4 stages of learning

4 Stages Of Learning

Ignorance is Bliss.

Thomas Gray

English Poet

In the 1970s, Noel Burch introduced 4 Stages of Learning with Competence model. This model empowers you to learn any new skill.

The 4 stages of Learning are as follows:

  • Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence
  • Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence
  • Stage 3: Conscious Competence
  • Stage 4: Unconscious Competence

Let’s suppose, you aspire to be a Car racer and want to start learning to drive a car. This is the stage you decide to learn/ acquire a new skill. You listen to the trainer with at most concentration on the entire steps or process of driving a car like

  • Turning ‘ON’ the car.
  • Placing one foot on Clutch & other foot on Accelerator.
  • Changing Gears.
  • Pressing your foot on the brake to lower the speed or stop the car.
  • Concentrating on the path.

The first time you started learning to drive a car, all your actions were rather clumsy & difficult to be carried out. Very action was consciously performed while listening to the instructor and following the instructions. You have to put in a lot of effort and hours of learning to perfect driving.

Now, after sufficient practice, you participate in a racing championship. You do not consciously think about how to drive the car. It has become a part of your nature. You can drive absolutely effortless without focusing on the process of driving a car. You would be consciously thinking of winning the race or how to respond or celebrate on the Winner’s podium.  You unconsciously exhibit your skilful driving ability. The process by which these skills & abilities are learned normally through 4 stages of learning.

Let’s discuss these stages in detail.

Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence-

  • In the Unconscious Incompetence stage, an individual doesn’t know how to do something & he is not necessarily aware of the fact that he doesn’t know how to do it or lacks the skill.
  • In this stage, it is essentially an individual acknowledges the fact that he doesn’t know how to do it before he can decide to start learning to acquire a new skill.
  • Examples: Driving a car, Computer programming, flying an aeroplane, Dancing, learning a musical instrument.
  • Suppose, you have never driven a car before then you have no idea of driving a car. It is important at this stage for you to acknowledge your incompetence & the value of the new skill before moving on to the next stage.

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence-

  • In the Conscious competence stage, an individual doesn’t know how to do something, but he is aware of the fact that he lacks this skill.
  • At this point, an individual is willing to put time & effort to learn the skill.
  • This is the stage where you enrol at a Driving school and focus on the instruction of the trainer and start learning the basics of driving. You are completely aware of his inability to drive a car. 

Stage 3: Conscious Competence- 

  • In Conscious competence stage, an individual knows how to do something but still requires to pay a lot of attention to perform.
  • In this stage, your confidence increases as you have acquired the new skill.
  • You need to practice it more.
  • You have now acquired the skill of driving, but you have to concentrate completely on driving without any assistance.

Stage 4: Unconscious Competence– 

  • In Unconscious competence stage, an individual has practised the acquired skill so much that it can he do it almost effortlessly with very little attention to details.
  • This skill has become a part of his subconscious memory. He no longer needs to concentrate on the process, it’s become a part of his habit and frees up his conscious mind enabling him to focus on other things at the same time.
  • At this point, he can do multitasking.
  • As a Racer, confidence & competence is increased. 

To conclude, Learning any new skill can take you through 4 Stages of learning from Unconscious Incompetence to Unconscious competence stage. The goal of learning should be to take you to a point where what you have learned to do becomes “second nature”. There really is no limit to what you can achieve; it’s all up to you & how much time & effort you are willing to put into the learning stages. Happy Learning!

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