ARSRPE Conference Paper Database

From research to action: a cognitive-based learning program in the NSW rural fire service

Jerrim, Alex

Strategy & Theory


In the last three decades, we have seen much research into driver behaviour and subsequent attempts to explain and understand it. There have also been some attempts to apply this research, in the context of formalised learning experiences, to change driver behaviour. However, where such attempts have been made, there appears little or no evidence that these learning experiences have reduced participants? risk of crashing. 

How is it that research has delivered us much knowledge yet we know so little? This paper considers some of the reasons and suggests the situation will remain the same for some time.

In the meantime, what can organisations do when they have a legal and moral obligation?and sound business reasons?to provide their personnel with information and training? One such organisation is the Rural Fire Service of NSW (RFS). Does it wait another three decades?

The education staff at RFS, together with Driver Improvement Consultancy (DIC), are collaborating to challenge the mainstream view that the time is not right to invest in learning programs to change driver behaviour. They argue that sufficient knowledge and expertise exists and that mostly a lack of clever thinking holds the learning agenda back. DIC and RFS have used a simple validation exercise to illuminate potential gaps in conventional approaches to driver training and guided the designer?s thinking towards new opportunities. 

The course has now been designed and gone through several stages of trialing. It may broadly be described as a cognitive approach to influencing driver behaviour. The course delivers little information on how to driver safely. Its learning experiences help participants learn how to learn safer driving practices. The program draws on several areas of educational and road safety research. It?s eclectic yet thematic.

Training and evaluation will start in the New Year.