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Levels of Competence

Unconscious incompetence

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

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.

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.

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.

Certain brain personality types favor certain skills and each individual possess different natural strengths and preferences. Therefore, advancing from, say, stage 3 to 4 in one skill might be easier for one person then for another. Certain individuals will even resist progression to stage 2, because they refuse to acknowledge or accept the relevance and benefit of a particular skill or ability. Individuals develop competence only after they recognize the relevance of their own incompetence in the skill concerned.