The Wise Path
Labrynth
Learning Levels
—Progress Toward Transformation

Learning a new skill generally progresses through four distinct stages, described by the conscious competence learning  model:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence—We don't know what we don't know. The learner is unaware of his or her knowledge gap, misunderstanding, or lack of a particular skill.
  2. Conscious Incompetence—We become aware of our limitations and begin to learn. The learner now realizes the importance of a skill but fails in trying to apply that skill.
  3. Conscious Competence—We perform competently when we deliberately focus our attention on the task at hand. The learner, through practice, can now apply the skill but has to think about each step.
  4. Unconscious Competence—We naturally perform excellently, the skill becomes second nature. The learner can apply this skill effortlessly without conscious thought. The learner has mastered the skill as a result of many hours of practice.

The progression takes place in strict order: 1, 2, 3, and only then to stage 4. It is not possible to skip stages, and it is not safe to assume the student is beginning at any stage other than 1. For some skills, especially advanced ones, people can regress to previous stages if they fail to practice and exercise their new skills. A person regressing from 4, back through 3, to 2, will need to develop again through 3 to again achieve stage 4—unconscious competence.

Progression from one stage to the next is often accompanied by a feeling of awakening: “Oh I get it now!” Things click into place for the learner—the person feels like they've made a big step forward, because they have.

The wise path illustrates progression along three tracks each beginning at chaos and advancing through increasing  levels of coherence toward transformation. We become more competent, significant, and purposeful as we progresses through these stages to higher levels of learning and greater skills. Progress along the wise path is illustrated by colors and characterized by general labels, each roughly corresponding to one of the four learning levels:

  1. Chaos ~ Unconscious Incompetence—We don't know what we don't know.
  2. Survival ~ Conscious Incompetence—We become aware of our limitations and begin to learn.
  3. Success ~ Conscious Competence—We perform competently when we deliberately focus our attention on the task at hand.
  4. Transformation ~ Unconscious Competence—We naturally perform excellently, the skill becomes second nature.

References:

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