Disregarding these personal approaches we go through a process which many educators are familiar with which is called the “Conscious Competence Learning Cycle (CCLC).
The stages of learning have first been developed by Noel Burch in the 1970s while he was designing a new workbook for Teacher Effective Training (TET). Some people believe that it is originated by Abraham Maslow.
I found it fascinating because I have been thinking a lot how to access the subconscious mind and how we can break barriers of resistance. The CCLC is useful to know about when we want to learn a new skill or change a habit.
We all are aware how difficult it is to overcome ignorance and resistance. Sigmund Freud first introduced us to the idea of an unconscious mind. This discovery helped educators to put together this model for learning:
Stage 1 - Unconscious Incompetence
“We don’t know what we don’t know.”
At this stage we are in a state of blissful ignorance. We have a complete lack of knowledge and skills in the subject in question. On top of this, we are unaware of our lack of skills, and our confidence will therefore exceed our abilities.
--> There is a crucial point when we come out of the unconscious realm – we face a lot of resistance from the ego. The first step to break this resistance is to accept and be aware of this ignorance. We need a lot of encouragement and support from others. We also need to be humble because we need the help of others who are more experienced. At this point we don’t want to listen to our mind, rather follow your heart.
Stage 2 – Conscious Incompetence
"We know that we don't know."
At this stage we find that there are skills we need to learn, and it may come as a shock to find that there are others who are far more competent than we are.
As we realize this, our confidence drops, and we go through an uncomfortable period as we learn these new skills.
With persistence and repetition we will enter the next stage.
Stage 3 – Conscious Competence
"We know that we know."
At this stage we are acquire the new skills and knowledge. We put our learning into practice and we gain confidence in carrying out the tasks or jobs involved.
We are still concentrating on the performance of these activities, but as we gain more practice and experience, the exercising of these skills becomes increasingly automatic.
Stage 4 – Unconscious Competence
"We don't know that we know – everything becomes so easy."
At this stage our new skills are now habits, and we perform the task and exercise our skills without conscious effort – we are functioning “on-auto-pilot” and thus with ease. We are now at the peak of our confidence and ability and the new skill become our second nature.
The benefit of knowing these four stages is that it can help us in all areas of learning: new skills, new habits, and any changes we need to make in life.
“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknows – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”~ Donald Rumsfeld, former United States Secretary of Defense
Let me give you an example:
*1 – When I first came to this country, I didn’t know any English besides: Hallo, thank you, come on and a few other words. I thought all Americans were chewing gum and I couldn’t understand because people were talking too fast. I tried to repeat what people were saying, only to be laughed at many times.
*2 – I determined to only speak English, no matter what, even to the point that I didn’t speak at all. I was afraid to make mistakes, and was hesitant to express myself.
*3 – At this stage I was reading from billboards, newspapers, and made simple sentences just like kids. Nothing complicated yet, just repeating what I heard others say.
*4 – Then, one night I started dreaming in English. From then on, I could speak more freely, and felt comfortable to have small conversations. It took about 4-6 months but I basically learned English during that time.
Now I feel more comfortable to speak in English. When I talk to my family, or write letters, I have to sometimes use a dictionary.
This is just one example how we can learn new skills, change habits, or just plainly expand ourselves. When we go from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence, knowing these steps, we can pace ourselves better and stay on course, rather than listen to the internal critical voice and get discouraged.