Four Quadrants of Learning

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Four Quadrants of Learning

Four Quadrants of Learning.jpgI’ve always loved this simple model to explain learning and it seems a particularly appropriate topic for this group.


Here’s how it works.


Every skill begins with unconscious incompetence. This means that you don’t know how to do something but don’t realize it yet. An example would be driving a car. As a kid it looks easy, but the first time behind the wheel you’re terrified. This is about the time you slip into the next phase of learning.


Once you’ve figured out that you actually don’t know how to do a task you enter the state of conscious incompetence. This means that you can’t do it and you know it. Once in this state, you may enroll in driving school and begin to learn how to drive. This leads you to the next state.


While learning a task you’re in a state of conscious competence. This means that you now know how to do something but it’s hard and you need to think about it a lot. Eventually, the task your learning becomes second nature.


After practicing a task for a while you enter the state of unconscious competence. This means that you know the task so well you can now do it without having to think about it.


My advice? Acknowledge where you are in the learning process and give yourself the time required to move through each state.


I’ll see you in the classroom,




8 Replies

Very interesting, @Anonymous. Thanks for sharing! 

Abbie Reyes
Udemy Community Team

Thank you 😃

I love this model as well @Anonymous but I'm always curious to get people's opinion on which level is the ideal one to be at when completing a task....... 3 or 4?


I know which I think it should be, where do you sit?


I've postponed resonding to your questions hoping that I'd catch on the more I read it.  Fail! 😉

There are several tasks involved in simply moving through this model.  To what tasks and what level are you referring?

Thanks for your thoughts (yum: free brain power ;-)).


@Anonymous  I think @GrahamNicholls  may be wondering if it's better to be in category 3 or 4 ... 

My experience and opinion is that it depends on the task. 

For example:

1. Brushing my teeth - that is best in category 4 - I shouldn't have to spend a lot of brain energy thinking about how I'm doing at the task, I should be highly skilled, however. 

2. Driving a car - the best category for this is 3 - since I've been driving for 30 years, I should be highly skilled, but due to the critical nature of the task, I have to be actively engaged in thinking about that task. 


So, am I on track? 





Thanks for responding but I think the model is strickly about how we learn and not how we perform learned actions.  Although we should all be very aware while drive a car, most of the actions we need to perform should be learned to the point of unconscious competitence.  Of course there's no need to complete the chart while learning nor to do nothing until you are fully competitant (we learn by doing).





@NoelLizotte333 Yep, that’s exactly what I was referring to and the example of driving a car is the one I use.

Ive had many a discussion over category 3 and 4 with those who think we should only work at level 4 but for me that just isn’t how life works.

Thank you for your reply 😁

Yes it's a great model to use for learning physical tasks. The car analogy is a perfect example of how the model works in practice. I also use Mobile phones as an example too.  It helps people to relate to how they learn and can really motivate those people who are struggling to learn a specific task because we can all relate to how we feel when we get a new phone and fast forward a couple of weeks with the phone and bingo we are much more competent. 


I also use the model to talk about learning soft skills but more to demonstrate that actually unconscious competence is actually much more difficult to achieve and that conscious competence needs to be worked on continually. It's the same with language learning too if you don't use it you lose it. So regular practice is important. 

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