My struggles this week with learning some basic guitar technique reminded me that learning occurs in stages. Frustration is a part of learning, and by understanding the stages and the natural process you can reframe the experience, set the frustration aside, assess where you are in the process, and set your goals and expectations accordingly.
The Stages of Learning
The stages of learning refer to the different phases or steps that we go through when acquiring new skills or knowledge. While different theories and models describe these stages in various ways, the one I am most familiar with is the "Four Stages of Learning" model, also known as the "Four Stages of Competence" model. This model was initially proposed by Abraham Maslow, and are as follows:
- Unconscious Incompetence:
At this stage, a person doesn't have any awareness or understanding of a particular skill or concept. They don't realize that they lack the skill or knowledge. In other words, they don't know what they don't know. This stage is characterized by ignorance of the skill's existence or relevance.
- Conscious Incompetence:
In this stage, a person becomes aware of their lack of skill or knowledge in a particular area. They recognize that there is something they need to learn or improve upon. This stage involves acknowledging their own limitations and the need for growth. It's often the first step towards learning a new skill.
- Conscious Competence:
At this stage, the individual has acquired the skill or knowledge through practice and learning. However, performing the skill requires focused effort and conscious attention. They can demonstrate the skill successfully, but it may not yet be second nature. Practice and repetition are key in this stage to build proficiency.
- Unconscious Competence:
In the final stage, the skill or knowledge has become internalized to the point where it can be performed almost effortlessly and without conscious thought. The individual can execute the skill automatically and with a high degree of proficiency. They have reached a level of mastery where the skill has become ingrained in their routine.
The key to using this model is to remember that it takes time and effort to move through these stages, and that timeframe can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the skill, the individual's background, and the learning environment.
Take home message: understanding the stages of learning can make learning easier, set the frustration aside and enjoy the process....