How we learn

LearningIf you’ve read any of my recent Writer’s Forum articles you will know I have an interest in psychology. As part of the self-improvement aspect of The Craft of Words I thought I would document the Competence Model of Learning as far as I intend to use it. The benefit of this is to set out a shared concept as to how people learn for future posts.

What is the Model?

The model says that when we learn a skill we pass through four states. I have arranged these in a 2 x 2 grid with the following axes:

  • Unconscious / Conscious – do we have to make a mental effort to use a skill or has it become automatic?
  • Competent / Incompetent* – do have the skill or not? Ie are we competent in the task or incompetent?

*As I believe the label ‘incompetent’ is too negative, I prefer the term non-competent.

In full we pass through the four possible states in this order:

Order Label Meaning Example
1 UN Unconscious Non-competence Until I started thinking about writing I didn’t realise to avoid adverbs
2 CN Conscious Non-competence I now know to avoid adverbs (see The Case of the Dis-advantageous Adverb)
3 CC Conscious Competence I am starting to develop ways to write with fewer adverbs. I am not there yet!
4 UC Unconscious Competence I plan to get to the stage where my writing is naturally free of spurious adverbs (like naturally!)

In future posts I will discuss some techniques that will anyone to move through this cycle.

If you have any questions please get in touch either by commenting on this post or by using the Contact Me option on the right.

I look forward to hearing from you,



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