The 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.

1. Unconscious Incompetence: The individual neither understands nor knows how to do something, nor recognizes the deficit, nor has a desire to address it.

2. Conscious Incompetence: Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, without yet addressing it.

3. Conscious Competence: The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires a great deal of consciousness or concentration.

4. Unconscious Competence: The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it becomes "second nature" and can be performed easily (often without concentrating too deeply). He or she may or may not be able teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

Natural language is an example of unconscious competence. Not every native speaker who can understand and be understood in a language is competent to teach it. Distinguishing between unconscious competence for performance-only, versus unconscious competence with the ability to teach, the term "kinesthetic competence" is sometimes used for the ability to perform but not to teach, while "theoretic competence" refers to the ability to do both.

Many attempts have been made to add to this competence model. This addition would be a fifth stage, and there have been many different suggestions for what this fifth stage would be called. One suggestion is that it be called "Conscious competence of unconscious competence". This would describe a person's ability to recognize and develop unconscious competence in others.