Four stages of competence
In psychology, the four stages of competence, or the "conscious competence" learning model, relates to the psychological states involved in the process of progressing from incompetence to competence in a skill.
Initially described as “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill”, the theory was developed at the Gordon Training International by its employee Noel Burch in the 1970s. It has since been frequently attributed to Abraham Maslow, although the model does not appear in his major works.
The Four Stages of Learning provides a model for learning. It suggests that individuals are initially unaware of how little they know, or unconscious of their incompetence. As they recognize their incompetence, they consciously acquire a skill, then consciously use it. Eventually, the skill can be utilized without it being consciously thought through: the individual is said to have then acquired unconscious competence. 
Several elements, including helping someone 'know what they don't know' or recognize a blind spot, can be compared to some elements of a Johari window, although Johari deals with self-awareness, while the four stages of competence deals with learning stages.
The four stages of competence
- Unconscious incompetence
- The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
- Conscious incompetence
- Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
- Conscious competence
- The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
- Unconscious competence
- The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become "second nature" and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.
The model is expanded by some users to include a fifth stage, which is not part of the original model from Gordon Training International. The exact composition of this stage varies between authors. Some refer to reflective ability, or "conscious competence of unconscious competence", as being the fifth stage.
Another definition refers to the fifth stage as 'enlightened competence' described as "the person has not only mastered the physical skill to a highly efficient and accurate level which does not anymore require of him conscious, deliberate and careful execution of the skill but instead done instinctively and reflexively, requiring minimum efforts with maximum quality output, and is able to understand the very dynamics and explanation of his own physical skills. In other words, he comprehends fully and accurately the what, when, how and why of his own skill and possibly those of others on the same skill he has. In addition to this, he is able to transcend and reflect on the physical skill itself and be able to improve on how it is acquired and learned at even greater efficiency with lower energy investment. Having fully understood all necessary steps and components of the skill to be learned and the manner how they are dynamically integrated to produce the desired level of overall competence, he is thereby able to teach the skill to others in a manner that is effective and expedient." (Lorgene A Mata, PhD, December 2004)
- Dunning–Kruger effect
- Illusory superiority
- Decision theory, including grand strategy:
- Transtheoretical Model
- Solution focused brief therapy
- Psychosocial development
- Kübler-Ross model
- Formula for Change
- Learning styles
- Taxonomy of Educational Objectives
- Theory of multiple intelligences
- Dreyfus model of skill acquisition
- "Learning a New Skill is Easier Said than Done". Gordon Training International.
- "Conscious competence learning model matrix - unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence". Business Balls.
- Flower J (1999). "In the Mush". Physician Exec 25 (1): 64–6. PMID 10387273.
- "The Four Stages of Learning". Process Coaching Center.