Stages in Learning
Learning is rarely, if ever, instantaneous. Learning is a process or a progression.
Stage 1- Unconscious incompetence
There are many skills which we are completely unaware of. This complete unawareness is not ‘unconscious incompetence’. There are plenty of skills closer at hand in which we are unconsciously incompetent.
Before training starts, learners may be conscious that they are about to learn something, but unaware of the complexity and detail of their learning goals. To begin to want to learn, the learner has to move on to the next stage.
Stage 2- Conscious incompetence
At this stage in the popular learning-to-drive example, the ETD Practitioner has pointed out to the learner the need to master the clutch, brake and accelerator, to learn how to maneuver the car, to practice reversing and so on.
What is it that you now need as a learner?
- Here is our list of needs:
i. The need to change.
Learning is all about adopting new behaviors and attitudes, and that in turn means abandoning old behaviors and attitudes, which is — or can be — an unsettling experience. This leads you to the next need.
ii. The need for encouragement.
Being aware of how much you have to learn can be daunting. It appears to many to be a mountain to climb. Encouraging words like, ‘Everyone feels like that to start with’ can work wonders.
iii. The need for aims and objectives.
The ‘mountain’ to be climbed is tackled in the same way as any other: one step at a time. You, the ETD Practitioner, need to map out the steps in sequence.
iv. The need to see the benefit
You have to be able to explain ‘what is in it’ for the learner, or there won’t be enough motivation there to allow effective learning to take place.
v. The need to own the situation.
The learner must feel fully involved in the training. They must feel that they are doing the learning for their benefit that they have to address their own problems and challenges. They must feel responsible for their own progress. The alternative scenario is one where learners perceive that training is imposed on them. In this case, there is little commitment, enthusiasm or involvement.
If these needs are not met, then the learning will stop.
If, however, the learners’ needs are met, they will progress to the next stage.
Stage 3 – Conscious Competence
Conscious competence does not mean that you can perform a task and you know that you can perform it. Rather it means that you can perform a task but you are still at the stage where you have to make a conscious effort if you are to achieve the required standard.
Conscious competence combines an awareness of newfound ability with an awareness of meeting a standard or Objective.
Stage 4 -Unconscious Competence
This is the final stage of learning, when at last we don’t have to consciously review the core parts of our learning each time we do something. It’s become second nature, part of our built-in toolkit of skills and abilities.
ETD Practitioners only get the chance to see this stage when they go out to the workplace to see former learners actually doing the job.
To acquire this unconscious competence, learners still need regular supervision, support and advice.