Upon graduation from University, I naively thought that my "learning career" was over and I pretty much knew everything there was to know about rehabilitation and assessment. Perhaps there were a few courses or certifications that I could get that would enhance my "marketability", but beyond that I had successfully uploaded all the relevant knowledge possible. I would love to say that the realization that this was an absurd notion came to me relatively quickly...but to be honest, it came to me almost 6-7 years later! I was in a meeting and a very wise and insightful reference was given to me that was quite "eye opening". It was a seemingly irrelevant reference to "how we learn" and how this knowledge can drastically improve our professional development. This essential bit of sage wisdom was the Conscious Competence Learning Matrix. It is essentially a theory developed in the 1970's that outlines the 4 stages of learning and the acquisition of new skills. Why is this relevant, Gavin? This theory shoots directly into my previous "dangerously naive" way of thinking. It states that we are intially unaware of how little we actually know...and that upon the realization of our incompetance, we can acquire new knowledge and skill.
The Four Stages of Learning
- 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 recognise 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.
Its important to remember that this process is progressive and can only move from stage 1 to 2, then 2 to 3, and then 3 to 4. For some more advanced skills (such as assessment and rehabilitation) there can actually be some regression! More specifically from stage 4 to 3 and sometimes 3 to 2...however when this happens, the process must begin again. There is even some current theories that there may even be a 5th stage which identifies the "ability to actively move people from stage to stage".
So back to your initial question "who does this guy think he is"...I can confidently and comfortably position myself as someone who is circling in the eddys of stage 3 and 4 with some regular trips back to the conscious incompetence stage. The movement from stage to stage feels like an "awakening" and when things "start to click" your curiousity and enthusiasm build. It can even be considered "intellectually intoxicating" because once you are on this path (or in the loop), you can intentionally reset yourself in the loop and regularly achieve this sense of awakening. As professionals in the field of rehabilitation, it is implied (perhaps naively)that we are on this path...however the hidden truth is that most are not. Extrinsic or external (money, fame, status) motivations will only sustain your in the short term. Your intrinsic desire to truly learn will sustain you forever...therefore any true professional worth their salt has this drive and by definition will intentionally start the journey through the stages of learning.
This post is my initial attempt to steer into that "Yoda-like" 5th stage. Conscious introspection and self-examination are under-appreciated and sometimes purposely avoided...but it is always productive!