of recognising their own emotions and physiological


Many driving instructors comment that they already coach within their instruction and yes it’s true – techniques used in instruction are also used in coaching. Take Q&A for example.This tool may be very familiar to you. Coaching questions not only raise awareness and encourage responsibility, activate the learner and encourage goal identification but also train the learner to express whatever they sense or feel which requires thinking and reflection.

Open Questions

If there is only one right answer to a question or if it can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ ‘no’ then it is a closed question. For example – “What is the speed limit on this road?” or “Can you overtake a bus at a bus stop with it’s indicator on?” An open, coaching question is one where the coach does not know the answer/s as the reply will be personal to the coachee. Coaching questions focus on the senses, emotions, attitudes, goals and motives as well as cognitive factors. For example – “How did you feel in that situation?” “What could you do in the future to avoid such a situation?” ” Tell me about a situation in the past when you have learnt from a mistake” The coach is responsible for asking the right question, the coachee is responsible to elaborate his right answer! Questioning techniques are one of the key skills of a coach and a whole field of expertise in itself.

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