Jul 292007

A very powerful model for measuring your stages of learning is the Four Stages of Competence model. Strictly speaking, this model is used to understand the stages of learning a skill, but I find it generally applicable to all sorts of learning, especially learning new mental models.

1. Unconscious Incompetence: You don’t know that you don’t know. Say you’re a child and you don’t know that you don’t how to ride a bike. The thought of riding a bike hasn’t even entered your mind.

2. Conscious Incompetence: You know that you don’t know. You might have figured out that you want to ride a bike but you don’t quite know how to go about doing it.

3. Conscious Competence: You can do it but you have to have conscious attention on it. You can ride a bike, but it requires all your concentration to make sure you are balanced, pedaling at the right speed, making sure the handle bars are straight, and so forth.

4. Unconscious Competence: You’re so good that it’s entirely automatic. How many of you need to focus on riding a bike now? You just do it. Unfortunately, if someone asked you to help with riding a bike, you couldn’t put it into words. This is one of the reasons if you want to learn something from someone else, not only does the other person have to be good at what you want to learn about–they have to be a good explainer, too. This is one of the reasons there are teachers who just can’t understand how you can’t understand what they’re trying to teach you.

How would you apply this model to learning how to drive? It’ll help you integrate this model into your mind if you do. 🙂


Wikipedia: Four Stages of Competence

Businessballs: conscious competence learning model

  3 Responses to “4 Stages of How You Learn!”

  1. Wow. That’s so simple, yet I never really paid any attention to it before. Nice post

  2. Thanks. Its often the simple things that, in a different light, can be the basis of an epiphany.

    Level 3 is a massive stage of stuckness, when you’re trying and trying and trying but you just aren’t getting anywhere. And then, usually suddenly, a light bulb turns on and you’re suddenly in unconscious competance. Sometimes you need to take a break before you have the epiphany, and sometimes you need to keep trying. Its worked well for me. 🙂

  3. […] model to learning how to drive? It’ll help you integrate this model into your mind if you do. Mind-Manual » 4 Stages of How You Learn! A lot of us are at number 3, which is where we only occasionally get results and it sometimes […]

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