Stages of Learning

Stages of Learning

The stages of learning model shows how we move from not knowing that we don’t know to being able to use a skill automatically. As a young child, at one point we have no idea that the story and the squiggles in the book are connected. As expert readers, our ability to read is done without effort and thought.

stages-of-learning diagram

Realizing that we are incompetent in a particular skill is only the first stage. The “four stages of learning” model suggests that we go through a sequence before we can use a skill naturally.

Stage One

The first stage is that of unconscious incompetence – we don’t know that we don’t know. For instance, we might not know that there is even a different way to lead. We might decide that there is something wrong with this group of employees.

Stage Two

The second stage is conscious incompetence – we become aware of a different way to delegate, but don’t know how to do it. Often this awareness provides the momentum and motivation to learn. A child sees another riding a bicycle and wants to be able to do it. The possibility has been introduced.

Stage Three

The third stage is conscious competence. We learn how to communicate in this way, but when we try it out it seems awkward or uncomfortable. This is often the point where people give up and go back to old ways – at least that way worked in some way.

Stage Four

If we persevere, we get to unconscious competence – we don’t know that we are communicating in a more effective way. The skill has become automatic. Often it is difficult to explain or teach someone else how to do the skill. In order to teach it, you need to go back to stage three.

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