The 4 stages of learning
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The 4 stages of learning

Have you ever noticed that when we learn something new and go through the different stages of the learning process, we start to experience different emotions? Do you ever struggle to manage those emotions?

For example, when we start a new training course, we don’t realise how much we need to learn. As we start to realise what we don’t know, we can become very disheartened and even be tempted give up altogether! The Conscious Competence model One model we can use to help us to understand our thoughts and emotions during the learning process is ‘The Conscious Competence Model’ or ‘The Learning Ladder’. According to this model, there are two factors that affect our thinking as we learn a new skill: consciousness (our awareness) and skill level (our competence).

According to the model, we move through the following 4 stages as we build competence in a new skill: Unconscious Incompetence You don’t know how to do something, but at the same time, you don’t know that you don’t know. In order to get to the next level, you need to find out what it is that you don’t know.

Conscious Incompetence As you start to realise what it is that you don’t know, you start to identify the gap in your competence. To get to the next level, you need to learn how to become competent. Conscious Competence You have now reached the stage where you can do what you set out to do. However, you can only do this competently if you concentrate and give it your full attention. To get to the next level, you need to regularly practice this new skill. Unconscious Competence When you get to this stage you are able to complete the skill without giving it much thought. Let’s apply this to a workplace example: Jack has just been promoted from the warehouse to the accounts office. His new role requires the use of a word processing programme.

In his previous role, Jack only used the computer to record stock on the database. Jack doesn’t yet know how that he will need to use the word processing software – he is at the unconscious incompetence stage. When he learns of this and that he will need to be able to produce letters, he realises that he does not know how to do this and has now reached the conscious incompetence stage. Jack soon learns how to produce the letters and reaches the conscious competence stage although he takes his time and concentrates on what he is doing. Only when Jack gets to the point when he can do these tasks without thinking, will he have reached the unconscious competence stage and moved through the 4 stages.

How is this Model Useful?

The first thing this model does is help us to understand the emotions we might experience during the learning process.

It reminds us not to try to do too much too soon. The model will help us to see that learning is difficult and sometimes frustrating, but it will get better in time. It also helps us as managers. Whilst we may be at the level of unconscious competence, our team members might not be there yet and we must be supportive with those who have yet to reach the level of unconscious competence. This is also a useful model to remember if we are training staff. if you can recall your own thoughts and feelings when you learned a new skill, it will help you to empathise with others and encourage them when they’re feeling disillusioned. For more courses and information

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