The Stages of Learning

We’ve established that learning is a process that we must embrace for us to improve ourselves. The process can at times seem bitter but the rewards are always sweet. Then there are the different intake methods; visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. Your dominant intake method is where you will absorb your learning the quickest. Now let us look at the different stages of learning.

As we grow in a particular area of life – a trade a skill, an attitude; you could say that we become more competent in our learning. Though we may have natural gifts and talents, no one masters anything at their first attempt, but rather it takes time and diligence for us to increase our competence. This progression, where we start off as novices and grow to become proficient, is what we call the learning curve. A child doesn’t instantly learn to ride a bike the first time he gets on it (the bruises on his knees and elbows are often the first proof that he has been learning – the hard way!). A musician must first learn the simple notes before he can play the beautiful chords. And the lion cub first learns to catch the little rabbit before he is able to catch the fierce buffalo. Even Jesus had to go through a learning process before He was able to give His best to mankind “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke 2:52 So we can now begin to comprehend that there are different stages in the learning curve. We call these stages our levels of competence. Let’s briefly take a look at them.

Unconscious Incompetence

This is the beginning or elementary stage of learning. At this stage people just don’t have a clue that they don’t know what they’re doing. I’ll give you an example. Have you ever been in a car where the driver in front is drifting into your lane and doesn’t even realise he’s doing it? That’s unconscious incompetence. In life we need to guard against this. If we have no interest in learning to improve ourselves then we will never realise what we don’t know. The result…mediocre lives where we just accept our lot, not realising the scope of possibilities and opportunities before us. At some point or another we have all been in this category.

Conscious Incompetence

Have you ever beeped (or watched someone beep) at the car that’s drifting into your lane? They suddenly realise their mistake and quickly move back into their lane. We call that conscious incompetence. The person is now conscious or aware of his mistake. This is where we are in life when we realise that we don’t know what we’re doing or when we admit we still have much to learn about something. This is a crucial stage in our learning because it is at this point that we can begin to crossover from mediocrity to a higher level of competence. But the key to this is not just that we realise our shortcoming but that we begin to take action to change our situation. That could mean going on a training course, gaining knowledge to overcome an area of ignorance or learning to discipline ourselves to change a habit.

Conscious Incompetence

This is what I like to call the breakthrough level. Here you’re overcoming your previous ignorance and shortcomings and finding victory is a more frequent occurrence. You’re meeting fresh challenges but now your desire to excel is giving you the drive to overcome the discomfort of learning. However for you to succeed requires your effort and persevering attitude. Here we must also remember that our name isn’t Superman, so while we’re advancing to a level of excellence we should allow for those productive mistakes so that we’re able to learn and grow. We’re not aiming to be perfect but rather to give the best of ourselves.

Unconscious Competence

At this stage we are unconsciously applying all our previous knowledge and understanding without making a conscious effort. You’ll see this in an experienced driver. He doesn’t have to think about which gear to use, at which point to use the clutch and how hard to break; it all comes naturally. Chances are that this is the stage you’re at as you’re reading this text. You don’t have to slowly read each syllable like when you first began to learn to read; rather you’re steadily flowing from one sentence to another.

So please understand these stages. Don’t let life beat you down but rather check out where you are and think about what needs to be done to get to the next stage. There is always a process to the destination. You can reach that destination and you can learn in that process. Even when God in His grace blesses us with gifts, talents and abilities, we need to learn to be wise to increase, maximise and share the provision we have received.

Keep moving forward. You can and you will get there.

God bless and protect

Quote of the week:
“Learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought for with ardour and attended to with diligence.” - Abigail Adams


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