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Competence: The Four Stages of Learning Cheat Sheet by

learning     psychology     stages     competence


The Four Stages of Learning provides a model for learning. It suggests that indivi­duals are initially unaware of how little they know, or uncons­cious of their incomp­etence. As they recognize their incomp­etence, they consci­ously acquire a skill, then consci­ously use it. Eventu­ally, the skill can be utilized without it being consci­ously thought through: the individual is said to have then acquired uncons­cious competence

1. Uncons­cious incomp­etence

The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necess­arily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incomp­etence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.

2. Conscious incomp­etence

Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.

3. Conscious competence

The individual unders­tands or knows how to do something. However, demons­trating the skill or knowledge requires concen­tra­tion. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involv­ement in executing the new skill.

4. Uncons­cious competence

The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become "­second nature­" and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

Four Stages of Competence

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