Learning process

The learning process can be described using the concepts of unconscious competence and conscious competence, which are part of the Conscious Competence Learning Model:
  • Unconscious Incompetence:

    In this stage, a person is unaware of their lack of skill or knowledge in a particular area. They do not realize that they don’t know how to perform a certain task or understand a specific subject. They may make mistakes or encounter challenges without recognizing their own incompetence.

    → Transition to next phase: INSIGHT! Only if a person has the insight, that they are incompetent, they will be able to move on to the next stage.
    → Roadblock: Stubbornness or delusion. The learning process will not move forward if people insist that nothing is wrong or that they are competent despite all feedback. Extreme version: Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias in which people with low competence tend to overestimate their abilities for lack of judgement.
  • Conscious Incompetence:

    At this stage, individuals become aware of their limitations and lack of knowledge or skill in a particular domain. They recognize that there is something they do not know or cannot do. This awareness can be a motivating factor for learning, if it prompts individuals to seek knowledge or training to improve. It can also lead to the feeling of being overwhelmed and frustrated.

    Transition to next phase:Learning as a conscious process – gathering information and trainings practical skills while slowly increasing the challenges.
    Roadblock: Lack of motivation or abilities to learn a certain task. Note: this is not necessarily a negative. Not everyone has to learn everything. It is ok to accept that you cannot speak every language or be outstanding at every sport.
  • Conscious Competence:

    In this stage, individuals have acquired the necessary knowledge or skills through learning and practice. However, they must consciously think and focus on what they are doing to perform the task correctly. It may require effort, concentration, and practice to maintain competence in this area. Over time, with continued practice, the skill becomes more automatic.

    → Transition to next phase: Repetition, repetition, repetition!
    → Roadblock: Not using the skills – falling back into old habits.
  • Unconscious Competence:

    At the final stage, competence has become second nature. Individuals can perform the task or exhibit the skill effortlessly and without conscious thought. It has become ingrained in their behavior, and they may not even be fully aware of the steps they are taking. They perform at a high level of proficiency without needing to consciously think about it.
These stages illustrate the progression of learning and skill development, from unawareness and incompetence to conscious effort and, ultimately, to a state of competence that feels natural and automatic. Understanding these stages can be valuable for both learners, leaders and educators, as it helps to identify steps are needed to advance skills and knowledge.

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