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Four steps of learning - A-Z of Coaching & Mentoring


A - Z Coaching and Mentoring - This week's extract outlines the four steps of learning and how being aware of these can help us as coaches.

Don't forget if you have a special request for a definition of a coaching term or principle, just let us know! Perfect for anyone studying for an ILM Coaching & Mentoring qualification, or as a refresher for experienced coaches.


Four steps of learning

The precise source of this model is unknown, although it is commonly attributed to Noel Burch at Gordon Training International in the 1970s. In this model there are four distinct learning stages that we transition through. Being aware of these stages can help us as coaches understand the stages our coachees are at in the process. 

The four steps are as follows:

  1. Unconscious incompetence – where a person doesn’t yet know what they can’t do.
  2. Conscious incompetence – a person is are aware they’re not very good at something – yet! This is the awareness or cognitive stage of learning.
  3. Conscious competence – when a person is focused and with practice, they can use the skill / knowledge gained – the associative learning phase.
  4. Unconscious competence – the skill / knowledge is being used instinctively and elegantly – the person might not even be aware they are utilising this ability – the acquired or autonomous stage of learning.
Source: https://www.fka.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/blog1.jpg


Taken from the A-Z Coaching Handbook by Clare Smale where you will find a comprehensive A-Z, plus a full list of references.

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